"If you ain't first you're last" - Ricky Bobby
- BEST CASE -
I'm talking minimum eight-peat. Frank Vogel proves to be the the next Coach Popovich, only better. If you'll recall, the Spurs were - for a time - among the league's best defenses, playing a slow, methodical grind-it-out style en route to the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Ahead of the modern trend favoring efficiency and 3's, Coach Pop co-opted some of the mid-2000's Phoenix Suns' style and molded the San Antonio Spurs into an offensive juggernaut. In this scenario, the Pacers make these same changes, with even more impressive results. Last year, Steve Kerr demonstrated what a philosophical shift can do for a team in his first season, leading the Golden State Warriors to one of the best seasons the league has ever seen.
Vogel's Pacers play beautiful, free-flowing basketball similar to last year's Atlanta Hawks, and the Pacers run roughshod over the unsuspecting league, on the way to a 73-9 record, going a perfect 41-0 at home. Paul George's game mixes Draymond Green's defensive prowess with Larry Bird's swaggering offense, and PG13 takes home both Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year honors. PG13 and Monta Ellis each average over 20 points a game, supplemented by the assertive George Hill. Myles Turner builds on his impressive summer league, becoming the best rookie to enter the league since Tim Duncan.
Come playoff time, the Pacers prove not to be a paper tiger like the Hawks of yesteryear, and easily sweep the first two rounds setting up the inevitable showdown with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. There, the two best offenses in the league put forth a basketball symphony, but unfortunately for LeBron and Co., the Pacers also play defense at a stunning level. After dispatching the twice and former King, the Pacers meet the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, who survived a bloodbath of their own (aka the Western Conference Playoffs). As one would imagine in a best case scenario, the Pacers win, taking home their first NBA Championship. Monta Ellis gets one over on Stephen Curry, who helped expedite his previous departure from the Bay Area.
All of the winning creates a higher demand for champagne in Indianapolis, leading to Ian Mahinmi opening the incredibly successful boutique "Dom Champion's Champaign." Little did David West know when he left Indianapolis he was leaving Titletown, USA. The Pacers winning culture and attractive style transforms Indy into a free agent destination franchise, and the Pacers are primed for continued, sustainable high-level success in the future.
- WORST CASE -
Brace yourselves people, its about to get dark.
Per Larry Bird's wishes, Paul George starts the season at Power Forward. In the home opener, on the second night of the Pacers' season-opening back-to-back, PG matches up against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Unable to physically withstand the two Memphis behemoths who exist "in the mud" Paul George suffers a season-ending injury, leading to widespread skepticism of Bird's ability to successfully lead the franchise.
While trying to remain competitive and replace the production of the franchise superstar, the Pacers ship out their 2016 first-round pick in exchange for disgruntled Phoenix Suns big man Markieff Morris. Unfortunately, Morris' legal troubles prevent him from leaving Arizona, and he never plays for the 2015-2016 Pacers.
The Pacers open the season by losing their first nine games, only managing their first win at home on Friday, November 13, against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves. The groundswell of Bird skepticism leads to a chorus of fans and media calling for his ouster, and on Black Friday, November 27, while the masses are out shopping, Bird quietly faxes in his resignation.
At the end of the calendar year, the Pacers sit at the bottom of the NBA standings, without any incentive to tank, having already shipped out their upcoming draft pick. Rather than producing poetry-inspiring, gorgeous, fluid basketball, the Pacers are now more akin to the 2009 Terry Porter-led Phoenix Suns, an unimaginative husk of their former selves, playing a style wholly unbefitting of their team. Much like Terry Porter, Vogel doesn't survive the season.
Needing to reinvigorate the fan base, the Pacers front office organizes "Forgiveness Night" for Saturday, January 2, 2016, for their home contest against the Detroit Pistons. The heavy-handedness of titling a promotional event meant to bring fans back to the franchise "Forgiveness Night" was apparently lost on the Indiana marketing department. The Pacers invite Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest), Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O'Neal, and even Ben Wallace back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to formally absolve each for their respective roles in the "Malice at the Palace." Near the end of the fourth quarter, Andre Drummond dunks on poor, sweet Myles Turner so hard that Ben Wallace can't help but chirp at the aforementioned three former Pacers. This leads to a fight breaking out, with current Pacers and Pistons players entering the fray. Several Pacers receive lengthy suspensions.
On the Pacers home finale, the front office decides to seriously promote the Pacers' new D-League Affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. In a well-intentioned but misguided cross promotional effort to increase brand synergy, each fan for the Pacers April 12, 2016 contest against the New York Knicks receives their very own Fire Ant Farm. Unfortunately, the plastic used to construct said Ant Farms is defective, and hordes of Fire Ants infest Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Several hundred fans are harmed by the Fire Ants, none of whom find the "Mad Ant" designation funny whatsoever. Later that night, it becomes necessary to fumigate the Pacers' home court, and a giant tent is erected surrounding the arena.
One day after the Pacers' season ends, on April 14, 2016 - the anniversary of Lincoln's assassination - the fumigation tent comes down, revealing that all Pacers' paraphernalia has been removed from Bankers Life Fieldhouse. In the middle of the previous night, the Pacers franchise was relocated to Baltimore. Immediately after the Pacers ended their season with an away loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Herb Simon secretly sold the team to Baltimore Ravens owner Stephen Bisciotti, sending them away in the same Mayflower Trucks that brought the Indianapolis Colts to the Circle City.