The Indiana Pacers won 48 games in 2017-18, snagging the 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, giving LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers one of the greatest first-round NBA playoff series of all time, and just generally having a dream season after the departure of Paul George to Oklahoma City.
This year, they have one job in the eyes of the Vegas over/under:
Do at least that well.
And with Victor Oladipo, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner, Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Cory Joseph all back, and with Tyreke Evans and Kyle O’Quinn adding to the bench depth and LeBron out of the Central Division…
Look, this is a forgone conclusion, you know this, I’m a Pacers fan, but work with me here, hm?
2017-18 record: 48-34
2018-19 over/under: 47.5
Lance Stephenson, We Hardly Knew Ye
The biggest addition for Indiana this year might be a subtraction.
While Lance was the spark plug and the soul of the team in 2018, the simple fact remains that he was a terrible basketball player who was and is more likely to shoot your team out of a game than to shoot you back into it.
Whenever he started in place of Oladipo, the Pacers were so far in the hole that they did not win a single one of those games.
Shooting 42.7 percent from the field and 28.9 percent from three, putting up a -2.0 offensive BPM and -0.1 on defense, being a dead-even 0.0 VORP guy (based mainly on the fact that his defense wasn’t completely awful)…
Lance Stephenson was a wild, fun, tremendous player to watch as a fan and I’m glad I never have to do it again.
The New Guys
Let’s just break this down into the Big 4, shall we?
Reek: 21.1 PER, .126 WS/48 (on a horror show of a Memphis team!), 3.6 BPM, 2.3 VORP.
O’Quinn: 20.0 PER, .166 WS/48 (on a just-as-bad Knicks squad), 4.5 BPM, 2.3 VORP.
Sweet Jesus. Those two guys are quality starters on most teams. They’re likely to be the seventh and eighth men in Indiana.
Excuse me while I hyperventilate in a 2014 level of excitement for the playoffs!
The Elephant in the Room
Is Myles Turner ever going to learn how to rebound? Because he’s looking an awful lot like another Roy Hibbert in his first three years in the league.
I just mentioned O’Quinn; he’s got a defensive rebound rate of 27.8. When the ball goes up and the other team misses, the best beard in basketball (yeah, I said it, come at me James Harden fans) snags the board.
Turner’s defensive rebound rate? 19.8. Overall, he’s at 12.8, which is a small forward’s rebounding rate, and not even a particularly good rebounding small forward.
Or, if you want that in counting stats, Myles is averaging just 6.5 boards a game for his career.
Sabonis, who oh by the way shot 35.1 percent from three last year (Turner shot 35.7, so they’re in the same ballpark as Poor Man’s Kevin Love out there), posted 7.7 boards off the bench, posting a DRB% of 25.2.
My point is that the Pacers need to listen to offers at the deadline for Turner, especially if they’re on a 50-plus-win pace and have a real chance to be one good wing shooter or bench-depth piece away from giving the Celtics a real run for their money in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Wait, Did You Just…?
Yes. Let’s make it official, shall we?
If everyone stays healthy, this is the best team the Pacers have fielded since 2014, a team that came one LeBron away from the NBA Finals.
If the team battles injuries, they’re more resilient than ever, so the dropoff for anyone other than Oladipo should be “step aside, next man up.”
If Oladipo tears his ACL, we’re all going to be crying. If you’re religious, please get to your local church and pray, hm?
Confirmed. Over. 2 seed. Possible Finals appearance if Boston runs into injury problems of their own. And wouldn’t it be something if LeBron dragged the Lakers along for the show.
And, in my one allowable departure from professionalism, GO PACERS.