No team in the entire NBA is as much of a wildcard this season than the Indiana Pacers. After going 45-37 last season and taking the second place Toronto Raptors to seven games in the first round of the playoffs, the Pacers are looking to win the whole thing. They are doing this after firing long time head coach Frank Vogel, hiring Nate McMillan and acquiring a lot of big name talent. Because of this in my opinion, I believe the Indiana Pacers are the only legitimate team in the Eastern Conference that can compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers and give them a competitive seven game series come playoff time. Paul George, who has the talent to be a serious MVP candidate now has the pieces around him to bring the Pacers their first championship but they must get past LeBron James and Cleveland. Will they be able to do that in their first season together, or will go down as forgotten super-team of what should’ve been?
PG Jeff Teague
SG Monta Ellis
SF Paul George
PF Thaddeus Young
C Miles Turner
When I look at this lineup I see scoring. Trading to get Jeff Teague was an absolute genius play by Indiana because they were in desperate need of solid, consistent point guard and Teague is that if not a notch better. Many perceived Teague’s final seasons in Atlanta as struggling as they looked to him as a potential elite point guard and he never became that but he was very solid with the Hawks even in his last season. He averaged 20 points, 7.5 assists and a 44 percent field goal percentage a game, in a lineup that he was looked upon to be that top guy even though he was competing with backup Dennis Schroeder for minutes. Now in Indiana, he can do what he does best and run a fast tempo/ high scoring offense without being depended on, as he won’t possibly even be their second scoring option.
Monta Ellis has always been a solid scoring shooting guard in the NBA with every team he’s been with. He had down numbers with his first year with the Pacers last season but his ability to shoot and create his own offense will always pose a threat to opposing defenses. Because of this he will often be looked upon as the Pacers’ second scoring option, while him and Teague will be a very under the radar but dangerous guard tandem.
What can be said about Paul George that hasn’t been said before. Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report has him as a top 10 player and he will be a serious MVP contender this season. He averaged 23 points and 7 rebounds a game last season but now that he has the pieces’ around him he could average even more in scoring because he won’t be double teamed and be the only focus for opposing teams.
Another under the radar move the Pacers made during the offseason was the acquisition of Thaddeus Young from the Brooklyn Nets. Even though Young has been the center of trade deals in the past which has made him bounce around teams he will provide solid minutes at power forward, something the Pacers’ haven’t had the luxury of in a long time. He is only 28 years old but already a 10-year veteran and he has produced fantastic big man numbers in all of his NBA seasons averaging over 15 points and 7 rebounds a game. He is yet another huge scoring option for these Pacers and one near the basket which the Pacers have needed in the past few seasons.
Last but definitely not least for the starting lineup for the Pacers is second year center Miles Turner. At the young age of 20-years old Turner boasted impressive rookie year numbers and highlights. He is a freak of nature and will be looked upon to be the Pacers star defensive player for many years to come. The additions of Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson will only help him as he won’t be depended on entirely down low and defensively. It will only help his growth and development for what the Pacers hope will be a top 5 center in the near future.
C Al Jefferson
PG Aaron Brooks
PG Rodney Stuckey
SF CJ Miles
The last and surprising addition is Al Jefferson. Jefferson has posted top 10 center numbers throughout his career especially when he was in Charlotte but he will be coming off the bench most likely for Miles Turner. He’s being paid 10 million dollars this season so he should be used extensively as a bench scoring and defensive option and as a mentor for the young Turner.
I’ve always liked Aaron Brooks stemming back to his Houston days. He has always been a solid scoring option off the bench and can make big shots when called upon. The same can be said about Rodney Stuckey and CJ Miles; solid veteran bench role players who can make big shots when needed and the Pacers like most NBA teams will need that shooting off the bench.
Even with Paul George and the acquisition of multiple great players to play around George, many are not viewing the Pacers as a top contender against the Cavs, taking Boston or Toronto as that potential team that has a chance to beat Cleveland in a seven game series. This can help Indiana as they do not have that expectation that maybe a Boston or an Oklahoma City in the Western Conference might have by the fans. Another big strength as I mentioned previously is their offense and scoring. They could be a nightmare to match offensively for opposing teams as they have many players in the starting lineup and the bench that are athletic and can shoot.
Even though they’ve acquired a lot of big name players, the problem many teams that do that is they fail to meet expectations mostly due to lack of team chemistry. Because this is a completely new Pacers team, we simply do not know if these guys will have chemistry and we will have to find out when they start playing. Another unproven thing that could be their weakness is their new head coach Nate McMillan. McMillan, who has 12 years of coaching experience as the head coach of Supersonics and the Trailblazers has a 53% Win/Loss record. This includes only 5 of those seasons making the playoffs and 4 of those playoff appearances not even winning the first round series. Will he have playoff success with this star-powered team, even though his coaching career to this point has been mediocre? Coaching is very important, especially with a stacked team that isn’t expected to win the conference because of another stacked team.
The Indiana Pacers are definitely a playoff team this year. We collectively at Creamcitycentral.com have them finishing in fourth place in the Eastern Conference but personally, I believe they will finish second only behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. I think a lineup that good cannot do worse especially with Paul George being their all-star face of the franchise. I predict them to make it to the conference finals and give the Cavaliers a competitive series. If they can at least do that, I think it will count as a successful season for Nate McMillan as a coach and these Pacers as a team. If they cannot, it will go down as another disappointing season along with the decision of firing Frank Vogel to be a pointless one. The Eastern Conference will be a competitive one but Indiana should be an elite team in that conference.