Indiana Pacers: Isaiah Jackson assigned to Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Isaiah Jackson will spend the week with the Mad Ants to log in-game minutes after being benched for several games.
The Indiana Pacers announced Tuesday that they assigned Isaiah Jackson to the Mad Ants for a short stint over the coming week. The Mad Ants have two games: one on Wednesday against the Bulls and one on Thursday against the Gold.
Jackson is the Pacers’ 23rd overall draft pick, which they traded up to acquire in the 2021 NBA draft alongside Chris Duarte. Duarte has also been assigned to the Mad Ants this season while rehabbing an ankle sprain that knocked him out for over a month.
How Indiana’s roster construction impacts Isaiah Jackson
The Indiana Pacers often utilize their G-League affiliate throughout the season to keep players in game shape. They also do this to prepare players for return as they did for Duarte. They’ve also done this with Terry Taylor, Goga Bitadze, and Isaiah Jackson, so this is pretty routine.
Jackson has not played the last four games for Indiana and has missed eight of the team’s last fifteen, so moving him to Fort Wayne is a smart move. This is not a shock and is normal for the Pacers to do. The revelation is Jackson has completely fallen out of the rotation and that is ok. The bigger issue is roster construction.
This is something this front office will have to settle if Jackson is to find his way back into playing for the Pacers. Trades have been rumored with the Pacers for way too long, but they have a value in assets they’ve accumulated in recent seasons. Once Myles Turner’s fate with Indiana is sealed in either direction we will have stronger clarity in the other rostered bigs.
If Myles is not re-signing, then the Pacers have to explore a trade for Turner as soon as possible in 2023. This will result in Jalen Smith presumably starting at the five and Jackson being the backup big. Jackson plays more in the short term here assuming the Pacers would trade Turner for a pick.
If Myles stays, the front office will have to decide on where to move Theis and what to do with Bitadze’s contract. Goga will be a restricted free agent in 2023. The Pacers also offered Deandre Ayton a max offer sheet during the 2022 offseason, so there is another factor in play when determining Jackson’s destiny — do they go after him again? Isaiah Jackson can be this team’s third center and you feel good about him being able to provide solid minutes if his defense can develop.
Either way, nothing happens until Indiana knows what the outcome of the Turner saga will be. The good news is we will find out very soon as it is already 2023 and the trade deadline is just over a month away.
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Development takes time…
Jackson has seen his role diminish in recent weeks as Jalen Smith has moved from the starting forward spot to the backup center position, where Jackson logged a majority of minutes.
During his rookie season, Jackson played five games with the Mad Ants. In those five games, Jackson shot 63 percent from the field (33/52), while averaging 15.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game. In 29 games for the Pacers, Jackson is averaging 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest which is a career low.
Jackson is a promising young talent that has left no questions to be asked about his athletic abilities. Finding his role in this Pacers system may be his biggest obstacle as the team is currently constructed with multiple bigs. Myles Turner, Jalen Smith, Jackson, Goga Bitadze, and Daniel Theis all play the five spot naturally and there are only two open jobs.
Theis and Bitadze have hardly played this season and for Theis, I am not sure if he will ever suit up for the Pacers (I also thought this for Tristian Thompson and he played four games before the trade, so). His time will come, but this is the right move for Isaiah.
While he is is great around the rim, the defending and shooting element to Jackson’s game is still to be proven at the NBA level. Let’s not forget, he is not even 21 years old and is in his second NBA season awaiting consistent minutes. Once these come the sky is the limit for the young man and I believe he will be a big piece in the Pacers rotation in the coming seasons.
This also allows his progression to move forward without the pressures of making big mistakes that could put him back on the bench. He will spend time with the Mad Ants and these coaches will do everything they can to help him grow into the player they thing he can become.
This Pacers franchise has historically developed players really well and I don’t expect that to stop for Isaiah. Jackson has the talent and this coaching staff knows what they have — with Jackson, time is key.