Signing Kyle O’Quinn to a one-year, $4.5 million dollar deal was a solid move for the Indiana Pacers. Previously playing for the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic, O’Quinn has turned himself into a proven NBA veteran center. What kind of role will he play for the Pacers next season?
First off, Head Coach Nate McMillan recently confirmed to Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports that Kyle O’Quinn would be Indiana’s 5th big on the roster. So, not only will O’Quinn be taking Al Jefferson‘s locker-room leadership role, but he’ll also be taking his on-the-court role. You can expect T.J. Leaf and Domantas Sabonis to open training camp as the primary backup bigs like they did last year.
I think O’Quinn could have a very similar year to what Kevin Seraphin had for the Pacers just a few years ago. Seraphin entered the 2016-2017 season as Indiana’s third-string center – like O’Quinn is doing now. However, Seraphin did play meaningful minutes. Even on the grand stage of the NBA Playoffs. Seraphin claimed the backup center position more than a few times from Big Al and went on to become a fan-favorite after forming a bond with former Pacers guard Lance Stephenson.
O’Quinn is more of an all-around basketball player than Seraphin is. So, the advantage to Indiana. O’Quinn is a willing passer (and an above average passer for his size), a guy who can step out and hit jump-shots and a guy who brings a very positive vibe to the locker room. When you see KOQ, he’s usually smiling or laughing. This year, Victor Oladipo proved that positivity is infectious. Ironically, O’Quinn and Oladipo played together in Orlando for the Magic. Even though they were technically a successful team, the 2016-2017 Indiana Pacers could have used that positivity.
Now, we need to talk about T.J. Leaf. It’s essential to get Leaf on the court as much as possible so he can continue to develop, but it’s even more important not to box yourself into the developmental stage when you’re a contending team. If T.J. struggles on defense continue and he doesn’t move fast enough, O’Quinn could easily see lots of opportunity as the backup four. Nate McMillan could also rotate T.J. and Kyle’s rotational spots on a nightly basis. Play Leaf when you need to spread the floor, and play O’Quinn when you need to do some bruising down low.
One last note I need to make is about the 25 games combined that Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis missed last season. Turner dealt with various injuries, most notably a concussion and an elbow strain. Sabonis missed a few games early on in the year but missed six in a row after suffering an ugly ankle sprain against the Philadelphia 76ers. Hopefully, those two guys, especially Myles, will have more luck with injuries next season. If not, Kyle O’Quinn could play more than expected.
All in all, I don’t expect O’Quinn to match what Al Jefferson did in the Pacers locker room last year. That’s not a knock on O’Quinn; it just shows how high Al raised the bar. Like Kevin Pritchard said, in a sense, Al Jefferson was the Pacers’ most important player this year. While I don’t see him matching Al’s locker room presence, I do see him getting on the court for more games. Will he be as productive as Big Al was? Time will tell.
O’Quinn is coming off a season with the Knicks in which he averaged 7.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. If I had to guess what Kyle O’Quinn averages in his first year as a member of the Pacers, I would say he’d average around six points and four rebounds per game. That’s right around his career averages.