IN:Victor Oladipo , Cory Joseph , Domantas Sabonis , Bojan Bogdanovic , Darren Collison , T.J. Leaf (1st Round , #18) , Ike Anigbogu (2nd Round , #47) , Ben Moore
OUT: Paul George , Monta Ellis , Jeff Teague , Lavoy Allen , Aaron Brooks , Rakeem Christmas , C.J. Miles , Georges Niang , Kevin Seraphin
When Larry Bird fired Frank Vogel 18 months ago the reasoning was that the Pacers wanted to move away from their defensive identity and install a more uptempo offensive game plan. The Pacers felt Vogel wasn’t the man to oversee this shift in philosophy & for reasons known only to themselves promoted assistant coach Nate McMillan. The former Sonic having had what can only be described as a fairly “Meh” coaching career ’til that point during stops in Portland and Seattle. Whilst the scoring output did improve a little, opponents helped themselves to almost another 5 points per game in Vogels absence. Despite sneaking into the play offs & competing well , they were well swept in the first round by Cleveland.
The struggle to attract complimentary talent to help Paul George proved tough for GM Kevin Pritchard & his handling of his star forwards impending free agency could be accurately described as “a bit of a fuck up”. The resulting trade that netted Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis was widely panned by respected league followers who claim to know what they are talking about. The Pacers were so annoyed at their own incompetence they filed a tampering charge against the Lakers just to save some face. Indiana are seemingly stuck in nowhere land, a place you don’t want to be as an NBA franchise. They haven’t won less than 30 games since the 1988/89 and it remains to be seen if a loyal local fan base has the stomach for a complete tear down. Where they are by the time the trading deadline approaches in February could determine their path for the next half decade or so.
The one young player they do have with star potential is Myles Turner. The 3rd year big man has made steady progress but still needs to expand his range and add some off the dribble stuff if he’s truly going to unlock his inner “Dirk”. He could also do with a rub down with potted meat to add some bulk. Too often he was bullied down low and on the boards by opposing bigs who simply overpowered him. Develop his inside game and three point shot and the Pacers will really be onto something. Oladipo returns to Indiana with a far different profile than when he last played in the state. Known as a defensive stopper in college, he’s struggled to transfer those skills to the pro level and often struggles to cope with the size of NBA wings. On his third stop in the league already, he needs to show improved finishing and ball handling whilst maintaining a decent three point percentage if he’s ever to justify the $21m a year he’s paid.
Unless Lance Stephenson Jedi mind tricks the Pacers coaching staff once again, Corey Joseph and Darren Collison look set to share ball handling duties. Collison can shoot but can’t defend , Joseph can do a bit of both but is not quite the offensive threat Collison is. Bojan Bogdanovic has trouble guarding his own shadow but can fill it up when he gets going. The Pacers are hoping he can do this on a consistant basis and provide some much needed wing scoring. Will Thaddeus Young get traded again? don’t bet against it. Until then he profiles to get the lion’s share of minutes at the four spot. The good news is Al Jefferson has said goodbye to fried chicken and hello to boiled rice over the summer & claims to have lost 20 lbs in order to fight father time and a shifting NBA landscape. Savour his old school post game whilst you can, we may not see anything like it again for a while.
Lefty Sabonis will never be confused for his old man, but should be given the chance to improve on a slightly disappointing rookie campaign. If he can develop his three point stroke to above average the Pacers will be more than happy. Rookie T.J. Leaf had a lovely old time catching lobs from Lonzo Ball at U.C.L.A. last season but his minutes will be determined by how much defence he can offer, which at this stage seems to be very little.
The lack of creativity throughout the team trends towards some major offensive struggles and there is little evidence that McMillan has the ability X & O wise to make up for the Pacers roster deficiencies. For somebody known as a defensive stopper throughout his career, strangely he seems unable to goad his teams to overachieve in this area. Klay Thompson has burnt a lot of teams in the past few years but McMillan seemed almost content sit and watch at the Warriors guard dropped 60 on his team in three quarters last season without making a single adjustment. Things are so bleak in Indiana that 37 year old Damien Wilkins has been invited to camp