The offseason is wrapping and the 2018 Indiana Pacers will look nothing like 2017’s Indiana Pacers. The Pacers lost three of their starting five players from last year. If you count Lance Stephenson - who only played six regular games last season - as a new signing, then Indiana is only bringing back two bench players.
I want to make it clear, that the offseason isn’t completely over. The Pacers will continue to tweak their roster. Considering Indiana’s cap situation I would be surprised if the Pacers made any more major signings. However, Indiana could make a surprising trade (Thaddeus Young?).
The Pacers lost three of their top five scorers (Paul George, Jeff Teague, and C.J Miles) and they lost their leader in assists (Teague). Luckily Indiana acquired some solid replacements in Cory Joseph, Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, Domantas Sabonis, and T.J Leaf.
Nate McMillan has a long offseason ahead of him. He must design an offense around players like Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo. He’ll also need to decide who he wants to start at point guard and small forward.
Indiana Pacers projected starting five:
PG Cory Joseph/Darren Collison
SG Victor Oladipo
SF Bojan Bogdanovic/Glenn Robinson
PF Thad Young
C Myles Turner
Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo should be able to pick up the lost offseason production of Paul George and Jeff Teague. Based on Turner’s projections he should break the 20 points per game threshold. However, without a reliable pass-first point guard, Turner might struggle to get the ball into a good position to score. Centers’ scoring stats are often linked to their point guards.
Turner is also going to get a lot more focus on the offensive end when he has the ball. But considering his versatility and his three-point shot, he could become a lethal stretch five threat on offense.
Expect the defense to be designed around Turner’s rim protecting skills. He’s already shown flashes of his ability to protect around the rim. I’m sure assistant coach and defensive guru Dan Burke is already building a new scheme.
Oladipo could also become a 20 point per game scorer but is more likely to put up similar offensive numbers to Jeff Teague. He’ll have the ball in his hands a lot more than last season in Oklahoma City.
Obviously playing next to Russell Westbrook’s offseason ball dominance limited Oladipo’s touches. He’ll be the defector point guard at times, but he’s prone to turnovers and is an average three-point shooter. Indiana could decide to play him more off the ball if his turnover rate doesn’t improve. However, he’s young, still improving, and has an extremely strong work ethic. Just watch some of his workout videos.
When it comes to the toss-up positions, I expect Cory Joseph to beat out Darren Collison for the starting point guard position. Joseph played better off the bench last season and because of Collison’s size, he’s never been a great defender.
Glenn Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic should be in a healthy offseason competition for the starting small forward spot. Bogdanovic can also slot in at shooting guard, but considering that Stephenson and Oladipo are already slotting to play that position, I think Bogdanovic will get more reps at small forward.
If Robinson continues to improve off last season he should win the starting job. He’s a better defender, but Bogdanovic is better scorer. Neither has played more than 27 minutes per game in a season, so it will be interesting to watch their minutes.
It won’t necessarily matter who starts at small forward or at point guard. The lineup will be adjusted based on matchups and McMillan’s preferences.
When it comes to rest of the team, Stephenson will probably be the first one off the bench. Jefferson and Sabonis will split time with Young and Turner. Leaf might get some minutes, but he’ll probably spend half of his season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Everybody else will play on a basis of injury.
END NOTE: I didn’t mention Joe Young at all in this post. I’m going to be doing a larger offseason piece on him. Look for it next week.