The Indiana Pacers were officially eliminated from the 2021 NBA Playoffs on Thursday night as they fell to the Washington Wizards 142-115. For many Canadian viewers though, the biggest storyline on the night was not the fact that the Pacers lost, or that the Wizards won for that matter, it was the fact that Canadian Oshae Brissett has gone from being out of the league to being must watch TV in a matter of months.
The Mississauga, ON product has found a home in Indiana, and although he won’t be going to the postseason this year, he emerged late as one of the best players on a struggling Pacers team, and has quickly turned himself into a fan favourite.
Brissett’s NBA journey started with his hometown Toronto Raptors, but only after going undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft. Coming from Syracuse University, Brissett was used to being an underdog, and remained hungry despite not hearing his name called on draft night. Hometown reasoning aside, Brissett seemed like the perfect fit for the Raptors, as Toronto has made themselves known for finding slept on talent and transforming them into NBA stars, something Fred VanVleet knows all about.
That puzzle came together in the summer of 2019, as the Raptors signed the undrafted forward on a two-way deal, meaning that he would split time between the Raptors bench and the G-League affiliate Raptors 905. Brissett ended up playing 19 games for the Raptors in the COVID-affected 2019-2020 season, but the opportunities were scarce, as the strength of that Toronto team made it hard for bench guys to find minutes.
Even in his short stints though, Brissett showed promise, and so it was surprising to hear that heading into the 2020-2021 season, Brissett was waived by the team, as the Raptors moved forward without giving him much of a chance to shine. With the Raptors track record of talent evaluation, no one thought twice of the decision, but that move may be something the organization seriously regrets moving forward, as at just 21 years old, Brissett was just beginning to touch the surface of what he is capable of at the NBA level.
Heading into 2020-2021, Brissett went back and entered the G-League draft, and was selected 21st overall to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the junior affiliate of the Indiana Pacers. Brissett showed his talent level quickly, dominating with 18.9 PPG and 9.8 RPG. After just a few weeks, it was clear that he was too skilled to not be on an NBA roster, and considering the struggles that the Pacers were going through, they took a shot on April 1st of this year, signing him to a 10-day contract.
As soon as his first 10-day deal expired, Brissett signed another with the team, and got his first start in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs, scoring 13 points and grabbing 6 boards in 25 minutes of action. From there, as a result of the promise he was showing and the need for talent on the roster, Brissett signed a three-year contract with the Pacers, officially bringing him back to the NBA for the first time since the Raptors passed up on him.
From that moment on in the regular season, Brissett never looked back. His role continued to increase, and with it so did the performances. Brissett went from not playing at all to averaging 35+ minutes per game in late April with Indiana, and the minutes were deserved. In late April to early May, Brissett recorded 4 double-doubles in the span of 6 games, giving the Pacers a boost with his offensive game, but also with his ability on the glass, which is something that Indiana desperately needed.
As the season neared its final stages, Brissett saved his best regular season performance for last, absolutely dominating his hometown team that let him go; dropping 31 points and 10 rebounds in a season finale victory over Toronto. While local media and fans were tuned in to Brissett’s talent by this point, the performance over the Raptors grew him into a national story, and that tale would continue to grow in Indiana’s first play-in tournament game.
The Pacers absolutely dominated the Charlotte Hornets in the Eastern Conference 9 vs.10 play-in matchup, and with Domantas Sabonis not providing much in terms of scoring for Indy, they needed someone to step up, and just like he had been doing the month and a half prior, Brissett answered the call. The Canadian got the much-deserved start, and led the entire game in scoring with 23 points on 10/14 shooting. He contributed with 5 rebounds and 2 assists, and was a big factor in the blowout win, proving how much he belongs at the NBA level.
Unfortunately for Indiana, the wheels fell of the wagon against the Washington Wizards just two days later on Thursday night as they lost big to Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal and company, but even in the loss, Brissett managed to score 10 points to go with 6 rebounds.
As a collective, Indiana did not play good enough this year to warrant a playoff appearance, but what they did do was find an unproven gem in Oshae Brissett, and it will be interesting to see how they handle his spot in the rotation next season. One thing’s for certain is that the Raptors will be kicking themselves for dropping Brissett so quickly, and the Pacers will be very appreciative of them for doing so. The future is bright for Brissett, and the Canadian has proven that he is ready to perform in the NBA and take his game to the next level.