We have a new contributor to our website, welcome Sam Hall! He predicts who he thinks he is most likely to surprise the league and perhaps gain a high Playoff position… the Indiana Pacers
What they’ve done: I feel like this team’s offseason hasn’t received enough love. They lost both Roy Hibbert and David West in free agency as well as Luis Scola and other smaller pieces, but I feel they have more than made up for it with their new additions. First and foremost: the signing of Monta Ellis. The Pacers were 23rd in the NBA in scoring last season, and they’ve brought in a dynamic scoring guard who was top 20 in the league last year in Field Goals made and attempted. Granted, not having Paul George affected the Pacers’ offense immensely, however I love this signing as coach Frank Vogel now has a second option on offence, and I can see Ellis and Paul George playing well together. Last season, George had nearly 90% of his 3 pointers made coming off of assists, so having someone who excels in driving the lane and getting defenses to collapse like Ellis should provide Paul with plenty of wide-open catch and shoot opportunities off the dish. Additionally, the Pacers drafted 43rd overall in this year’s draft Joseph Young out of Oregon. A lot of teams were spooked by his lack size and toughness, however Young had a very impressive summer league preseason, showing a very legitimate scoring talent that I’m sure will cause some GMs to have sleepless nights for not picking him! More importantly, however, he brings scoring talent to a team that desperately needs it.
However, Indiana for the last few seasons has been primarily known for their defence, and the loss of Hibbert and West will hurt. They will not be able to fully return to their level in the 2012-13 season, but people seem to forget that the Pacers were in the lottery this year. With the 11th pick they selected one of the most intriguing young prospects in the draft, 18-year-old Myles Turner out of Texas. Derek Bodner from DraftExpress noted before the draft how unique Turner was as a player, a 6”11’ center with fantastic defensive instincts and rebounding ability but also showing glimpses of a perimeter shooting game. This was considered a high risk pick, however from what he has shown so far in the preseason I think the gamble will pay off for the Pacers this season. He will not fill the void of Hibbert and West right away, not a chance. However, let’s just remember that he is 19, he may even pull a ‘Greek Freak’ and potentially grow more! By looking at his preseason numbers, the potential is there. Averages of 6.5 points and 5 and a half rebounds with a pretty impressive 2.5 blocks per game, and more surprisingly: less than two fouls per game! Very eyebrow raising for a first year player, and him along with the addition of Jordan Hill are very good replacements for the two big men the team lost over the offseason.
What needs to happen: Paul George needs to be back better than ever and have his scoring stay consistent. Monta Ellis needs to be a reliable 2nd option on offense and try to compensate for his deficiencies on the defensive end. More importantly, George Hill needs to up his aggressiveness offensively as he can sometimes be a liability on that end. If he doesn’t, expect either more playing time for Joseph Young, Ellis having stints in the PG position or even a mid-season trade: keep an eye out. Lastly, Turner needs to continue to develop and grow as a player. With all of these pieces, and it being announced that the Pacers will play small ball sometimes with George at the 4 to compete with teams like the Warriors and their strategy, I can see the Pacers surprising a lot of people. I don’t think they’ll advance to the Easter Conference finals, but I would not be surprised if they took advantage of their first round matchup and caused the upset.
Conclusion and prediction: Very good offseason moves from this team. They won’t go deep, but definitely expect a playoff berth from the Indiana Pacers. I believe they will reach the playoffs, bouncing out the Heat for the 8th spot. However, if Boston’s logjam of guards doesn’t payoff for them, definitely expect Indiana to move up to 7th.