The Indiana Pacers seem to be stuck between two methods of play for 2017-18 and the foreseeable future. Do they develop and try to acquire young talent like the trade that brought Victor Oladipo (25-years old) and Domantas Sabonis (21-years old) to Indy, or do they bring in veterans like Darren Collison (29-years old) and Bojan Bogdanovic (28-years old) and try to compete now? What if there was a way to do both? Let me explain.
There is a way that this Pacers team can have success right out of the gate. Will they be world-beating NBA Champions, no. However, they could win enough games to get a decent playoff seed and make some noise. In today’s NBA, teams must be able to space the floor and shoot the basketball. Remember those Pacers’ Eastern Conference Finals of the LeBron James Miami Heat era? They were known for their physicality and grit. Those days are gone. The Pacers, for all the flaws on the current edition of the roster, are built to play in today’s style better than any team Indiana has fielded in years.
This Pacers team possesses big men who can shoot the basketball in Sabonis, Myles Turner and T.J. Leaf. If Thad Young remains on the roster for next season, which at this point is a big if, he is also a decent shooter. The presence of these players allows Indiana to space the floor, taking opponents’ lumbering and imposing bigs away from the basket and opening up driving lanes.
Luckily for Indiana, the current roster includes a few guys who can drive the lane with the best of them in Oladipo and Lance Stephenson. While Oladipo shot over 40% on drives to the hoop last season, Stephenson shot an astounding 58.6%. For comparison, Russell Westbrook shot at a 48% clip.
Lance Stephenson with the drive and the acrobatic finish in traffic for his first bucket on the Grizzlies pic.twitter.com/oWNn8ox9UD
— Grizzlies Nation (@MemGrizNation) February 22, 2016
The Pacers also now have wings who can knock down open looks. Bogdanovic’s field goal percentage is a hair better than C.J. Miles and fairly close to Paul George’s. Ready for a real shock? Glenn Robinson III was actually a better shooter than George in 2017-18. Now before you come find me with an angry mob, I’m in no way saying these guys will be better overall players than George. I’m simply comparing shooting percentages.
With that said, there seems to be a large group that believes the team will be horrible strictly due to George’s departure. Again there is hope. In the NBA there is a metric called player impact estimate, or PIE for short, mmmm pie. According to the NBA’s official website, PIE measures a player’s overall statistical contribution against the total statistics in games they play in. In other words, the formula for PIE helps show a player’s true value by accounting for their impact in each specific game.
— Charlie Clifford (@cliffWISH8) April 19, 2017
Where did George finish in 2017 you may be wondering? 43rd. Josh Huestis, Kevin Love, and Zach Randolph are just a few of the names to finish ahead of George. The bad news? The first Pacer from the current roster to show up, Turner, doesn’t appear until 103rd overall. Still, the Pacers aren’t in that bad of a place after losing their “superstar.”
Finally, there is a group that seems to think the defense will suffer going forward. The Pacers finished last season ranked 16th overall in team defensive rating and actually could be better this season.
Stephenson, Oladipo and Turner combine to form a formidable defensive core that will continue to grow together for the next several years. Turner has shown tremendous growth averaging 2.1 blocks and 7.3 rebounds in 2016-17 while producing more on offense as well. As for Stephenson and Oladipo, both are capable of playing smothering defense and each finished with a defense rating near the top of the league last season. Imagine just for a second a lineup with Stephenson guarding the point, Oladipo the two guard, and Turner patrolling the paint. That’s not a welcomed sight for many opposing teams.
— FOX Sports Indiana (@FSIndiana) February 16, 2017
If Indiana can form some cohesion and space the floor with their shooters next season, they could find early success. Pair that with the dreadful Eastern Conference and Indiana could very well avoid the lottery altogether. Remember the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks only won 43 games last year. Regardless of what happens next season, it will be a fun ride as fans watch the future of the organization develop and grow together.
Myles Turner with the massive block on DeMar DeRozan! 🖐🏀
— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) April 1, 2017
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