Armed with a bunch of late-twenty somethings in the middle of their primes, the Pacers surprisingly ranked No. 12 in ESPN's Young Core Rankings. Rankings were based upon projected three-year WARP, and young-core members were defined as "any player likely to be on the roster who won't yet be 26 by the end of the 2015-16 regular season." Bradford Doolittle offered only a snippet of justification for the Pacers' favorable ranking:
12. Indiana Pacers (Projected three-year WARP: 52.0)
Indiana almost made the top 10 simply because Paul George fell on the right side of the cut-off age.
There are two opposing viewpoints here: 1) It's mindboggling to think Paul George is still only 25-years old—a mere pup in NBA years—with room to grow as core a piece. 2) In one short year, Paul George will be leaving the realm of "young-core piece" and transitioning to "Is what he is" veteran. Either way, the Pacers are privileged to have one of the league's best young players leading their team through what's widely considered a transition year.
With a little luck, productive years from Myles Turner, Joseph Young, Solomon Hill, and Shayne Whittington will help the Pacers stay afloat in future rankings.
For those curious about which team finished No. 1 in the rankings, look no further than Central Division foe, the Milwaukee Bucks, who sport an embarrassment of riches in the 25-and-under club:
The Bucks cemented this spot when they signed free-agent Monroe this summer. Monroe doesn't turn 26 until June of next season, yet he likely will be the oldest member of a Milwaukee starting lineup that will grow together over the next few years. Middleton has already established himself as one of the top 10 shooting guards in the league, and if we were re-selecting the 2013 draft, Antetokounmpo might be the first player taken (though it would probably be Utah's Rudy Gobert). And these numbers are almost certainly underselling Parker, whose rookie numbers don't give him a great baseline from which to project.
For a full list of Young Core Rankings, click here (ESPN Insider required).