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Survey Says: Despite upgrades, Pacers aren’t the hunted

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Tyreke Evans highlights — and epitomizes — Indiana’s mentions on 2018-19 GM Survey.

NBA: Indiana Pacers-Media Day Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The results of the annual GM survey are in and while the Pacers may no longer have the benefit of sneaking up on opponents after wildly exceeding expectations last season; it doesn’t appear that they have a target on their back, either.

With LeBron James relocating to the Western Conference, Boston (38%), Toronto (26%), Philadelphia (21%), and Milwaukee (7%), received a higher percentage of the vote to be a top-four team in the East than Indiana (6%), adding substance to some of the motivational pablum Kevin Pritchard has circulated while making the media rounds in recent weeks.

“I think our players are still hungry,” Indiana’s head of basketball operations said in an interview with Pacers.com’s Mark Montieth. “I want that. We might not be a team that’s hunting. We might be hunted. But I believe this, we’re still the unwanted and unloved.”

In that regard, a year after finishing tied for second with Kristaps Porzingis as the player most likely to have a breakout season, Myles Turner didn’t receive a single vote in the same category this go-around, suggesting a believe-it-when-we-see-it approach to his offseason workouts on behalf of the league’s decision-makers after his numbers dipped on roughly the same touches during his third season.

Victor Oladipo, who led the league in steals last season and finished no worse than top five in deflections, points off turnovers, and contested three-point shots, earned seven percent of the vote for best perimeter defender, placing him in a three-way tie for second with Jimmy Butler and Draymond Green.

Having not earned any praise from last year’s voters as the widely-panned return in the Paul George trade, Oladipo also received votes for best shooting guard, most athletic, and fastest with the ball, indicating that he’s inserted himself into the conversation among the league’s elite but not yet fully arrived.

“It just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Oladipo said of the chip on his shoulder at Media Day.

“It was only one year and that’s the criticism, it was just one year,” he explained. ”Can he do it again? Can they do it again? That is the next statement. At the end of the day, whether they said that or not, it would still be a brick.”

Another category of interest: Indiana, in making conservative upgrades without sacrificing financial flexibility, was one of five front office’s to tally votes for best overall offseason moves.

Granted, the Lakers garnered the overwhelming majority of the vote for landing LeBron (70%) followed by the Raptors (20%), but even registering as a blip represents a considerable turn of events from a year ago when the general managers arrived at the consensus that no team had a better summer than the Oklahoma City Thunder (43%) and named Paul George as the recently traded player most likely to have the biggest impact (59%).

In particular, signing Tyreke Evans to a one-year deal to take some of the pressure off of Victor Oladipo earned high marks, as the 28-year-old playmaker was dubbed the most underrated player acquisition — albeit with only 13 percent of the vote.

All in all, for a team which thrived last season on self-belief, earning recognition for understated moves while being projected to finish outside of home-court advantage suits them well.