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How Absences Could Impact Lineups and the Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

By: Taylor Bechtold

In mid-July, Victor Oladipo had a change of heart 11 days after saying he would not participate in the NBA season restart, renewing the Indiana Pacers’ hopes of a potential Eastern Conference playoff run.

Those hopes faded slightly last week when All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis left the Orlando bubble with a significant foot injury.

So how crushing of a blow would it be to the Pacers should Oladipo and/or Sabonis miss the rest of the season?

Victor Oladipo

Let’s start with Oladipo, who had expressed on July 3 a desire to safely focus on his rehab after returning from a ruptured quadriceps tendon injury earlier this season. But the two-time All-Star began to reassess his health in the days that followed and announced on July 14 that he would join Pacers camp and take a day-by-day approach before making a decision on the NBA restart.

Oladipo looked close to game ready Sunday when he had 16 points, seven rebounds and hit four of eight from 3-point range in a come-from-behind scrimmage win over the Dallas Mavericks at Disney Wide World of Sports. But the seventh-year veteran remains undecided on whether he’ll play Aug. 1 when Indiana reopens against the Philadelphia 76ers in a battle between clubs tied for fifth in the East at 39-26.

“Just have to keep building, taking it one day at a time, reassessing after every day,” Oladipo told NBA.com. “Just continue to keep my mindset. Keep working hard, continue to stay hungry and continue to attack every day the best I can.”

After averaging 21.7 points on 46.1% shooting, 5.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists over his first two seasons with the Pacers, Oladipo put up 13.8 points on 39.1% shooting, 3.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game over his 13 games back from injury this year.

As a result, Indiana has actually played better without him on the floor (see chart below) in 2019-20. This was a stark contrast to last season when the Pacers had a Stats Perform net rating of plus-6.2 with Oladipo and a plus-2.6 rating without him.

They also posted a plus-4.4 net rating with Oladipo and without Sabonis, and a plus-8.9 with both of them last season, but have a minus-0.7 rating without them over 2018-19 and 2019-20 combined.

SeasonLineupOff. Team RatingDef. Team RatingNet Rating
2018-19With Oladipo116109.86.2
2018-19No Oladipo114.2111.62.6
2018-19With Oladipo, No Sabonis113.41094.4
2019-20With Oladipo110.6110.60.0
2019-20No Oladipo114.9113.31.6

Making matters worse, Jeremy Lamb, who had averaged 13.0 points while starting 42 games in place of Oladipo, is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Aaron Holiday started Sunday’s game and coach Nate McMillan said that Holiday has “been the guy that has pretty much filled in when we’ve lost a starter.” Holiday averaged 14.8 points and made 43.2% from beyond the arc in his first 14 starts this season, but put up just 8.3 points and shot 24.3% from 3 over his last 12.

Sabonis, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, is uncertain to play after leaving to receive medical treatment for plantar fasciitis on his left foot. It’s a big blow considering the Pacers have had a plus-4.2 net rating with Sabonis on the floor and a plus-0.7 rating without him over the past two seasons.

Sabonis also has helped Indiana stay afloat without Oladipo over that time. The club has a plus-4.1 net rating with Sabonis and no Oladipo, but again a minus-0.7 rating without both.

SeasonsLineupOff. Team RatingDef. Team RatingNet Rating
2018-20With Sabonis115.4111.24.2
2018-20No Sabonis113.6112.80.7
2018-20With Sabonis, No Oladipo115.3111.24.1
2018-20With Sabonis, Oladipo116111.54.5
2018-20No Sabonis, Oladipo113.5114.2-0.7

The Pacers are likely to lean heavily on Myles Turner in the paint without Sabonis and Goga Bitadze (sore knee), making Turner an intriguing option for fantasy players. T.J. Warren figures to get more time at power forward, while T.J. Leaf and JaKarr Sampson also could benefit from more minutes in the frontcourt.

