Tanking Wasn’t Viable Option For Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers will most likely miss out on a loaded draft class and shouldn’t make too much noise in the postseason. Was not tanking this season a mistake?

The Indiana Pacers are 34-32 and are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference standings. They haven’t had a streak, winning or losing, since before the All-Star break. Paul George and Myles Turner have been exciting at times. Additions like Jeff Teague have been hot and cold.

Otherwise, this has been about as average an NBA season as possible for Indiana.

What can be considered a success for this Pacers squad? They’ll most likely make the playoffs with right around 42 or 43 wins. Unless something drastic happens, they won’t play LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.

After taking the Toronto Raptors to seven games last season, who knows? Maybe the Pacers could cause some chaos against the Washington Wizards or Boston Celtics.

The Pacers find themselves in the precarious position of being good but not great, bad but not horrible. That uneasy area is something many will tell you is the worst spot to be in the NBA. Bizarrely, it can be better to be a terrible team with a chance at a No. 1 pick than a seventh seed.

Should Indiana just have tanked earlier in the year? Once it was clear George wasn’t going to be able to carry this team to any sort of legitimate Eastern title contention, just tank?

That would’ve been difficult and, given the players on this roster, not exactly feasible. Kick starting a tanking operation with George’s contract situation in flux would signal that he’s on the way out. Such a process wouldn’t help in negotiating that contract or ultimately trading him.

Everybody would know he’s leaving, putting the Pacers in a weak position to gain as much as possible for him.

Also, the Pacers have too good of a roster to really ever compete for a top-three pick. Just a combination of George, Turner, Teague and a few others is miles ahead of the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers.

A lot of things injury-wise would have had to go wrong for the Pacers to even have a chance at landing a Markelle Fultz or a Lonzo Ball in the upcoming draft.

Of course, there’s something to be said for still competing to make the playoffs after a long 82-game season. Not every team is going to win a championship or the No. 1 pick. There’s no shame in that.

There wouldn’t be an NBA season without teams still working to get better and players trying to improve themselves.

So, yes, the Pacers will probably miss out on a game-changing player from supposedly one of the best drafts in a while. But that doesn’t mean a 40-win season and playoff appearance can’t bring some hope to a franchise in desperate need of it.

DraftExpress.com still has them looking all right. Once the lottery ends, there is a lot less certainty in the players being drafted, but there can still be gems with just as much upside as a top-five pick.

For example, the Pacers have the 18th pick right now according to Draft Express.com, not immediately a great pick. But, also on the site, Indiana selects small forward OG Anunoby (Indiana).

That would be a terrific value pick in the middle of the first round, especially for a team that is already solid enough to consistently make the playoffs.

Anunoby would be a solid backup to George or, depending on how he comes back from injury and develops, a nice starting piece for the Pacers. It’s easier to whiff on these later picks than it is in the lottery, but that doesn’t mean Indiana can’t still find an impact player in the teens.

Moreover, another playoff series can only help the development of young guys, particularly big man Turner. He had already performed well last season against the Raptors. Another solid showing in the postseason could be what’s needed to propel him to a third-year breakout.

What could ultimately paint much of this season is actually the ensuing offseason. George and whether he remains is a big question mark for the Pacers.

But, if there is a trade—such as the rumored one with the Lakers—Indiana has to do its best to get a good young player and a lottery pick. If they do so, the Pacers have basically gotten a top-three pick while competing in the playoffs. Not bad for the fans or the franchise.

Honestly, even given the Pacers’ mediocrity this season, it’s still often better and more reassuring than what Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic fans go through. Yes, being in the lottery is nice, especially when you’re not expected to make much playoff noise.

But, just accruing high draft picks doesn’t always lead to somewhere positive.

Stuck in the middle of the NBA, the Indiana Pacers can feel comfortable about their spot.

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