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Pacers Preview: Two lineups that could be fun to watch

Vegas has the Indiana Pacers over/under win total at 31.5. ESPN has Indiana projected to win 32 games.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers
Nate McMillan (second from right) draws up a play during a timeout. McMillan is heading into his second season as Indiana’s head coach.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re reading this article you are clearly a Pacers diehard and should be bracing for what’s projected to be the worst season in a generation. The last time Indiana won fewer than 30 games was 1989.

Yet there is an upside to a team already projected to stink: experimentation. Head coach Nate McMillan doesn’t have to deal with meeting unreasonable expectations or superstar egos anymore. He can coach with some freedom.

In 2013 the Phoenix Suns were projected to be one of the worst teams in the league. It gave first year head coach Jeff Hornacek the opportunity to experiment and create a three guard lineup with Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas. It was a success and the Suns won 48 games.

If the Pacers win just 35 games and make the playoffs, I’d bet money on McMillan be named coach of the year. While he has the opportunity he should think outside the box with his roster.

Small Ball Lineup

PG Darren Collison
PG Darren Collison
SG Victor Oladipo
SF Lance Stephenson
PF Bojan Bogdanovic
C Myles Turner

The ultimate offensive lineup. In the spirit of Hornacek and taking a page from McMillan’s former head coach, George Karl, McMillan could play three guards with a completely stretched out lineup.

There would certainly be a lot of three point shooting and plenty of drive 'n' kicks. Turner and Bogdanovic could spread the floor to allow Collison, Oladipo and Stephenson to penetrate with ease and the lack of a clogged lane.

Bogdanovic would be planted in the corner ready to shoot at all times. Collison and Stephenson would have the opportunity to orchestrate the offense allowing Turner and Oladipo to cut across the floor to create mismatches and space.

The biggest deficiency on the offensive end would be the three point shooting of Stephenson (30 percent in 2017) and Oladipo (36 percent last season). When Collison’s not running the offense he would ideally be on the opposite corner from Bogdanovic because he shot 40 percent from three in each of the last two seasons. This lineup would be a nightmare for bigger teams in the Eastern conference like Orlando, Detriot and even Miami.

Let’s not even bother talking about the defensive end!

No Point Guard

PG Victor Oladipo
PG Victor Oladipo
SG Lance Stephenson
SF Glenn Robinson
PF Thaddeus Young
C Myles Turner

This is like the Warriors lineup of death, but much worse. When the Pacers play Cory Joseph, Collison, Bogdanovic or Jefferson their defense will struggle. Ideally by moving Oladipo to point guard Indiana can improve their defense.

The shortest player on court would be a 6’4 Oladipo. This lineup could seamlessly switch players on the defensive end with no worries about a huge mismatch or dropoff in talent. Young would be the slowest player on the court but he’s shown signs of being able to guard stretch four’s at times.

With Stephenson as the shooting guard the offense might struggle with spacing. However, Young’s three point shooting could serve as a counterweight if his production returns to early 2016 levels.

The weakest point would come from Oladipo and Stephenson’s decision making. Both are unreliable and inconsistent, otherwise they would both be starting as point guards.

Those ten days over the summer where it seemed like the Pacers might put Stephenson at point guard were fun, but it would only tank the team. Oladipo’s a little more reliable than him and could handle the point guard duties as a limited role.

If Stephenson or Oladipo prove they could be solid at point guard, this could become the best crunch time lineup for Indiana. For the Pacers to be successful this season defense is more important then anything. Bad teams win games playing tough defense.