BROOKLYN NETS

For a while, there was some excitement building around the Nets when fans and media wondered if the time off would allow Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to recover in time to play in Florida. Interim coach Jacque Vaughn even confessed that talks were ongoing with the superstar tandem during the hiatus.

In the end, it turned out to be wishful thinking as both players announced last month that they have no plans of returning this season.

DeAndre Jordan

From there, things worsened for the Nets. In what seemed like an instant, they went from a team with potential championship dreams to one that might struggle to hold on to a playoff spot. DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Wilson Chandler, Taurean Prince and Nic Claxton all announced their intentions to sit out either due to injury or positive COVID-19 tests.

In a vacuum, playing without Irving and Chandler doesn’t seem like a huge setback for the Nets – at least it hasn’t this season. Brooklyn had a minus-0.3 net rating with or without Irving on the floor, while it posted a minus-6.5 rating with Chandler on the court and a plus-1.6 rating without him. Dinwiddie and Prince, though, made a difference. The club had a plus-1.7 net rating with Dinwiddie on the floor and a plus-2.0 rating with Prince out there compared to minus-3.8 ratings when both were on the bench.

Overall, the numbers don’t instill confidence in the Nets’ chances, as they’ve posted a disheartening minus-7.8 net rating this season when Jordan, Irving, Dinwiddie, Chandler and Prince have all been off the court.

SeasonLineupOff. Team RatingDef. Team RatingNet Rating
2019-20With Jordan110.9111.6-0.7
2019-20With Irving118.6118.9-0.3
2019-20With Chandler109.1115.6-6.5
2019-20With Dinwiddie117115.31.7
2019-20With Prince115.6113.62.0
2019-20No Jordan, Irving, Chandler, Dinwiddie, Prince106.2114.1-7.8

Who could step in and benefit from the absences?

Caris LeVert is the guy to keep an eye on – and one that fantasy players should grab. The fourth-year guard averaged 24.1 points and hit 43 of 104 (41.3%) from 3-point range over his last 16 games before the coronavirus halted play on March 11. He’s picked up where he left off in Orlando, totaling 50 points in his last two exhibition games.

Joe Harris, who was averaging 13.9 points and shooting 41.2% from 3 when play was halted, should also get more opportunities in Brooklyn’s ravaged lineup.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

The Wizards were already considered a longshot to make the postseason at 5.5 games back of the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic in the East standings with just eight seeding games remaining.

Bradley Beal

Those odds likely worsened after John Wall confirmed he would not be returning after two-plus years of injury rehab, and Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans announced their intentions to sit out the restart.

Beal wants to take care of a shoulder injury that has plagued him all season, though it didn’t prevent the two-time All-Star from averaging a career-high 30.5 points – including an NBA-best 35.8 since Jan. 22.

Bertans was having a breakthrough season in his own right, averaging a career-best 15.4 points while shooting 42.4% from 3-point range after joining Washington via trade from the San Antonio Spurs. The Wizards have played better with Bertans on the court, posting a minus-1.0 net rating compared to a minus-7.6 without him.

Although Beal is having one of his best seasons in his eighth year in the league, the Wizards haven’t actually played better as a whole with him on the floor. They’ve posted a minus-5.3 net rating when he’s been on the floor and a minus-1.9 without him.

SeasonLineupOff. Team RatingDef. Team RatingNet Rating
2019-20With Bertans119.9120.9-1.0
2019-20No Bertans112.5120.1-7.6
2019-20With Beal118.2123.5-5.3
2019-20No Beal112.6114.4-1.9
2019-20With Beal, Bertans125.7124.71.0
2019-20No Beal, Bertans116.51151.5

Rui Hachimura and Isaac Bonga are among those likely to pick up more minutes in place of Bertans. The big men both finished with double-doubles on Saturday; from a fantasy perspective, they will be worth watching during seeding games.

With Beal out, Shabazz Napier and Troy Brown Jr. are capable of filling the stat sheet with a larger usage rate in the Wizards backcourt.

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Data modeling provided by Matt Scott