Season Preview for the Indiana Pacers: Time to Put the Rubber to the Road
The Pacers, always the “what if” team. They can be considered a small market team with one superstar player in Paul George, but they’re making their case this season as to why they can make it out of the playoffs and into basketball history. The front office made some serious moves in the off-season to try and give their superstar a real shot at dethroning the Cavs.
The Pacers traded up this season in a number of positions and it’s going to truly benefit Paul George, who is about to hit his career stride. Coming off of one the most horrific injuries imaginable, he put up superstar numbers reminding us why he belongs in the NBA conversation of top 5 players. The obvious goal this season was to build around Paul George to become contenders and I believe that they have successfully done just that: prepare to contend. This team can walk into game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals with confidence to take on Lebron and co.
Monta Ellis (11 years): PTS: 18.7 AST: 4.8 FG%: .451
Rodney Stuckey (9 years): PTS: 12.9 AST: 3.7 FG%: .425
Aaron Brooks (8 Years): PTS: 10.7 AST: 3.2 FG%: .4.13
Jeff Teague (7 years): PTS: 12.1 AST: 5.2 FG%: .448
Julyan Stone (3 years-47 games) PTS: 1.3 AST: 1.1 FG%: .440
Joe Young (1 year-41 games) PTS: 3.8 AST: 1.6 FG%: .367
Nick Zeisloft (Signed to off season contract-No NBA Experience)
Aaron Brooks is a strong back-up to the all-star Jeff Teague who will take the lead next to Monta Ellis, who just held a presser expressing his immense belief that he has transformed his game to the next level at the shooting guard. Aaron Brooks held his own on the Bulls lineup for the last 2 seasons as he had to put the team on his back with Rose’s injuries. Jeff Teague is extremely effective and took the Atlanta Hawks by the reigns after he began to take the starting position in the 2011-12 season. Monta Ellis is looking to really capitalize on his game and take charge, but his workload won’t be as heavy with a veteran like Rodney Stuckey behind him. Here’s my concern: both of these shooting guards have peaked. Stuckey held his own on the Pistons a few years back and it was impressive, but for the wrong team. While Ellis worked his tail off last season, his numbers were well below his average and I find it hard that one off season will change it around. Don’t get me wrong, all of these guards are going to be tough to compete with, especially with the big men who they will be assisting…but don’t expect them to be in the conversation of “best back court duos” this season. They’re complimentary players who are strong veterans with great experiences. Stone and Young are two role playing guards that will most likely see garbage minutes along with Zeisloft. Zeisloft impressed a lot of people while he played at Indiana, but he will most likely find himself as a practice player or in the Development League at some point in the season. Now, this is where the Pacers turn up the heat in their lineup and begin to truly excite their fan base: with their forwards. Obviously Paul George is headlining as their superstar, but what does his supporting cast look like?
CJ Miles (11 years) PTS: 9.7 AST: 1.2 REB: 2.4
Thaddeus Young (9 years) PTS: 13.9 AST: 1.5 REB: 5.9
Paul George (6 years) PTS: 16.9 AST: 3.1 REB: 6.2
Jeremy Evans (6 years) PTS: 3.5 AST: 0.4 REB: 2.6
Glenn Robinson III (2 years/Forward-Guard) PTS: 3.1 AST: 0.5 REB: 1.3
Rakeem Christmas (1 year- 1 Game) PTS: 4.0 AST: 0.0 REB: 1.0
Georges Niang (2nd Round Draft Pick 2016)
The X-Factror: Paul George. Paul George isn’t one of those players who opens his mouth for the media coverage or for the attention. So when PG-13 said “this is my MVP season” (paraphrasing), he put the whole league on notice, and rightfully so. He is about to carry this team into the spotlight every night, and he’s going to put up serious numbers. Jeff Teague will really help with that, and so will his supporting players in Young and Miles are going to facilitate for him and be able to give him strong minutes off the bench, which will help the Pacers keep their foot on the gas in games when it matters most. Young has had a fruitful career with the Sixers, Brooklyn and (easily forgettable) Minnesota. He was one of the strongest off-season acquisitions right next to Al Jefferson and Jeff Teague. Honestly, I don’t like Miles, I think he’s sloppy and can be called undisciplined. However, it’s undeniable that he can be a great energy player at any moment (referencing his 27 and 30 point games against Brooklyn and OKC) which is really helpful when going down the stretch of the season. All of the analysis and predictions is based on the health of players staying perfect all season long. But it’s not a secret that Young hasn’t maintained his health, and that can be a problem down the road. All in all, these players can be seen as the strongest aspect to the Pacers lineup. The next group of players, the centers, reminds us that not all teams are moving to small ball like the Warriors and I think it’s sweet. The game doesn’t have to change at such a drastic rate, and the center shouldn’t be counted out as a beneficial player.
Al Jefferson (12 years) PTS: 16.7 REB: 8.9 BLK: 1.3
Kevin Seraphin (6 years) PTS: 6.1 REB: 3.5 BLK: 0.8
Myles Turner (1 year-60 Games) PTS: 10.3 REB: 5.5 BLK: 1.4
The Pacers have had a solid decade of maintaining the role of the big man, most recently with Ian Mahimi and Roy Hibbert. But now, they transition to Al Jefferson who has been the big man for the power house team Celtics in the early 2000’s, to carrying his weight and his team, with teams like Utah and Minnesota. His time in Charlotte with Kemba has yet to prove beneficial, as they barely made the playoffs in 2014 and 2016. It feels like Jefferson is grasping at one last title run in his career before he calls it quits headed into his 13th season. I believe he’ll not only be a strong foundation to their offense but his leadership and experience will do wonders to the younger core of their lineup. I also see potential in a mentor role for the sophomore player in Myles Turner. Turner is a consistent player who can develop into a stronger player with the help and leadership of Jefferson. Turner has a good range on his jumper, and is aggressive on the boards. The sky is truly the limit for this young man, and I’m excited to see him grow into a powerhouse down in the paint. Teams need to be ready for his presence, because he’s a game changer.
All in all, the Pacers are going to be the team to beat, right behind the Cavaliers and the Raptors. They are going to put the league on notice with their 49-33 record. I find it hard to stop someone as determined and explosive as Paul George, not to mention his insane clutch factor. His new guards are going to facilitate his success as the big men in the post are going to bang through the Eastern Conference with authority. If they stay healthy, and have a healthy relationship off the court, this team will be one to be reckoned with. Watch out, this one is rated PG-13.