Victor Oladipo’s season-ending injury all but crushed the Indiana Pacers’ hopes of competing for the NBA Championship in the last campaign. The 27-year-old was the foundation of their impressive term, which had put Nate McMillan’s side in contention for the Eastern Conference crown.
Boasting a 31-15 record in January ahead of a clash with the Toronto Raptors, the Pacers were seemingly well placed in the fourth seed. Indiana beat the Raptors in the contest on home soil, proving they were capable of winning it all.
However, their victory was a pyrrhic one as Oladipo suffered a torn tendon in his right quadriceps, ruling him out for the rest of the season. Without their key man, the Pacers were knocked out of their rhythm, losing four games on the bounce. McMillan and his side recovered to earn a place in the playoffs in the fifth seed, although they were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics.
The loss of Oladipo was one of the key moments in the campaign in the Eastern Conference. It has loomed large over the Pacers once again this term, leaving them off the pace of the leading sides in the Conference. At the time of writing, they’re sitting in the sixth seed on course for another showdown with the Celtics. With Oladipo back in their ranks, there is hope that they can challenge for the crown. However, it will take time for the point guard to get back to his best form.
It will be worth fans in Indiana following their odds at sportsbooks highlighted by WSN.com to see whether there is value to be gained by backing Indiana to claim the Eastern Conference title. Since Oladipo has returned their form has been poor, losing six games on the spin, which suggests that a run will be unlikely and their betting odds will have drifted. They did sign off before the All-Star break with a brilliant victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. It might be a sign of things to come from the Pacers, regaining their style of play after being deprived of their two-time All-Star for over a year.
Having sustained such a serious injury, Oladipo is not going to be at his best for a while. It was the case when Gordon Hayward suffered his broken leg at the start of the 2017/18 season. Only now is the 30-year-old beginning to look like his old self for the Celtics. Oladipo’s presence on the court will be vital – not because he’s going to immediately dominate, but the attention that he will command from opponents will ease the pressure on his team-mates.
Malcolm Brogdon was signed to fill the void of Oladipo’s absence. He has been productive on the court when he has been healthy, averaging 16.6 points and 7.3 assists per game. The 27-year-old does not quite have the levels of brilliance of his team-mate and cannot carry the Pacers in the same way as Oladipo could put the side on his shoulders. Whether the presence of Oladipo allows Brogdon more freedom down the stretch to become a game-winner remains to be seen.
Domantas Sabonis has enjoyed a breakout campaign, earning his first All-Star berth. The 23-year-old has risen to the occasion and has improved every year he has been in Indiana. He is second on the team in points per game, averaging 18.3 on the campaign. Sabonis more than most is the man that will benefit from the creativity and the space that Oladipo will create in the final third.
T.J. Warren and Myles Turner have been forces at their respective ends of the court. Warren leads the team in points, holding a high career average of 18.5 points per game. Turner has been dominant in front of his own net, sitting behind only Hassan Whiteside, Brook Lopez and Anthony Davis in blocks per game.
There’s enough talent to have kept the Pacers on the path for the playoffs, but Oladipo could be the spark in the final three months of the campaign that ignites a deep surge in the post-season. Don’t count Indiana out just yet.