The Indiana Pacers thrived in their preseason debut as they got a 104-89 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. They were lead by strong performances nearly across the board from their starting lineup, along with the entire bench perimeter putting together strong performances as well. However, their young backup frontcourt and most of the bench as a whole struggled in their preseason debut.
Myles Turner: The 21-year-old put up 17 points (50% FG, 25% 3P, 80% FT), 9 rebounds, 1 steal and 3 blocks with just 1 turnover in just 24 minutes of action. When adjusting that to his 2016-17 season average of nearly 33 minutes per game, his numbers would have been 23.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 4.1 blocks. He was a legitimate anchor for the defense tonight too. My only knock would be his 3-point accuracy but it was the first game of the preseason.
Lance Stephenson: The other leading scorer was “Born Ready” and he did much more than just put the ball in the bucket too. His stat-line was 17 points (50% FG, 42.9% 3P), 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 2 turnovers in 25 minutes. The Pacers have truly lacked a dynamic ball handler to run their offense that can consistently create plays in recent seasons, but that is certainly no longer the case with Stephenson being back in town.
Victor Oladipo: It was a rough jump shooting night for Oladipo, but he still put up 15 points (40% FG, 16.7% 3P, 100% FT), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 turnovers in 24 minutes. I still consider this a positive performance because he played effective defense and made a collection of good playmaking sequences. He was trigger happy early in the game like Lance, but he managed to find his way as the game went on and produced a positive overall performance.
Darren Collison: He may not have had a double-figure scoring night, but Collison did produce 7 points (42.9% FG, 50% 3P, 66.7% FT), 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 7 steals, and 1 turnover in 22 minutes. I was truly impressed with the defensive execution and intensity that he brought to the game tonight. From an offensive standpoint, he knocked down his jump shots and made positive plays for his teammates, which is exactly what is needed from him.
Damien Wilkins: The 37-year-old put together a good performance in this game. He put up 12 points (50% FG, 50% 3P, 100% FT) and 4 rebounds. With the injury to Glenn Robinson III, he provided much-needed jump shooting and enough size on defense to be a difference maker in a 3&D role. While he didn’t have a lockdown defensive performance, he provided enough of a defensive presence on the bigger wings that Milwaukee was using to be a difference maker.
Thaddeus Young: Despite having just 4 points on 33% shooting from the field, I believe that Thad still had a positive performance. Outside of scoring, he had 8 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 steals while providing a noticeable defensive impact that the box score doesn’t show. Almost anybody who was a part of the starting lineup that was on the floor for the team’s massive third-quarter run deserves a positive performance evaluation because each player was an integral part of that sequence that ensured a victory.
Bojan Bogdanovic: Bogdanovic was the reason why every starter didn’t receive that grade. He scored only 5 points (28.6% FG, 20% 3P) and put up 2 rebounds and 2 assists with a turnover in 20 minutes. Based on the principle that if he’s not hitting his shots he’s a liability because he is typically a negative defender, I would give him a negative performance grade. He won’t be facing preseason players in a few weeks and it will be far more difficult to execute defensively.
T.J. Leaf: In 17 minutes of action, Leaf had 4 points (66.7% FG), 1 rebound, 1 block, and 1 turnover. He failed to make much of a positive impact on the game and I did notice a lot of defensive sequences where he was poor. There were sequences where he wasn’t quick enough to contain dribble penetration from the perimeter and was too small to hold his ground on the inside. It was his first somewhat real game against NBA players, so I wouldn’t put much stock into it, but there is room for improvement nonetheless.
Domantas Sabonis: While his stat-line was 8 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, and 2 turnovers in 14 minutes, I still believe that Sabonis’s performance should be classified as a negative. He shot 27.3% from the field, 0% on 3-pointers, and 50% on free throws. While he displayed good chemistry with Lance Stephenson and properly did the functions of his role on both ends of the court, he simply failed to finish most of his plays on offense and that’s what earned him a negative performance grade.
Al Jefferson: It’s hard to give someone who plays poor defense and his only box score contributions being 3 rebounds in 10 minutes a positive performance assessment. I’m sure losing weight helped Jefferson become more athletic than he was before losing the weight, but I just didn’t notice much of a difference in the areas that matter most. He was still a complete non-factor as a rim protector and he wasn’t a positive help defender, which are both areas that he needed to show improvement. It’s only one game, but I didn’t notice much of a change.
Alex Poythress: While I liked his hustle on most of the plays that he had on defense, his overall impact was not enough. In 9 minutes of action, Poythress had 2 points on 33.3% shooting from the field and 1 block. He was a part of the unit that gave up a decent portion of the lead that the team’s starting unit built in the first half and didn’t do enough to stop the opposition’s run. Last year’s Pacers team did show how difficult it is to succeed with Jefferson on the floor, so I don’t even think he truly deserves much blame at all for Milwaukee’s run.
Joseph Young: Each preseason game is important for Young because he may be auditioning for a spot on another team’s roster. Joe didn’t show much in this game as he produced 2 points (33.3% FG, 0% 3P), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 block, and 1 turnover in 8 minutes. He has been on Indiana’s team for the past two seasons and hasn’t earned a spot in their rotation and he’s facing a situation where he would have to take minutes from Darren Collison and Cory Joseph, which isn’t going to happen.