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The look at all 30 NBA teams continues with the Pacers as we continue the playoff teams in the count down of East teams. Sorry for the delay, had some family business, but we will get caught up when we get to the bottom of the Western Conference. Check out previous teams by clicking on the team name: Hornets / Wizards / Knicks / Pistons / Cavs / Bulls / Magic / Hawks / Raptors / 76ers.
The Pacers had a great Free Agency period and should be very happy with the offseason. Indiana went out and drafted Goga, which was a headscratcher with Myles Turner and Sabonis under contract, and Turner already paid, but after that, the Pacers did some great things. Malcolm Brogdon was an underrated part of the Bucks team last year, and Jeremy Lamb is the perfect player to fill in for Vic during the first half and be a great bench option after. TJ Warren has the potential to be a great fit in Indiana if he gets more time at the 4 like he did in his most efficient season last year. Overall the Pacers are one of 2 playoff teams from last season to actually improve this offseason in the East.
G: Malcolm Brogdon
G: Vic Oladipo / Jeremy Lamb
F: TJ Warren
F: Domotas Sabonis
C: Myles Turner
Bench: Aaron Holiday, Doug McDermott, Goga Bitadze, TJ McConnell, and TJ Leaf.
The Pacers have announced this lineup and been stuck by it. It is interesting with Sabonis and Turner next to each other after the awful +- that lineup had in the playoffs. Stretch 4’s are so important in the modern NBA, and the Pacers have a great option to do it with TJ Warren. Read Louie’s article on stretch 4’s. If the Pacers struggle early I believe they will move Warren to the 4 and start Doug McDermott. The team will also likely be buyers at the deadline for another wing. Aaron Holiday showed a lot of promise last year, and while the backcourt will be crowded, he should continue his development. Overall the current Pacers starting lineup is very concerning when the best big men combos miss the playoffs, but we have the tools to change it up.
Prediction: 45-37 (5th in East) / 2nd Round Exit vs Bucks
Again I have 3-6 in East separated by 2 games. The Pacers should bobble between the 6-9 seed until Vic comes back, but then come on very strong. The Pacers have a good team in the East without him, with him they have one of the best. The lineup concerns me, and could also put the team in a hole early. If the Pacers insist on staying with Sabonis and Turner together the season could go downhill quickly. Vic, Lamb, and Brogdon will all struggle to get in a crowded lane, and the Pacers won’t have the same level of 3-point shooting they had last year with Bogdanovic. I believe the Pacers change the lineup, get the 5-seed with Vic healthy and pull the first round “upset” against a team with the same record. The Bucks will end the run, but it won’t be an easy series for the Bucks with the Pacers pushing them to 6-7 games.
The biggest question for the future might be coming at the trade deadline. Most of this article was focused on the odd pairing of Sabonis and Turner. Two similar players, Turner a better shot blocker and Sabonis a better rebounder, but both are mid-range shooters and post players. Turner has already gotten paid, making him hard to move and showing the Pacers have bought in on him. Sabonis needs a contract at the end of this season. Indiana seems to want to bring him back, but that is not the right choice. Paying both him and Turner will put a lot of money in 2 players that can’t thrive together. Trading Sabonis for a 3 and D player and moving Warren to the 4 would be ideal. Especially if the Pacers can get another draft pick out of the trade. The Pacers roster and cap is very set for years to come, so adding in some draft picks could be a way to improve an already solid roster. If the Pacers believe in Goga, trading Sabonis would also allow him to play more. After trading Sabonis, the Pacers must focus on retaining Oladipo in 2 years. Until then, the Pacers team will be a solid contender in the East.
*Everything in this article was discussed with Louie Snyder