NBA 2016-17 Team Preview – Indiana Pacers: Keeping Pace

Nov 5, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) watches as the Pacers shoot a free throw against the Chicago Bulls at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Chicago 111-94. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 5, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) watches as the Pacers shoot a free throw against the Chicago Bulls at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Chicago 111-94. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

NBA 2016-17 Team Preview – Indiana Pacers

To prepare our readers for the regular season SCS  offers a series entitled NBA 2016-17 Team Preview for each of the Houston Rockets’ 29 opponents. Who will return to the playoffs? Which team will fall from grace and who will be the Cinderella team?

Included in each profile:

  • Where the team finished 2015-16
  • Key 2015-16 stats
  • Future draft pick status
  • Current and future salary rank
  • Off Season Moves
  • 2017 Free Agents
  • Schedule, NBA League Pass and Win Projection Ranking
  • Team Overview entering season (Starting 5, reserves and notable injuries)
  • When each team will play the Houston Rockets
  • Strengths, Weaknesses and Prediction

NBA 2016-17 Team Previews now looks at the Indiana Pacers. Larry Legend decided to restructure Indiana around Paul George and Myles Turner with a view to a faster pace. The question is with an upgraded offense and inevitable regression defensively can the Pacers take the leap they desire.

NBA 2016-17 Team Preview: Indiana Pacers

2015-16 Record: 45-37

Playoffs:

Lost NBA Eastern Conference First Round (3-4) versus Toronto Raptors

Points Per Game: 102.2 (17th )

Opponent Points Per Game:  100.5 (8th)

Pace: 96.6 (11th )

Offensive Rank: 104.6 (25th )

Defensive Rank:  102.9 (3rd)

Three Point Rank:  35.1% (14th)

Rebounds: 44.2  (12th)

Assists: 21.2 (22nd)

Steals: 9.0 (4th)

Blocks: 4.8 (17th)

Turnovers: 14.9 (20th)

Nov 7, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Jeff Teague (44) watches a replay during the first half against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Free Agents

Restricted:

  • None

Unrestricted:

  • Jeff Teague, Lavoy Allen (T)
  • Aaron Brooks
  • C.J. Miles (P)
  • Rodney Stuckey (P)

All free agent updates confirmed via Basketball Reference and Sportrak

Future Draft Picks

See Real GM for full details:

Incoming:

  • No picks incoming

Outgoing:

  • 2017 second round draft pick to Brooklyn
    Indiana’s 2nd round pick to Brooklyn protected for selections 45-60 in 2017, 45-60 in 2018, 45-60 in 2019, 45-60 in 2020, 45-60 in 2021 and 45-60 in 2022 and unprotected in 2023 [Brooklyn-Indiana, 7/7/2016]

Average Age of Team: 27.3 years (as per Real GM)

Sep 26, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Thaddeus Young (21) poses for photos during media day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Picks

Round 1: N/A

Round 2: Georges Niang (50) Nets trade Thaddeus Young to Indy for rights to Caris LeVert, the 20th pick, and future second-round draft pick.

2016 Free Agents

Unrestricted: Jordan Hill, Solomon Hill, Ty Lawson, Ian Mahinmi

Incoming:

Exiting: 

Nov 7, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan yells out during the first half against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas over-under for wins: 43.5

Schedule strength:

As ranked by ESPN: 25th with 2.63 extra wins

The Pacers have a league-high nine of their 17 back-to-backs finish at home. Also, Indiana projects to have a league-high 64 plane trips but figure to rank just 25th in air miles. Lots of short trips.

Games versus Rockets:

  • Sunday January 29 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, in Indianapolis, IN at 5PM CT/6PM ET
  • Monday February 27 at Toyota Center, in Houston, TX at 7PM CT/8PM ET

Zach Lowe NBA League Pass Rank: 20th

Even so, George is a liquid two-way presence, and it will be fascinating to watch Turner evolve into a stretch center who can both shoot 3s and block shots. Thaddeus Young fools defenders with arrhythmic floaters that look all wrong, but end up cash. Jefferson’s post artistry is always welcome, and the Pacers are sliding him into the perfect twilight role as a second-unit destroyer. Big Al can prop up punchless bench units without having to defend opposing starters and play crunch time when the Pacers need scoring.

