The Pacers have taken the league by storm this year, one of the benefits of the NBA In-Season Tournament. Indiana came up short in the championship game but proved the team isn't one to be taken lightly.
Sitting in fifth place in the East, two spots ahead of the New York Knicks, the Pacers would make the playoffs without going through the Play-In Tournament if the season ended today. Tyrese Haliburton has helped to elevate Indiana to a whole new level, but the team has a major flaw.
Indiana holds the best offensive rating in the league at 123.5. The team's defensive rating falls on the end of the other spectrum as one of the worst in the league at 119.7. The Pacers average 127.6 points per game but allow 124.9 points per game.
Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes wrote a piece that re-graded every team's offseason moves, and in it, he highlighted how poorly Obi Toppin has performed on the defensive end for Indiana. New York fans are well aware of Toppin's defensive deficiencies, and while he isn't the sole reason for the Pacers' struggles, he hasn't done anything to better them.
"That said, his total ineffectiveness as a defender is one of the main reasons Indiana ranks 28th in points allowed per 100 possessions. He's the only Pacers starter with a negative on-court net rating, and all the damage is happening on the defensive end."- Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report
Obi Toppin is thriving with Pacers offense, but his defense is still an issue
It's true that Tom Thibodeau didn't play Obi Toppin enough. His three-year stint in New York was highlighted by fans rightfully calling for him to play more. However, there were times when he was unplayable because of his defense and rebounding. For being a six-foot-nine forward, a career average of 3.0 rebounds per game is concerning.
With that being said, Toppin is averaging a career-best 12.3 points per game, shooting a career-high 59.9% from the field and 35.6% from deep. Indiana's fast-paced offense suits him well.
He has the athleticism and the size, but he has to figure out how to put it together on both ends of the floor. The Pacers should extend Toppin over the summer as he's unlocked a new level of his game, but if he can become even an average defender, his NBA career will benefit.