Predicted finish: 8th in the East (4th in the Central, 18th in the power rankings)
Last seasons conference finish: 4th in the East
Before Pacers fans get mad at their placement in the conference, tell me why you’re better than any of the teams in front of you. You weren’t better than Toronto, Boston or Milwaukee last year and made zero improvements to your roster. Meanwhile, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Miami and Washington all got significantly better. The only case for the Pacers being better is continuity but with a new head coach and once again working in Victor Oladipo, is that even true? Also, your front court still doesn’t work together, Jeremy Lamb is still hurt and Malcolm Brogdon will probably be at some point as well. Listen, I like this team and there are some pieces here however, to act like you have a higher ceiling than anyone above you is wrong. Your finish had more to do with the tire fires around you than necessarily your own success and with the Oladipo smoke cloud hanging over the franchise, even if your ceiling was say higher than the Wizards, why should I believe this team has the locker room chemistry to get there? This franchise has a ton of questions, a hard ceiling of a first round playoff exit and did nothing to improve this offseason and that’s the truth.
The big question for the franchise: What do you do with Oladipo?
If Oladipio is as out this summer as it seems, you just have to move him and get something. I understand it’ll hurt your short term prospects though what does that change this team from a seven seed to an eight seed? This team feels stuck in the middle as is so if he’s gone, at least recoup some assets and avoiding Bostoning this for nothing. That said, he was such a beautiful fit there it feels like yesterday. He played college in the state and had a real bond with the fans. Honestly, I hope he can re-find his All-Star form and stay because this team with All-Star Vic next to Brogdon gets really interesting. As of right now though, with a washed Oladipo who seems out on the franchise, it seems the answer to the question has already been given. I’m not there day-to-day and hope they can find a way to keep him. I’ve been watching the NBA long enough to know where this usually goes though once the leaks of wanting out come.
One move I want to see them make: Trade Turner
Myles Turner makes no sense on this team and literally everyone knows it. Playing him and Sabonis on defence is a suicide mission of death by a thousand drives and offensively, they just inhibit the other from maximizing. I understand the appreciation for Turner and his game in Indiana. The fact he’s added this really solid jumper, while remaining a good rim protector is a testament to him. That said, sometimes players become redundant when they can’t play together and that’s where this team is. Trade Turner for some bench depth, move Sabonis to the five, TJ Warren to the four and Lamb or someone else to the three and let’s play some modern ball.
Offseason Grade: D
After flaunting at Gordon Hayward that didn’t work out. Oladipo tried his best but he’s back and so are both Turner and Sabonis. The only thing saving this from an F is I like their coaching hire. Nate Bjorkgren was instrumental in the Raptors recent run so I’d expect nothing different now that he slides over a seat in Indiana. Otherwise though, running back a roster with a proven ceiling of first round loser is the epitome of eastern conference small market attitude that gets you nowhere (See Magic, Orlando). At least do something to adjust this roster please.
Young player I’m excited for: Domantas Sabonis
I get that it’s kind of weird calling a guy who’s already been paid a major contract a young player but I can’t wait to see more Sabonis. Last season he took a major offensive step as quietly one of the best playmaking, screening bigs in basketball. This year I want to see him take some strides defensively, especially in lateral movement and offensively in getting that jump shot to league average. Regardless of what he adds or doesn’t, I’m excited to watch him play. Sabonis is one of the hidden gem talents in this league I hope more people pay attention to.
Maybe I’m punishing them too much for not doing much of anything this offseason but I’m not sold on this team at all. I think the Oladipo thing probably gets worse before better and Sabonis and Turner still don’t work together so I don’t know how they’re getting around that. Overall this team and roster is very meh in a much improved conference, especially at the top.