The Indiana Pacers went from a 57-win team to a 37-win team in as much time as it took Victor Oladipo‘s quadriceps tendon to tell coach Nate McMillan what it thought of the amount of time Oladipo got left in blowouts that should’ve gone to garbage time players long before.
The Pacers went 25-11 in games in which Oladipo appeared. They were 23-27 without him, including an awful 6-15 in the last 21 games including the playoff sweep against Boston. In fact, they managed to lose to the Celtics six times in the space of a month.
This year, Oladipo is likely to return midseason, and in the meantime the Pacers have re-armed after free agency with an assortment of guys who are every bit as breakable as Vic turned out to be last season.
Myles Turner missed eight games last season and has missed 48 of a possible 328 games so far in his career.
Malcolm Brogdon played 64 games last year and 48 in 2017-18 as he’s battled repeated foot problems since coming into the league.
Jeremy Lamb has been healthy for the past two seasons, but look further back and you see a guy who couldn’t stay on the floor for Oklahoma City or Charlotte for three years running between 2015 and 2017.
And T.J. Warren has played in just 261 of a possible 410 career games so far, never topping 66 and playing in just 43 last season.
This Pacers team is incredible on paper, a collection of shooters, playmakers, rim protection, everything you want in a small-market NBA team trying to be greater than the sum of its parts.
It’s also so injury-prone that you might see four or five guys making rotation or starter money and stuck on the inactive list while guys they hauled out of Fort Wayne play big minutes during key stretches of the season.
And all of this coached by a guy who’s allergic to garbage time and likes to run his horses so hard that even Tom Thibodeau looks at Nate like “whoa there, cowboy, you don’t want to get anyone hurt, do you?”
Without Oladipo, ball movement and spacing become a lot more difficult because there is no fulcrum to draw defensive attention and open up space and passing lanes for the other four guys.
Without Brogdon, everyone gets to hope that Aaron Holiday turns into an elite point guard and not the YMCA chucker he was during his time on the floor in 2018-19.
In blunt point of fact, the Pacers look deep but have a talent pool leakier than the Lakers’ front office when the media shows up.
FiveThirtyEight doesn’t have a very high opinion of the Pacers as things currently stand, projecting them for 39 wins.
A healthy Pacers team isn’t nearly that bad. But an injured-to-hell-and-gone Pacers team might not even be that good.
I want to believe that a team that was on a 57-win pace with a healthy Oladipo can challenge Philadelphia and Milwaukee for a top two seed in the East.
But man, you look at the ability of the guys who are in a position to actually play in those games to stay on the floor and…worst case scenario this team doesn’t win 35.
Kevin Pritchard is brilliant, and his moves given the size of the market he works in were genius.
But this team is just too fragile, and it scares me senseless as a fan.