The Pacers have rebuilt in a big way on the fly once more by adding several veteran, old heads to help support Paul George and second-year big man, Myles Turner. Larry Bird put Nate McMillan in charge to put a style of play in place that will push the pace and generate more offense, despite McMillan’s past history of coaching more methodical teams that were efficient offensively, but slow. McMillan maintains that what worked in the past was dictated by his teams and that the game and this team are vastly different now.
Team: Indiana Pacers
Last Year’s Record: 45-37
Key Losses: George Hill, Ian Mahinmi, Jordan Hill, Solomon Hill, Frank Vogel
Key Additions: Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, Al Jefferson, Aaron Brooks
1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
The Pacers made several significant moves over the summer starting with not re-signing coach Frank Vogel to a contract extension and instead turning the team over to assistant coach Nate McMillan. Larry Bird wanted a new voice to lead the Pacers and McMillan brings experience along with a more disciplined approach who appears willing to try to get the Pacers to play faster as Bird would like.
The Pacers also made a deal to swap point guards, trading Broad Ripple High’s George Hill and getting Pike High’s Jeff Teague back in return. Teague is a more offensive-minded true point guard who can create with the ball on the run and in the half court, but the Pacers will miss the defensive presence GHill provided.
Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson bolster the team’s front court depth and like Teague, should help the team score more points. Aaron Brooks brings a veteran presence to the reserve point guard role as it appears second-year guard Joe Young may not be ready for a steady backup role.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
The team’s biggest strengths are Paul George along with more veteran depth and versatility throughout the roster. PG no longer has George Hill and Frank Vogel to lean on in a collaborative team leadership role and he appears quite happy to assume the role of top dog after a successful experience with Team USA this summer. The roster is better suited to support PG this year with several veterans who understand the game and their role in the big picture on the roster. Add in Joe Young and Glenn Robinson III and there is versatility on the roster that can fill the gaps when injuries or off nights arise.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
Consistently making three point shots will be struggle for the Pacers as their perimeter threats are streaky at best. In a more limited role this season, C.J. Miles may be more valuable if he can be a 3-ball threat off the bench to deliver a spark or knock out punch from behind the arc. Teague is coming off a solid year shooting the three but his career numbers suggest make relying on a repeat a bit dicey.
While the Pacers hope to raise their offensive profile they may not have a choice since their defensive identity will be hard to maintain. Myles Turner is a talented young big man with great shot-blocking instincts but he will have to learn how to protect the rim without leaving the ground too early and finding foul trouble. Jefferson will put up numbers but will also be a liability defending pick n’ rolls. While the D shouldn’t be their biggest weakness, it won’t be as stout as in prior seasons.
4. What are the goals for this team?
The Pacers are among a group of six or seven teams in the East with eyes on finishing in the top two or three in the Conference behind the Cavs. Early indications are that they will stick with a plan to increase their pace and reach Bird’s stated goal of scoring closer to 106 points per game, compared to 102 last season. Nate McMillan is hoping his team can find itself among the top ten teams in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. If so, the team will likely win over 50 games but logging 45-46 Ws seems much more reasonable.
5. What can the Pacers expect from Myles Turner this year?
While the Pacers wanted to put a group of veteran players around Paul George, having those experienced players on the team is also a benefit to budding star, Myles Turner. The 20-year-old big man has earned a starting nod at center and so far has handled the big expectations quite well. Still, it is tough to put too much of the burden for the team’s success on Turner considering his youth. If he were to average 15 points and eight rebounds he would be among a small list of players to put up those averages at the age of 20. Fortunately, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson have both been in a similar situation to Turner and should provide ample support both on the court and off.