Pacers Rookie Goga Bitadze Shows Off Shooting Stroke In NBA Debut

Pacers Rookie Goga Bitadze Shows Off Shooting Stroke In NBA Debut

Blog > Kevin's Corner > Pacers Coverage > Pacers Rookie Goga Bitadze Shows Off Shooting Stroke In NBA Debut

Pacers Rookie Goga Bitadze Shows Off Shooting Stroke In NBA Debut

On Tuesday night, Pacers rookie Goga Bitadze made his NBA debut. How did the 6-11 rookie look?

Joe Robbins | Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS – Pacers fans have a new crowd favorite.

He stands nearly 7-feet and is from the country of Georgia.

The NBA debut for Goga Bitadze finally came in Tuesday’s preseason finale, and the rookie easily earned the loudest cheers all night long at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

As you’d expect, especially for a guy who didn’t play in summer league and has missed a large chunk of camp due to an injured ankle, there was some definite rust for Bitadze.

But the big man showed off a smooth shooting stroke (connecting on 2-of-3 from behind the arc), some nice vision and is skilled enough to have a place in the NBA.

Bitadze finished the night 6-of-9 from the field, scoring 14 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 15 minutes of action. He did have a game-high 6 turnovers.

His other baskets came on a soft right-handed hook in the lane off a pick and roll, a breakaway dunk, a rebound putback and another dunk in the lane via a pick and roll. The rookie moves well for a 6-11, 248-pounder, although he could probably use that frame to be a tad more physical on the defensive end of the floor.

“It was good to see him get some minutes,” Nate McMillan said after the 119-111 loss to the Timberwolves, in a game the Pacers didn’t play their starters in the second half. “We knew his conditioning would be an issue, and what we wanted to do was play him no more than five to seven minutes at a time. We were limited by what we could run with him out there, but it was good to see him get out there and play.”

Coming into Tuesday night, McMillan was just as eager as anyone to see Bitadze play a game in a Pacers uniform.

“I’m just as anxious as everyone else to see him get out there and play against someone different,” McMillan said in pre-game.

“He’s a skillful player. I saw that in his videos and watching him and when we talked about him during the draft, talking about his ability to pass the ball. He can shoot the ball. He’s not a bad post player. Defensively, he defends the basket. All of those things, he does well. So he’s a very skillful player. Has a good feel for the game. Those are some of the things that I’ve seen in the few pickups and few practices (he’s participated in)."

Along with the turnovers, more game reps for Bitadze will help him figure out proper spacing and exactly where to be in the half court. On Tuesday night, we didn’t see as controlling of a rim presence, something the Pacers believe will immediately translate to the NBA game.

Of course, having to guard All-NBA talent Karl Anthony-Towns for a large chunk of Tuesday’s second half is exactly the sort of introduction Bitadze needs to life in the NBA.

But the small sample size of Tuesday showed a glimpse into why the Pacers see a lot of potential in their rookie big man.

“He has to get a feel for the NBA game and that’s going to take some time,” McMillan added. “He needs to grow. Anytime a guy is coming into his first season, you are letting him play. Expectations, you don’t know. He doesn’t know what he can get until he gets out there and goes through a season.

“We know he has talent and some skill, but it is his rookie year. For us, we just need to get him some minutes, get his feet wet and allow him to develop.”

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