NBA Season Preview: Indiana Pacers

2019-20 Regular Season Record: 45-28 (.616%), 4th in Eastern Conference, Lost in 1st Rd.
Head Coach: Nate McMillan

The Pacers were one of the most consistent teams in the 2010's, as they made the playoffs in 9 of 10 years and posted 42+ wins each year since 2015-16. Unfortunately, regular season consistency does not make playoff success, and last season was no different, as the Pacers lost in the 1st round of the playoffs for the 5th straight year. With All-Star Victor Oladipo slowly working his way back into form, they were led by Domantas Sabonis (son of Arvydas), who broke out last year and continues to get better, averaging 18.5 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 5.0 apg, on 54% shooting. Unfortunately for the Pacers, Myles Turner continued to disappoint. His season of 12.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg & 2.1 bpg on 45.7% shooting were either at, or just below, his career averages. Malcolm Brogdan was solid – 16.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 7.1 apg – but worth $20M/year? Perhaps not. After being swept by the Heat in the 1st round of the playoffs, the Pacers fired Head Coach Nate McMillan.

Can Oladipo Return to his All-Star Form?

In Victor Oladipo's first season with Indiana, he posted career highs across the board, including a league-leading 2.4 spg. In his 2nd year, there was some scoring regression but Oladipo upped his rebounding and playmaking ability and made his 2nd successive All-Star Game. Unfortunately in January 2019, Oladipo tore his quad. Upon his return to game action one year later he looked predictably rusty - his numbers across the board were subpar. What can we expect from Oladipo this year? If Oladipo never regains his form, the Pacers are a good enough team to use him in the appropriate role and make it to the playoffs. If the former Indiana Hoosier can play his way back into his All-Star shape, it makes the Pacers a completely different team. New head coach Nate Bjorkgren thinks Oladipo is in good shape

He looks great. Energy's good, he's got a lot of bounce to him. Everything that I've asked of him, he's doing and he's trying to do it at a very high level.

Hopefully for the Pacers, and fans of the NBA, Oladipo can return to his pre-injury form and be a top player in the league.  

Is Myles Turner Finally Ready to be an All-Star?

At 6'11", 250 lbs., Myles Turner is one of the NBA's biggest enigmas. One of the best defenders in the NBA - Turner has averaged 2.1 bpg in his five seasons, including a league-leading 2.7 bpg in 2018-19 - he cannot seem to find top gear on the offensive end. Averaging 6.7 rpg through his career, Turner isn't exactly a beast on the boards, either. Why can't he put it together? Let's start with the positives - his defense. Turner is a great team-defender and rim-protector and a potential future Defensive Player of the Year. He combines rare athleticism at his height and dominates the defensive paint. He should be able to use those skills on the offensive end, but he needs to improve his post-moves and his ability to finish at the rim, which is a weakness of his. As well, there is no reason that Turner can't be a better rebounder - he should be able to average 9+ rpg. Is it an effort problem? Sometimes Turner can look disinterested while out on the court. Is it possible for the Nate Bjorkgren to get the most out of the big man? If so, look out for a big year from Turner. If not, we'll be getting another year of Turner leaving us wanting more.  

The Supporting Cast

The Pacers have three other players that could swing their season - TJ Warren, Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdan. Warren had a nice regular season (19.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg on 40.3% 3-point & 53.6% overall shooting) but really turned it on in the bubble, being voted onto the NBA All-Seedings Games 1st Team, highlighted by 53 points on 20/29 shooting versus Philadelphia. Following that massive outburst, Warren scored 30+ points in three of the next four games. Can Warren follow up on his success in the bubble and parlay it into another productive regular season? Sabonis is the likeliest candidate to produce a stellar season - he has gotten better every year in the NBA and the sky is the limit for the one-time All-Star. Expect him to supply the Pacers with monster double doubles, average 20 ppg, 13 rpg & 6 apg while earning another All-Star nomination. Brogdan had great first year in Indiana, but missed multiple games throughout the year with different injuries and in early March (prior to the COVID shutdown) was set to miss extended time with a quad injury. If he can put together a full, healthy season the Pacers will be in good shape. 

Photo Credit: Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire