The Indiana Pacers have managed to be one of the most successful NBA organizations over the past decade, being a consistent playoff team and making it as far as the Eastern Conference Finals. Behind stars such as Paul George and Victor Oladipo, Indiana has had a reliable go-to star for an extended amount of time. However, when Oladipo went down with a season-ending injury last January, other members of the Pacers had to step up, and in turn they managed to grab the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. Although they were swept in the first round, Indiana made a lot of intriguing moves in the off-season, and should have Oladipo back at some point in the season. So, what's in store for the 2019 Indiana Pacers?
2019-20 Indiana Pacers Season Outlook
Key Additions: Malcolm Brogdon, Justin Holiday, T.J. Warren, Jeremy Lamb, T.J. McConnell, Naz Mitrou-Long
Key Subtractions: Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, Thaddeus Young, Kyle O'Quinn, Wesley Matthews, Cory Joseph, Tyreke Evans
Draft: Goga Bitadze, Brian Bowen
As you can see from the list above, this is a MUCH different Pacers team than last year. They did lose a lot of their key contributors from last season, but they were able to replace them with (arguably) better players. On draft night, they were able to acquire T.J. Warren from the Suns for basically nothing, and it seems like he will fill the void that Bojan Bogdanovic has left. Warren was a great scorer in Phoenix, averaging over 18 PPG the past two seasons, and he drastically improved his three-point shooting last year. Outside from scoring the ball, however, there are concerns with Warren, primarily his shot selection and his durability (he hasn't played more than 66 games in a season) and he can be a streaky scorer as well. They drafted Goga Bitadze, an international big man who will probably be Myles Turner's backup next season. He excels in the pick and roll game, can adapt to today's game and shoot from behind the arc and has a big presence around the rim, which fits Indiana's mold well. Once free agency began, they finally found a stable point guard for the future in Malcolm Brogdon, who I believe is going to be great in Indiana. Brogdon is one of the most efficient players at his position, as he's coming off of a season where he joined the 50-40-90 club, and he can be a menace defensively, but he hasn't been able to showcase his full potential due to a crowded backcourt in Milwaukee. Now that he's starting at point in Indiana, I think he's due for a breakout year, especially while Oladipo is injured. Next, the Pacers signed Jeremy Lamb to provide some scoring and defensive versatility off the bench in a very underrated move that bolsters Indiana's second unit. Indiana also signed veterans in T.J. McConnell and Justin Holiday that can provide leadership and be spark plugs off the bench as well.
Losing players like Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Thaddeus Young are always a tough pill to swallow, but luckily the Pacers have some home-grown talent that may be up to the task of replacing them. Signing Brogdon and McConnell replaces the losses of Collison and Cory Joseph, and this also opens up a door for second-year guard Aaron Holiday to further develop and likely receive more playing time as well. As I've stated earlier, Lamb and Warren take over Bogdanovic's workload and then some, and Lamb will likely be a starter while Oladipo is still injured. And yes, losing Thaddeus Young hurts, but this finally opens a door up for T.J. Leaf to receive some key minutes off the bench, as well as to let rising star Domantas Sabonis enter the starting lineup. Sabonis was posting ridiculous numbers off the bench last season, and with Young unavailable, we could see Sabonis in the running for some all-star nods this season. He has the capability to shoot the 3, but he went from shooting 159 threes in 2016-17 to shooting just 17 last season, so they may keep him as their post presence and let Myles Turner keep shooting from long-range. Speaking of Turner, he's coming off of a great season in which he lead the league in blocks with 2.7 per game, cementing his status as one of the league's best rim protectors. And of course, you can't talk about the Pacers without mentioning their star, Victor Oladipo, who has burst onto the scene over the past couple of seasons in Indiana. He's expected to be sidelined to start the season but could definitely make a return around December or January, and will definitely make this team much better upon his return.
Final Outlook on the Indiana Pacers
The Eastern Conference's headlines over the summer have been dominated by teams like Philadelphia, Boston, and Miami, as they all added big names and starpower to their squads. Because of this, I feel like Indiana's offseason has been overlooked and underrated, as they look like an even better and deeper version of last year's team. Players like Sabonis, Turner, and especially Malcolm Brogdon are only improving and will take on bigger roles offensively while Oladipo is sidelined, and they should be very competitive even before Oladipo returns. Over the past couple of years, the Pacers have hit the wall in the first round of the playoffs, but barring any serious injuries to the main contributors (and Oladipo coming back healthy mid-season), I believe the Pacers will at least make it to the second round of the playoffs this upcoming season. I have slated for a record of 49-33, a slight improvement over last season, but this team has the capability to make a lot of noise in April and May.