Way Too In Depth Indiana Pacers Season Preview
The second part of our full NBA season preview. Continuing through the Eastern Conference Central division with one of the surprise success stories from last year, the Indiana Pacers. ONCE AGAIN I USE A BETTING LINE JUST AS A BAR OF PUBLIC OPINION THIS IS IN NO WAY BETTING ADVICE.
About Last Year:
Before the season it looked bleak for the Pacers and, in many ways, were a laughing stock of the general public. They looked to have a roster set to be on the treadmill of mediocrity with enough veteran players to not be too bad but not enough talent to actually be any good or fun. Throw in some bad contracts and at least a couple 33 win seasons seemed imminent.
Then something happened, whether it be stepping out of Russell Westbrook’s shadow, that he got in way better shape, being comfortable with the green light in Indiana, or just having it click, Victor Oladipo made the leap into being the sort of player hew as pegged for when he was drafted.
But it went beyond just him, Oladipo was the (deserved) headliner but several players had career years last season. Bojan Bodganovic and Darren Collison had the best seasons of their lives, Domantas Sabonis made a nice step in his second year. Thaddeus Young didn’t have a career year but looked great while finally being back on a competitive team while healthy.
The Pacers roared their way to 48 wins, the 5th seed, and a 7 game series against LeBron’s Cavaliers in the first round. It was one of the feel-good stories of the season.
Worth mentioning that I, personally, was one of the people who had to eat crow with regards to the Pacers last year. I thought they would be terrible and boring, they were anything but. In my defense I did say that they could maybe be good if Oladipo finally broke out. The problem is my opinion was that it just wasn’t going to happen.
Glenn Robinson III (even though he barely played due to injury)
Not all that remarkable but still very good off-season for the Pacers. They added a potentially very important piece in Tyreke Evans, who quietly had a really good season last year in Memphis. Even more shooting in Doug McDermott, and a solid backup big in Kyle O’Quinn. Meanwhile Lance Stephenson was pretty much the only regular rotation guy from last year to depart.
The Good News:
Just to re-iterate exactly where the Pacers stand, last year they won 48 games, lost a single rotation player and added Tyreke Evans (who will at least fill in Lance’s role but much better) Doug McDermott, and Kyle O’Quinn. They were a good team last year, and they most certainly got better this off-season.
As for the team next year, the best news is that the Pacers have a legit star in Oladipo who loves it with the Pacers and is under contract for the long term. I was a doubter but don’t let anyone tell you otherwise at this point, 24 points per game on a true shooting percentage of 57.7%, along with solid distribution and really high-level defense is a super-star. Even if last year ends up being a career year for Oladipo and his play takes a small step back he will still be a legit star and a guy that you can build a legit contender around.
After Oladipo it stays good, this is a Pacers roster that doesn’t have any obvious holes in its rotation. Collison and Corey Joseph are not great but are going to provide rock-solid point guard play the entire game. Oladipo, as stated before, is a star, Bodganovic is a great shooter who can create on his own and gave pretty decent defense last year. Thaddeus Young remains a rock-solid player, Myles Turner had a bit of a disappointing year last season but is still a good two-way center. Tyreke Evans could be their second best player if he stays healthy, Sabonis and TJ Leaf are both good end-of-rotation guys and so is Kyle O’Quinn.
One of the bigger hopes here has to be Myles Turner. He had some issues with concussions (I think?) last year and never really looked quite right. But he remains very young, a good shooter, and still managed 1.8 blocks per game last year. With Oladipo’s emergence there won’t be as much pressure on him to become a super-star as before, but if he takes even a marginal step forward he will be one of the better two-way centers in basketball.
Tyreke Evans could, potentially, end up being one of the best signings of the off-season. Last year he averaged 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists. That was admittedly done on a very bad Memphis team, but when he’s been healthy, Evans has put up similar numbers. Health will remain a significant worry for Evans, the last three years he’s played 52, 40, and 25 games. (Worth mentioning that he missed some games for Memphis last year because they were tanking) If he stays healthy he is very likely to be their second best player and provide someone who can help to keep them afloat when Oladipo sits. (which was an issue last season)
Their biggest strength will remain that they are a team with a bunch of good veteran players who almost all played together last year so there will be comfort and continuity. If they can avoid regression from players it should be another really fun season of basketball for Indiana.
The Bad News:
I mean, there isn’t a lot of bad news. The biggest worry for this team has to be the fact that a bunch of veterans had career years so it would stand to reason that they regress a bit. But as stated before, even with a little regression from last year, this team should still be really good. And other than Oladipo it isn’t like anyone played so far above their previous production that you’d expect a total crash.
One real worry, as stated above, has to be Evan’s health combined with their almost comical reliance on Oladipo last season. When Oladipo was on the floor the Pacers were +6.4 points per 100 possessions, when he was on the bench they were -7.3. For those keeping track at home that is a difference of 12.9(!!!!!). If Evans can stay healthy then he should help mitigate that, but he’s had real injury issues in the past.
Regardless of Evan’s health, somehow or another the Pacers will want to find a way to be not quite so reliant on Oladipo. Once again, hopefully Evans helps in this regard, but even if it isn’t him. Something else has to give, it is never good to be that reliant on a single player.
What’s the biggest wild card for this team?
Myles Turner. At this time last season he was seen as the Pacers future and best hope. Some health problems likely contributed to him never really making a big step but most reports (that I have seen at least) suggest that he is good to go for this season. If he can make good on the potential he showed in his first and second season then the Pacers will have two young players who are legit cornerstones. Turner making a step is also the best bet for the Pacers to improve a sometimes leaky defense from last year.
Best Case Scenario: 56-26
Oladipo doesn’t just repeat last season’s output, he builds on it and has an MVP caliber season. Myles Turner also makes a big step to being a two-way monster who is a great compliment to Oladipo. Tyreke Evans stays healthy and repeats last season and the upstarts from last year only improve. They shock the NBA world and blow through the playoffs until winning a close, 7 game series against either the Celtics or Raptors to become the annual sacrifice to the Warriors in the finals. They head into the next off-season as one of the most promising franchises in the sport and have heaps of money to spend.
Worst Case Scenario: 41-41
Some of the role-players regress a bit, Oladipo is still good but doesn’t have quite the same magic from last year. Tyreke Evans battles injuries all season and never gets comfortable enough to be a real impact player and they still fall apart without Oladipo. The team is still a solid and competitive outfit but just can’t recapture the magic of the previous season for a decent but disappointing season. They still enter next off-season with Oladipo and a ton of money so the future is still looking good, but it’s not quite as much fun.
So What’s the verdict? Line is 47.5.
Very tough one to call. I feel like 47.5 for the Pacers is just about as good a line as any in the NBA. Teams will be more ready for the Pacers and Oladipo so even though I think that the Pacers will be a better team, their record may not fully reflect that. My guess is that they will be within three games of the line either way, since I have to guess I would take the over on the very simple logic of they won 48 games last year and should be better. My main hesitation comes from the fact that I would guess that they will lose some of the magic from last year. Oladipo will probably miss a couple of game-winners that he hit last year, Darren Collison will go back to shooting ~40% from deep instead of 46%. Once again, I 100% believe this Pacers team will be better, just the record may not reflect it. Still, I’ll take the over in the end.