Goga Bitadze 2021 Season Review

Second-year Pacers center Goga Bitadze discusses where his game has grown most since his rookie season and what he hopes to work on during the offseason.

Bitadze 2021 Player Review

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Goga Bitadze 2021 Season Review

Second-year Pacers center Goga Bitadze discusses where his game has grown most since his rookie season and what he hopes to work on during the offseason.
Jun 3, 2021  |  03:02

Goga Bitadze 2020-21 Season Highlights

Check out some of the top plays from Goga Bitadze's 2020-21 season.
Jun 3, 2021  |  00:59

2021 Exit Interview: Goga Bitadze

May 21, 2021 - Pacers center Goga Bitadze reflects on how he grew in his second NBA season and discusses his excitement to finally get back to his home country of Georgia this summer.
May 21, 2021  |  01:42

Player Review 2021: Goga Bitadze

by Brendan Rourke
Pacers.com Contributor

Age: 21
Years Pro: 2
Status: Entering third year of rookie contract
Key Stats: Appeared in 45 games. Set career-highs in minutes played (12.5), points per game (5.1), 3-point field goal percentage (.253), and blocks per game (1.3).

The next time Goga Bitadze steps on the court for the Pacers in the regular season, it will be his 100th career NBA game. As he hits the century mark next year, the big man is confident he has nowhere to go but up.

During his rookie year under previous head coach Nate McMillan, Bitadze appeared in 54 games. However, he averaged just 8.7 minutes of playing time over the entire season. Although he showed flashes of what he could provide for the squad — a big body on defense while stretching the court on offense — the Republic of Georgia native did not receive enough minutes to be adequately reviewed.

In the 2020-21 NBA season — a year full of compressed schedules and injuries for Indiana — Bitadze got his wish. The seven-footer set career highs in nearly every statistical category as his workload increased.

PHOTO GALLERY: Goga Bitadze's 2020-21 Season in Photos »

Appearing on the starting sheet just three times, the big man found more minutes off the bench, often relieving the carousel of centers that guarded the paint for Indiana. Bitadze earned an average of 12.5 minutes played this season. As the season progressed, he eventually received a starter's workload of 29:52 played in the Blue & Gold's penultimate regular-season game against the Los Angeles Lakers. He finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, and four blocks in that game.

Although fans may argue his scoring output should be higher (5.1 points per game this season), Bitadze improved the most on the defensive end — something that head coach Nate Bjorkgren appreciates and frequently praises.

The 21-year-old's blocks per game average sprung from 0.7 during his rookie campaign to 1.3 this year. Breaking it down further, he increased his average to 3.9 blocks per 36 minutes (up from 2.8 as rookie) and 5.1 per 100 possessions (up from 3.8). He posted multiple blocks in a single game 18 times this season, reaching five swats twice (April 11 against the Memphis Grizzlies and April 19 against the San Antonio Spurs). Only two other Pacers players to reach the five-block mark in a single game this year: Myles Turner (12 times) and Oshae Brissett (once).

Goga Bitadze, Tyler Herro

Photo Credit: Matt Kryger

The young center also increased his rebounding average this year, jumping from 8.1 rebounds per 36 minutes to 9.6. His positioning in the paint and closeout defense have drastically improved as well.

Of course, this comes from listening and learning from Indiana's primary paint protectors, Turner and Domantas Sabonis. Playing behind two elite big men is a double-edged sword for an up-and-coming project like Bitadze, who is simultaneously thankful to learn from some of the best, but also hopeful he continues to receive more playing time.

While having a reliable defensive piece off the bench is beneficial for depth purposes, if Bitadze wants even more minutes, he must continue growing on the offensive end. In today's NBA, a center having a 3-point shot is proving to be vital. It forces rim protectors to guard away from the rim, leaving open lanes for a team's driving guards. This year, Bitadze increased his 3-point shooting percentage from 19 percent to 25.3 percent. Although this increase is a positive, the big man will need to improve his percentage next year to garner more respect from opposing big men. Several times this season, teams left Bitadze wide-open on the perimeter, often daring him to take the trey. Until he knocks them down at a more efficient rate, opponents will not respect his long-range game enough to rotate a center out to the perimeter.

Staying off the injury report during next year will also benefit Bitadze. After rolling his ankle during Indiana's shortened training camp, he did not make an appearance until the Pacers' 13th game of the regular season. A string of 20 straight appearances during the middle of the season was then broken after he rolled his other ankle on April 19 against the San Antonio Spurs. He then missed another seven games.

Despite the stints in street clothes, Bitadze certainly proved his worth over the final eight games of the regular season. When Turner suffered a partially torn plantar plate, he stepped up by reaching double figures in two of those games, and recording a block in six.

As long as the numbers keep improving, Bitadze easily can become a vital piece for the Pacers' organization moving forward. During his exit interview, the center sounded confident that he is on the right track.

"I was able to get some playing time, thankfully," he stated. "(The) more time I get, I'm sure I'm going to get better and feel more comfortable out there."

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