Nov 1, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers coach Nate McMillan talks to his team while waiting for the shot clock to get fixed in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Committed Salary

2016: $86,279,072 – 24th ranked

2017: $71,357,791 – 23rd ranked

Team Salary Ranking as per Hoops Hype, and team salary overview also via Hoops Hype

Starting 5:

Point Guard:   Jeff Teague – 15.7 points,  5.9 assists, 2.7 rebounds

Shooting Guard:  Monta Ellis – 13.8 points, 4.7 assists, 3.3  rebounds

Small Forward:  Paul George – 23.1 points, 4.1 assists, 7.0 rebounds

Power Forward:   Thaddeus Young – 15.1 points, 1.8 assists, 9.0 rebounds

Center:  Myles Turner – 10.3 points,   0.7 assists, 5.5   rebounds

Reserves:

Guards: Aaron Brooks, Rodney Stuckey, Joe Young,

Wings: C.J. Miles, Glenn Robinson III, Georges Niang

Bigs: Al Jefferson, Lavoy Allen, Kevin Seraphin, Rakeem Christmas

Injury News:

  • Rodney Stuckey – hamstring, targeting late November

All injury news as per rotoworld

Nov 3, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) prepares to shoot the ball as Milwaukee Bucks center Miles Plumlee (18) defends in the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Strengths:

Paul George: One of the top 2-way players and legitimate franchise stars in the NBA. Returning from that horrific injury has done little to stop his growth. In Rio George showcased his skills after a playoff where he almost single handedly pulled off an upset.  Larry Legend decided to go a different route with the team and now PG has help on offense.

Myles Turner:  No doubt about it Myles Turner is going to be a major star. Hopefully Pacer Nation allows him time to grow into the inevitable star he is meant to be. This season should see Turner get more playing time and further growth. Long term the team will only improve as he does.

Restructured Offense: Frank Vogel the master of the Pacers defensive brilliance in the past few seasons was fired in this past summer in favor of moving toward a more offensive strategy.  Larry Bird then traded away a vet who in my opinion was the true glue of the team George Hill for Jeff Teague. Next Bird made moves to add Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson. Now with a restructured offense particularly in the starting line-up the Pacers appear poised to climb up from their 25th ranked offense last season.

Weaknesses:

Loss of defenders: With Larry Bird set on improving the Pacers offense it was inevitable they could regress in their area of strength (defense). Specifically the loss of Ian Mahinmi and George Hill hurts.  Furthermore as outlined above Hill has been the man who held the Pacers together on and off the court.  Teague who’ll replace Hill hasn’t exactly been known as a team guy. In fact, there have been rumors his character tends toward the more disruptive and selfish.

This season the Pacers will feature the 2 new starters in Teague and Young pairing them with George, Turner and Ellis. That will definitely up the offensive prowess, but only if the pace is quick since Teague has issues dealing with half court offense (like the playoffs are likely to be). And while they added Al Jefferson there should be concerns about the bench depth.

While the team will make strides in offense they’ll also most assuredly regress on defense.

Coach uncertainty: Perhaps the most shocking move of the off season was Larry Bird appointing assistant Nate McMillan as the head coach. McMillan is a great coach if you want to run the same style of game of the early 2000’s! During that time McMillan was infamous for running a slow paced offense, so asking him to run a fast pace seems a little odd.

Identity: With the about face from a slow methodical defensive squad to a fast paced offense it begs the question – who exactly are the Pacers? What is their identity? Are we to believe they are simply going to do an about face and immediately become a different team.

Prediction:

Best Case:  The offense clicks immediately and the defensive prowess of last season carries over enough to allow the Pacers capture a top seed in the East. Many pundits are projecting that is exactly what will happen.

Worst Case: For every leap the offense takes up the ladder they’ll regress on the defensive side. Ultimately this decline will lead to the Pacers dropping further down the ladder and when the playoffs arrive Teague’s inability to function in the half court will find them get ousted in the first round again. Should Turner not progress quickly enough or get injured the front court will suffer majorly.

I know most pundits have the Pacers finishing as a home court seed, but I’m in the opposite camp. Even the Warriors brilliant offense was tempered with a solid top ranked defense. I envision the Pacers making the post season, but my concern is their loss of key defenders, character and depth.  Last season the Pacers commitment to defense kept the team in the mix, but when your depth is comprised of offensive players that seems to be a recipe for disaster.

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