Goga Bitadze 2019-20 Season Highlights

Check out some of the top plays from Goga Bitadze's 2019-20 season.

Goga Bitadze 2020 Player Review

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Goga Bitadze 2019-20 Season Highlights

Check out some of the top plays from Goga Bitadze's 2019-20 season.
Sep 4, 2020  |  00:54

Player Review 2020: Goga Bitadze

by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

Age: 21
Years Pro: 1
Status: Entering the second season of rookie contract.
Key Stats: Appeared in 54 regular season games, starting two. Averaged 3.2 points and 2 rebounds in 8.7 minutes per game. Had 37 blocks in just 471 total minutes, the eighth-most blocks by anyone in his rookie class.

For Goga Bitadze, his first season in the NBA was all about getting acclimated. Moving across the Atlantic Ocean and adjusting to American culture. Learning the differences between the NBA and European basketball. And soaking in advice from his Pacers coaches and older teammates as he embarks on a promising career in Indiana.

The Pacers surprised many when they took Bitadze, a 6-11 center from the Republic of Georgia, with the 18th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Indiana already had two talented young centers in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, who were both 23 at the time.

But the Blue & Gold could not pass up on the opportunity to draft Bitadze, a player they never expected to still be on the board when it came time to make their selection. Scouts raved about his two-way potential as a skilled big man with 3-point range and shot-blocking prowess.

"It was the easiest decision I've ever made in the draft," Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard said last June. "There was more consensus than I've ever seen."

Bitadze showed flashes of the potential scouts described in limited playing time as a rookie. Though Turner and Sabonis got the lion's share of the minutes at center, the decision to start them together in the frontcourt created an opportunity for Bitadze to play a bit role on the second unit.

The Georgian big man appeared in 54 of 69 regular season contests in which he was active, averaging 3.2 points and 2 rebounds in 8.7 minutes per contest. Extrapolated over 36 minutes, those averages translate to 13.1 points and 8.1 rebounds.

PHOTO GALLERY: Goga Bitadze's 2019-20 Season in Photos »

Bitadze was pressed into action early in his career when Turner sprained his ankle and had to miss Indiana's first eight games in November. Bitadze rose to the challenge, collecting his first career double-double in just his third career game with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks in 25 minutes off the bench in a 102-95 win over Cleveland on Nov. 1.

Sabonis missed the next two games with a calf contusion, pressing Bitadze into starting duty. The rookie tallied nine points, four rebounds, three assists, and four blocks in a win over Chicago on Nov. 3 and six points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and four blocks in an overtime loss at Charlotte two nights later, though he did foul out of both contests.

Those three games illustrate perhaps Bitadze's most promising attribute — his shot-blocking. Despite limited playing time, he swatted 37 shots on the season, which translates to 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes. That average is actually slightly better than Turner, one of the NBA's premier shot blockers, who averaged 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes this season, albeit over a much larger sample size.

Goga Bitadze

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

Bitadze also flashed his potential over six games on assignment with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pacers' G League affiliate. He dominated G League competition in those six contests, averaging 19.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 3 blocks in 37.4 minutes per game.

One area for improvement for Bitadze heading into next season will be raising his 3-point percentage. Despite being a capable outside shooter, Bitadze went just 8-for-42 from beyond the arc as a rookie (19 percent) and actually had his percentage buoyed by going 2-for-6 from long range in the seeding games in Orlando. He was better from 3-point range in the G League, converting 11 of 31 attempts (35.5 percent).

Bitadze will also need to work on defending without fouling. He averaged five fouls per 36 minutes, though foul trouble is a common problem for rookie big men adjusting to the speed of the NBA.

All in all, Bitadze's rookie season can be classified as a success. He was just 20 years old for most of the year (he turned 21 in the bubble on July 20) and had limited opportunities on the court with both Sabonis and Turner ahead of him.

The Pacers no doubt would like to get Bitadze more minutes next season, though that will remain a challenge if both Turner and Sabonis remain on the roster and healthy. Still, Bitadze offers intrigue to what may well be the league's deepest stable of big men.

Off the court, he fit right in with his teammates, despite his age and cultural differences. He was a hit during the annual Rookie Show at last year's FanJam, performing Christina Aguilera's "Genie in Bottle" while wearing perhaps the world's largest Super Mario costume. He also shared elements of his culture with the team, including hosting a movie screening of the Oscar-nominated Georgian film "Tangerines" in the bubble for teammates and staff.

Bitadze has been in the NBA for over a full year now. His comfort level has grown on the court and off, which should bode well for what he can accomplish next season.

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