Chris Duarte's ever-changing role with the Indiana Pacers
Chris Duarte has nearly completed his second NBA season with the Indiana Pacers. His recent play may shed light on what his role could be in the seasons ahead.
Chris Duarte has nearly completed his second NBA season with the Indiana Pacers. The former 13th overall pick has struggled to find a role on this team, but his recent play may shed light on what he could be.
The unfortunate reality for Chris Duarte is that in each of his two seasons, he has missed a lot of time to injury. Last season he played in 55 and was at 42 total this year.
He has moved around the rotation all year, from starting, to the bench, to not being played. He has also played fewer minutes in a handful of games this season. In each of those games (13) where he has played under 15 minutes, his production has not been great. He averages around 2 points a game when he plays less than 15 minutes this season. No time to get hot.
Inconsistency in playing time has been a factor for some of his struggles, but he has looked like a different player in his last few games.
More specifically, his three-point shot has been connecting, and he is letting it fly confidently. In his last three games, he’s shot four a game and is shooting 58% from deep on those attempts. For comparison, his average for the entire season is 31% from the spot.
Another thing he’s brought in recent games is a defensive intensity that is noticeable. For coach Rick Carlisle, I think it is easier to put Duarte on the floor even through the shooting struggles if he has confidence that he can defend. This may be what the coaches have been trying to develop Duarte into being capable of. Either way, if Duarte can be a good shooter AND a good defender, you have a player that can excel in this league.
His best role may be to come off the bench, as the Pacers have many guards on their roster and project to have many for some time. That starting lineup is clustered at the moment, but I think Duarte can shine in a 2nd unit where he’s surrounded by solid ball handling and other plus defenders to help take that pressure away from him.
He has not had the best statistical year but has displayed real growth on the defensive end of the court. Something to work on, but I think that mold fits his game well and would be a real help to the Pacers roster. Knowing your skill set can be valuable to the team, and I think this is what the season has been about for Duarte — finding his role.
In summary, Duarte can be a plus-three and D-type player. Labeling him into a set thing is not something I’m fond of, but as I mentioned earlier you have to start somewhere. To me, the best role for him right now would be that.
Look at Myles Turner before this season. Do you think he was focused on offense when Domantas Sabonis was his starting partner? No, he was the “rim protector”, and he excelled at it. He knew where he could help best. Because of that development, he has defensive skills and added offensive adroitness. This has led to his best season of production yet.
My point: Duarte being a three-and-D type of player now, can be the foundation for him to expand his game into other skill sets. I already think he is good at getting to the rim, but creating that by himself is where growth could still take place. When he gets the ball now, he is looking at ways to shoot the three ie; step back.
Hopefully, that trend of steady defense continues for the remaining 16 games of the 2022-23 NBA season. Chris Duarte is a good player and still has a lot of upside on this young Pacers core. What do you think of Chris Duarte this season?