Indiana Pacers: The unexpected benefits of Victor Oladipo’s absence

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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While Victor Oladipo has been sidelined for the past 12 contests, the Indiana Pacers have turned a negative situation into an opportunity.

Eight wins and four losses.

That’s the record of the Indiana Pacers since Victor Oladipo’s absence due to mysterious “knee soreness” had begun back on Nov. 19.

Not too shabby for a squad that is largely fueled by its centerpiece and superstar combo guard.

While this injury is hardly welcomed news to any Pacers fan, the patience with which it’s been handled, along with the opportunity his absence has created, is now proving to be a boon to a team that really will need the boost come playoff time.

Before Oladipo’s injury, Thaddeus Young was building a case for Indiana’s biggest disappointment after his resurgence last season. In 17 contests played before this stretch, Thad failed to hit the 50 percent mark from the field seven times. However, in the 12 games that Oladipo has been out, Young has had a big opportunity to shoot more, and find his offensive groove.

He’s done just that, shooting better than 50 percent from the field in eight of those contests. With his rebounding ascending in the past three contests, he looks primed to return to last season’s form, which was a big part of the Pacers’ Cinderella run.

While Tyreke Evans has been disappointing in this stretch, Darren Collison’s regression as a result of Evans’ presence seemed problematic to this team thriving come playoff time. In fact, before Oladipo went down, Collison was just averaging 3.3 assists per game. That number is down from his career average of 4.9 assists per game, and certainly down from last season’s 5.3 per game.

But just like Thad, in this 12-game stretch, Collison is averaging an impressive 7.3 dimes per contest.

Finally, this 12-game absence has given rookie Aaron Holiday his first real opportunity to play backup minutes, an upgrade from his nearly invisible role so far. In fact, in the first 15 games of the season, Holiday only saw the floor for 16 minutes in total.

Over the last 12 games, he’s averaged 16.5 minutes per game, stringing together a five-game double-digit scoring streak and getting some NBA experience under his belt. While that might not mean much right now, it could translate into an expanded role, especially with Tyreke Evans and Darren Collison set to become unrestricted free agents next summer.

Maybe the Pacers front office likes what it’s seen from Holiday, as the team will reportedly look to move either Darren Collison or Cory Josephaccording to ESPN‘s Brian Windhorst. Either way, their guys are developing for now and for the future.

All in all, despite the obvious downside, this break from Victor Oladipo may have been the best move for the development of Young, Collison and Holiday.

This stretch proved that this team is not too heavily reliant on one player to win at a high level, but has also given key players a reminder of why they were so successful both individually and as a unit last season.

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If Thad and Collison can continue this momentum when Oladipo returns, which seems to be imminent, the Pacers will be looking stronger than ever heading into the new year.