Indiana Pacers: 15 Pretty Bold Predictions For 2017–18 (Part 3)
“With the beginning of every sports season comes a bold prediction column.”
– Ancient American Proverb
Most writers come up with BOLD prediction columns as a way to say crazy things that won’t come true, but might. There’s no harm. It probably won’t end up on Cold Takes Exposed if you admit that your predictions are a bit out there.
This is that column by me on the Indiana Pacers, but not exactly. These aren’t wild or hot takes. These are meant to serve as a preview for what’s to come with the Pacers season.
None of these things are outlandish and ridiculous. They’re meant to be things that make you say hmmm. Things that make you think about the Pacers roster, player roles, and what they’re headed for this season.
10. The Pacers beat the Thunder.
The Pacers won’t be winning many games this season. The folks in Las Vegas and many NBA experts have the Pacers slated to be one of the league’s worst 5-to-7 teams.
They very likely won’t play a playoff game. There will be one game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse with a playoff atmosphere and that is when Paul George makes his return to Indiana on December 13th. It’s the only game the Pacers will play on national television this season.
The Pacers have considerably less talent than the newly-loaded Thunder.
The team hasn’t revealed much in regards to using the Paul George saga as added motivation. The consensus is that the Pacers were fleeced in the Paul George trade. In his last season in Indiana, George repeatedly through his teammates under the bus. Since leaving, he’s tossed subliminals at his old team by trashing the talent around him.
Although much of the roster followed George out in free agency, there has to be bad blood. If Myles Turner is a human, he has to feel jilted when George says he didn’t have a chance to win in Indiana. As should Thaddeus Young and Lance Stephenson.
Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis should be playing with humongous chips on their shoulders after the way most cited the trade as ridiculously one-sided.
George is probably right by saying he didn’t have a shot at a title in Indiana (he still doesn’t in Oklahoma City and likely won’t unless he finds a way to get on the Warriors) and those who say the trade was one-sided are probably right as well.
For the players, coaches, front office, and fans, none of that matters. For the Thunder, it’ll likely be just an excitable one game. For the Pacers and their fan base, this is their season, playoffs, and NBA Finals.
11. The Pacers finally embrace tanking, kinda.
The Pacers have long been against tanking. Whether it’s out of fear that fans won’t support a loser or out of integrity, they just refuse to tank.
When it became apparent that Paul George was on the way out, some saw it as a golden opportunity to trade for high quality picks and hope that the lottery balls bounced their way. Instead, they traded for Oladipo and Sabonis.
You’ll never hear the front office or ownership use the word “tanking”, it will be worded and sold a little differently.
“Tanking, I don’t really like that word. You’re just playing your youngs.”
The Pacers have a lot of roster turnover and the talent is middling at best, so it’s easy to imagine the Pacers getting off to a slow start. They’re going to fight and battle every night.
The schedule early on is rough and if the team loses ground early, they’ll finally swallow the bitter (to them) pill of tanking for a chance at Marvin Bagley, Luka Doncic, or Michael Porter, the stars at the top of a top-heavy draft.
12. The Pacers finish bottom 10 in points per 100 possessions and also in the bottom 10 of points allowed per 100 possessions.
You can win with offense or you can win with defense, but this roster isn’t equipped to do either well.
Last season the Pacers finished 15th in offensive rating. They lost their best offensive player, as well as their best point guard and their best shooter. The downgrade in scoring ability from George to Oladipo is a pretty deep one and the dropoff from Teague to Collison is just as large.
Putting points on the board will be a struggle with this roster.
Defensively, the Pacers were also 15th in the league. Getting Monta Ellis is addition by subtraction and defensive liability Al Jefferson is due for a minutes reduction.
However, Bojan Bogdanovic is one of the weakest defenders in the league and will be on the floor to provide spacing offensively. Oladipo hasn’t performed as well as his athletic tools would suggest he’d be.
The team’s best defenders (Turner, Oladipo) will also lose a bit on the defensive end due to being relied upon more offensively than they have before. We’ve seen it time and time again when a good defensive player earns a bigger offensive role and begins to slip up.
Darren Collison is a smaller guard who hasn’t consistently defended well throughout his career. He’ll be tasked with defending the league’s deepest positions of scorers on a nightly basis.
If Myles Turner has to miss time for any reason, their isn’t much defense behind him in a crowded frontcourt.
13. The Pacers finish in with one of the five worst attendances in the NBA.
The Pacers finished 22nd in attendance last year. Losing Paul George and Jeff Teague and replacing them with Oladipo and Collison doesn’t help that number rise.
For the Pacers to slide down at least three spots, three teams would have to move up. Teams below them that would be prime candidates to move above the Pacers: Grizzlies, Pelicans, Pistons (in a new arena), Bucks, and Timberwolves.
Before the Pacers-era that gave us the Roy Hibbert-Paul George-David West years, Indiana was a cellar-dweller in attendance, finishing 29th in 2011–12 and dead last for 2010–11, even though the team made the playoffs.
This team shouldn’t get a playoff spot or anything close. They lack star power and a Nate McMillan offense ran by Darren Collison probably doesn’t add many style points to get butts in the seats of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
14. Nate McMillan survives.
In Nate McMillan’s first season, many called for his job. Whether it was his handling of the Monta Ellis situation, the failure to build an offense that properly utilized the team’s three-point making potential, or his late game playcalls, it didn’t give Pacers faithful much reason to believe in him.
Without Paul George, Jeff Teague, or C.J. Miles, the job gets even tougher and the season ahead will be rougher.
President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard knows this.
Pritchard and GM Chad Buchanan worked with McMillan in Portland. There’s an obvious rapport with the trio to all be working together years later.
The Pacers enter the season low on expectations and with low expectations comes low pressure for results. My hunch is that the Pacers don’t move on from McMillan until the team has a chance to win and he to deliver results.
15. We get a Victor Oladipo and Lance Stephenson music collaboration.
Because Pacers fans deserve something good, right?
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