The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.
Last Season: 42-40, swept in the first round
I know what you did last summer: Larry Bird resigned then the Pacers traded Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, a horrible deal that got the summer off on the wrong track. Indiana also swapped Jeff Teague, C.J. Miles and Monta Ellis for Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph in order to prevent bottoming out. The Pacers picked T.J. Leaf (No. 18), Ike Anigbogu (No. 47) and Edmond Sumner (No. 52) in the draft.
THREE QUESTIONS THE PACERS MUST ANSWER:
1) Will Indiana escape its unsatisfying track? The Pacers are headed toward winning 30-something games, missing the playoffs and picking in the bottom of the lottery. It’s a miserable place to be.
Be just a little better, and they could make the playoffs in the lowly Eastern Conference. Be just a little worse, and they could land a premier draft pick.
Either direction is preferable to the apparent status quo.
The Pacers clearly don’t want to tank. Hence, their offseason strategy. But if the season goes south quickly, they could embrace losing by trading veterans and/or giving more minutes to young players.
Competing for the playoffs is a little trickier, but Indiana has enough veterans where that could take care of itself. The odds are against it, but this team is capable of sneaking in with the right breaks.
2) Can Victor Oladipo handle the expectations thrust upon him? Oladipo didn’t choose to return to the basketball-crazed state where he starred in college. He didn’t ask to be the Pacers’ main return for Paul George.
But here he is.
Oladipo is a solid player, and at 25, he might still be improving. He’ll have to in order to justify the George trade (and maybe even his four-year, $84 million contract extension that kicks in this season).
No longer playing with Russell Westbrook should help. Oladipo regressed while trying to play a spot-up role next to the Oklahoma City superstar last season. Indiana needs Oladipo to be more aggressive with the ball, a role that better suits him. Whether he’s good enough to handle those responsibilities on a good team is another question entirely, though.
3) Will Myles Turner break out? With George gone, Turner is now the Pacers’ franchise player (ignoring how the team might market Oladipo, who returns after starring with the Hoosiers).
Turner has all the potential to be a modern rim-protecting, 3-point-shooting center. He can get more comfortable beyond the arc. He must fine-tune his defense. But all the future looks bright for the 21-year-old.
He was intriguing as a rookie then even better last year. How steeply Turner continues to ascend will play a major role in whether Indiana exceeds expectations this season – and how its rebuild looks beyond.