Pacers Summer League Grades: Jarace Walker dominates defensively, impresses with his passing

The Indiana Pacers beat the Washington Wizards in their first Summer League game by a final score of 91-83 behind a stellar first-half defensive performance and a strong finishing effort.

The star of the show was Pacers rookie Jarace Walker, who dominated in every facet of the game except shooting. He finished with 8 points (3 for 13), 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals.

He started the game by stripping his draft day trade partner Bilal Coulibaly when it led to a bucket by Isaiah Jackson in transition at the other end, and he was one of many Pacers locked down on defense throughout the first half as the Wizards only scored 29 points in two quarters.

Walker initially struggled on offense as he missed his first six shots, but it didn’t affect his defense in the slightest. He impressed with his perimeter defense, interior help defense and stopped a transition play in its tracks with a clean layup for his first basket of the second quarter.

His basketball IQ seemed higher than anyone else on the floor, especially on a missed free throw after a timeout that no one realized was a second down — except for Walker, who grabbed his own miss and dunked it unchallenged. His quick decision making resulted in highlight passes, including this dime behind Jackson’s back in the paint.

Pacers summer league head coach Jannero Pargo said Walker could do anything on the basketball floor during their practice week, and he wasn’t lying. His versatility was on full display with his jaw-dropping block in one of his first possessions as a small-ball five.

Often after one of his 11 defensive rebounds, you would see him immediately push the ball up the floor himself and make the right play. Sometimes the right play is a pass that looks like it came out of Tyrese Haliburton’s tool belt.

Walker took over the game without scoring (although he did make a 3-pointer in the second half). He added a touch pass to a waiting Mathurin to his highlight reel in an instant to keep the Pacers ahead late.

Everything was as advertised for Walker in his debut for the Pacers. You wanted to see more shots go in, but he impacted the game in so many other ways and was at least sure to take his shot when he was open. After missing his first six, he made three of his last seven from the floor. With several of his veteran Pacers teammates in Las Vegas to support the young guys, they came away excited to play with their new rookie.

Jarace Walker character: 😱🤌🤯🥶

Playing Emoji characters

Bennedict Mathurin – Character 🪣

Mathurin started slowly, struggling to take care of the ball with 4 turnovers in the first half. He eventually settled in and looked like the player we saw throughout his rookie season. He finished with 27 points (9 of 21), 5 rebounds, 1 block and no additional turnovers.

I enjoyed that he wasn’t shy with his 3-pointer, taking 10 attempts from long range (3 for 10) when he was often hesitant to get open looks last season, but I was hoping to see more than the goose egg in the box score in the assists column. There was talk of improved playmaking for others during camp, but we didn’t see that in this one.

Defensively, his effort was fantastic in the first half and he even forced a turnover on the ball at one point. It slowed down a bit late in the game when it looked like he was starting to tire, but he finished strong and overall looked better than last season. Whether we’ll see another game in Vegas for Mathurin remains to be seen.

Isaiah Jackson – Character 😳

Jackson is entering his third year in the NBA, and he looked like the NBA-experienced center in this one: 21 points (10 of 12), 14 rebounds, 3 blocks. He was a monster on the glass, finishing everything he touched at the rim and active on defense.

The downside to his night driving his character down? 8 errors. That’s obviously more than you’re allowed to get in a normal NBA game, but in Vegas you get 10. Jackson played 30 minutes, but he wouldn’t have been able to because of foul trouble , if this was in the regular season.

This pass from Jackson was nice as it is perfectly placed and thrown at just the right time just before Mathurin opens up on his cut to the basket.

Andrew Nembhard – Character 😎

Nembhard has no business playing in these games, but he made things so much easier for this team as an organizer and calm presence on the floor, especially in the first half.

In the first quarter, he looked like he could get anywhere he wanted at any speed he wanted. Too cool for summer school. He made this exact shot three times in a short period of time.

He finished with 14 points on 14 shots, going 0 for 4 from 3. He had 8 assists, but also 8 turnovers. Some of it is just that Summer League tends to lend itself to sloppy play with a short lead, but you’d still like to see that number much lower. His assist to Oscar Tshiebwe was beautiful though.

Ben Sheppard – Character 👻🏃

Sheppard was extremely forgettable in this one and didn’t contribute much. I’ll have to watch another time to see how his defense looked, but offensively he missed all four of his shots and one of his two free throws. He was the 5th option in the starting lineup, so it will be interesting to see how he fares the rest of the week as more players begin to rest. I’m not trying to judge him too harshly, but it wasn’t a good first impression for the Belmont rookie. He finished with 1 point, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 28 minutes. Lots of cardio for the first round pick in his debut.

Kendall Brown: Character 💯

Give this man the last 2-way slot. He deserves it 100% and seems like he would be worthy of a standard NBA contract if the Pacers had the roster spot. He had 5 blocks in this game in just 20 minutes. Brown was everywhere on defense. Always looking to run, he seems to fit exactly what the Pacers need and their love of the transition game. He finished with 9 points, 4 rebounds and an assist as well.

Isaiah Wong – Character 🫤

Overall, Wong didn’t look like a point guard capable of running the show in this one and had six fouls on defense. He finished with 6 points (1 of 4), 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 4 turnovers in 17 minutes. His one shot was a hard little midrange shot that was nice and he got to the foul line in six attempts.

Oscar Tshiebwe – Character 🤔

Tshiebwe’s rebounding skills showed up just twice on the same possession in this game, as he swallowed consecutive 3-point misses on the offensive end and then fouled the putback attempt. He played just 8 minutes and added 5 points with his 2 boards.

Mojave King – Character 🤷‍♂️

King got 2 minutes of running and a completely empty box score.

The Pacers next game is on Monday against Anthony Black and the Orlando Magic.

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