Photo via USATSI
If one were to discuss the 2020-21 Indiana Pacers through the first handful of games in an extremely young season, several traits could be brought up on a whim.
A brief example could be their winningness. After all, their 6-2 record is currently tied for second-best in the entire Eastern Conference, tied with the Orlando Magic and behind only the 7-2 Philadelphia 76ers, a potential Eastern Conference Final contender.
A more descriptive example could be their stinginess, especially in regard to defense. Collectively, the Pacers are allowing 108.0 points per game, which currently ranks 10th among all NBA teams entering Jan. 8 action. If any area needed to prove this any further, look nowhere else then their 9.9 steals per game, which ranks second. Also, their overall 105.8 defensive rating ranks ninth.
Another example could not come from the team’s overall prowess, but from an individual player’s significant leap forward in regard to explosive production on both sides of the basketball court.
If anyone has not noticed Malcolm Brogdon yet, well, they should.
The 28-year-old former Virginia Cavalier definitely was not a back-tier player riding the pine before this season, of course. Through the duration of his 2016-17 rookie season with Milwaukee to his 2019-20 debut with Indiana, Brogdon averaged 13.6 points per game, had a collective .471 field goal percentage (FG%) and averaged 28.7 minutes per game in 241 total games (166 games started). Over the course of his 2019-20 season, Brogdon’s points per game average ranked third among the entire team (16.5), behind only T.J. Warren (19.8) and Domantas Sabonis (18.5) with both averaging two+ minutes more than Brogdon.
Brogdon’s 2020-21 season has seen the point guard soar to new heights. To start, Brogdon is averaging 23.6 points per game (which leads the team) through eight games played (eight games started). His .518 FG% is currently a career-high, as are his 6.6 three-point attempts per game and .472 three-point percentage (3P%). He is additionally averaging 2.0 steals per game and 7.0 assists per game, which both lead the team. Most importantly, Brogdon is averaging a career-high 37.3 minutes per game, which has been (and should be) instrumental toward Indiana scoring often, especially after Warren underwent foot surgery on Jan. 6.
Once Indiana wraps the entire picture together, they should realize they have a guard who can not only keep offensive pace with the basketball, but also shoot with it at a new level never before seen.
The consistency in Brogdon’s shooting, so far, further proves this, as not one game has skewed all others out of proportion. Brogdon’s worst point-scoring game came on Dec. 31 against the defensive-minded Cleveland Cavaliers, where he scored 17 points and only tallied five assists, despite picking up three steals. In all other contests, Brogdon has scored at least 18 points and has even scored 30 points twice. Again, this is through only eight games. During the 2019-20 regular season, Brogdon only scored 30 or more points in two games out of 54.
Small sample sizes are always fun at the onset of a new season, but Indiana has a player here. A player that should help offset Warren’s absence. A player that, should all the dominoes continue to fall his way, should help Indiana vie for a playoff berth.
And, most important of all, a player that should exemplify who the 2020-21 Pacers are and have been so far this season.