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How Oscar Tshiebwe can help the Indiana Pacers

Tshiebwe is on a two-way contract with the blue and gold

It didn't take long for center Oscar Tshiebwe to find a home in the NBA after going undrafted in the 2023 NBA Draft. The big man agreed to a two-way contract with the Indiana Pacers just one day later, the team closest in proximity to the University of Kentucky. That's where he played his final seasons in college.

Tshiebwe's resume speaks for itself. He was the Naismith College Player of the Year in 2022, and he averaged 16.9 points and 14.4 rebounds per game in his two seasons at Kentucky. He is a hyper-productive big man who shines around the basket.

"You're going to play in this league if you keep doing what you do," Tshiebwe said earlier this month when asked what the Pacers told him after his pre-draft workout with the team.

On a two-way deal, the big man will split time with Indiana and its G League affiliate franchise, the Mad Ants. That's the perfect setup for someone like Tshiebwe, who has a clear way he can help an NBA team but also has obvious areas where he needs to grow.

In the pros, Tshiebwe's path to helping the Pacers is on the glass. He's a monster on the boards, and he proved that in Summer League play for the blue and gold. He averaged 18.7 rebounds per 36 minutes during the Las Vegas exhibitions, and that ranked fourth among all players.

If there is a miss, Tshiebwe is going to grab it, and he's productive on the glass on both ends of the court.

"Every time the ball touches my hands, I've gotta come [down] with it," Tshiebwe said this offseason. He believes that rebounding is an effort skill, but he also is smart about knowing which side of the court shots are more likely to bounce to based on where a shot comes from. He has studied it.

Even in the NBA, his rebounding should translate quickly. He's got great instincts and an even better motor. That skill could even help the Pacers in practices. Other big men will be forced to battle hard on the glass since Tshiebwe will be there to push them.

"His energy. It's something that I've seen even when I was at Kentucky. He used to play at practice with us. His motor is unbelievable," Pacers center Isaiah Jackson said of Tshiebwe in July. "Just playing against him, learning how to box out bigger guys, stronger guys. His offensive game is going to keep blossoming the more he plays."

The Congolese big man can do more than just grab rebounds, though. If that's all he could do, he wouldn't be an NBA caliber player.

One of his best traits as a big man is his finishing, especially around the basket. According to Synergy Sports, Tshiebwe shot just under 60% on all layups during his senior season with the Wildcats, netting an impressive 1.19 points per possession. He also averaged over one dunk per game and scored on almost every one he attempted. Around the cup, the former All-American is lethal.

How he got the layup didn't really matter, either. The six-foot-nine-inch big man averaged a solid 0.96 points per possession on post ups last season, an above average number in the college ranks. That won't be something he is asked to do often in the NBA, especially right away, but it's not a weakness.

His around-the-basket success translated to pick-and-rolls as well. As a roll man, Tshiebwe shot 63.8%, per Synergy Sports. That's a solid figure, and the center always rolls to the basket hard. It's another part of his aforementioned motor.

"I would just show people and work hard and prove [to] people... I gotta show them that I can do it," Tshiebwe said of being in the NBA.

That drive shows up in his play style, and Tshiebwe never takes a possession off. That's why he was so threatening in transition, where he shot 73.1% last season. He plays hard in the open floor, and that will allow him to fit in well with Indiana's style despite not being the most athletic player.

Tshiebwe has many areas he needs to improve. His instincts away from the rim need work, and he shot 35/89 (39.3%) on shots outside of the paint last season, per CBBAnalytics. On defense, he battles hard around the basket, but struggles to be effective on the perimeter.

The big man himself said that two areas he would like to improve are his ability to switch on defense and his accuracy on jumpers. Adding those to his repertoire would make him a fantastic modern big man.

Right now, though, he is a beast around the basket with room to grow. Early in his career, he will help the Indiana Pacers on the glass and by finishing plays around the basket. As his career progresses, Oscar Tshiebwe hopes to add more to his game.

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