Victor Oladipo is aiming to be back before the end of the month, so how will his return impact the Indiana Pacers?
A report in December pointed to Victor Oladipo being back in action sometime in late-January or early-February. Now, he has told Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic he is targeting Jan. 29 at home against the Chicago Bulls for his season debut.
Oladipo was injured on Jan. 23, 2019, when he suffered a torn quad tendon in his right knee. So he will be sidelined just over a year when it’s all said and done. The Pacers managed to stay afloat without their best player, going 16-19 over the rest of the regular season last year on the way to earning the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. They were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics.
The Pacers are surviving without Oladipo again so far this season, with a 23-15 record to put them in sixth place in the East. Offseason acquisitions T.J Warren (17.9 points per game), Malcolm Brogdon (17.7 points per game) and Jeremy Lamb (14.1 points per game) have filled the scoring void, as Indiana’s second, third-and fourth-leading scorers respectively thus far.
Lamb has started all 27 games he has played this season, while averaging a career-high in minutes (30.1 per game). Oladipo’s return will shift him into a bench role.
Brogdon is banged up himself right now, as he’ll miss a fourth straight game Wednesday night with a back issue. But he has stepped up as a lead guard for the Pacers, with a team-high 26.6 percent usage rate while averaging team-highs in shot attempts (14.2) and assists (7.4) per game. His advanced rates (assist percentage, free throw rate, etc.) have dropped a little since early in the season, but Brogdon has been the driver of the Pacers’ offense and he will cede a chunk of that role to Oladipo.
Warren is a close second on the team with 14.1 field goal attempts per game. Just how much Oladipo’s return will eat into his shots is an open question, but it will happen even if Indiana’s offense functions better with Oladipo on the floor and keeps opportunities coming for everyone.
Oladipo’s return, in three weeks or perhaps even a little sooner, will obviously raise the talent ceiling for the Pacers. Coach Nate McMillan will have to make the pieces fit together, and different roles are coming for some guys. But it’s never a problem to have to find a way to re-integrate your best player when he’s back healthy, and the Pacers are getting theirs back soon.