Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Indiana Pacers Season Preview

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The Indiana Pacers were already a middle-tier team in the 2016-17 season, even with Paul George on the roster. Well, with George and other key contributors now gone from the Hoosier State, things are about to get a whole lot murkier.

Before we touch on what to expect from the Pacers going forward, let’s re-visit what worked well for this team last season.

Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Indiana Pacers Season Preview

What Worked Last Season

Indiana was, in every sense of the word, a very average team last season. Nate McMillan‘s squad finished 15th in points per game and 14th in opponents points per game en route to a 42-40 record. Despite its mediocrity, the Pacers regular season helped earn the team a postseason berth, which saw them swept out of the first round by the Cavaliers.

The Pacers were the fourth-most efficient team from three-point range last season, knocking down 37.6% of their attempts. A big part of that was George and C.J. Miles, both of whom attempted at least five threes per game, knocking down 39% and 41% respectively.

Indy also excelled at protecting the rim last season. The team allowed 39.7 points in the paint on average, which ranked fourth league-wide.

What Needs Improvement

The biggest key for Indiana is somehow finding a way to replace a portion of George’s production. George had the highest usage rate on the team last season at 28.9% as a primary scoring option. As a result, he unsurprisingly finished with the highest points per game (23.7), VORP (3.2) and BPM (2.8) on the Pacers. Those statistics show how valuable the all-star small forward was to his team in comparison to a league-average player.

With the current makeup of the Pacers’ roster, ways of replacing George’s level of production remain unclear. Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison are two of the new additions that have to consistently produce at a high level to try and help the team stay afloat.

It gets worse for the Pacers, though. Jeff Teague joined George on the lengthy list of big names to leave town. Teague led Indiana with 7.8 assists per game and finished with a team-high 8.1 win shares. Couple Teague’s departure with Miles heading to Toronto, and the future sure looks bleak for Indiana’s offence.

The rapid development of Myles Turner is almost a necessity at this point. The 21-year-old centre still has his best years ahead of him and figures to be the focal point of the Pacers’ offensive attack for the foreseeable future. Becoming more comfortable from behind the three-point arc is paramount for Turner, especially if he wants to dominate against less agile centres going forward. One thing’s for sure: the big man’s opportunity to grow as both a player and leader is there for the taking this season.

Off-Season Changes

As mentioned, the Pacers lost more talent than they gained this offseason, with George, Teague, Miles all leaving via trade or free agency. Rodney Stuckey, Lavoy Allen, and Aaron Brooks are all still free agents, while Kevin Seraphin left the NBA to play in Europe.

The Pacers received Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis as part of the George trade, then signed Bojan Bogdanovic to try and shore up their loss of long-range shooting. Collison also signed in free agency, while Cory Joseph was acquired in a trade with Toronto.

The team selected power forward T.J. Leaf with the 18th overall pick, then picked centre Ike Anigbogu in the second round.

2017-18 Predictions

The Pacers should finish amongst the Eastern Conference bottom feeders this season due to a lack of talent and offensive scoring options amid the departure of George and Teague. According to RPM (real plus-minus) projections, the Pacers are projected to finish with the 27th ranked per-possession offence.

Simply put, this team just lost a ton of offence. Acquiring Bogdanovic and Oladipo helps, but losing George, Miles and Teague is too big a pill to swallow.

Look for Indiana to finish with somewhere between 29-33 wins in 2017-18.

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