- Indiana Pacers 2017-2018 record: 48-34, finished 5th in the Eastern Conference
- Free agent & draft additions: Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, Kyle O’Quinn, Aaron Holiday, Alize Johnson
- Notable departures: Al Jefferson, Trevor Booker, Lance Stephenson, Glenn Robinson III
- Offensive rating: 107.2 (12th)
- Defensive rating: 105.6 (T-12th)
- Net rating: 1.6 (12th)
- Pacers’ record vs. Sixers: 2-1
- Season outcome: The Pacers gave the Cleveland Cavaliers a run for their money in the first round of the playoffs. Indiana ultimately lost the series, though the Eastern Conference Champion Cavs needed all seven games to eliminate Indy.
- Vegas over/under win total: 47.5
Tony East covers the Pacers for 8points9second.com. He joined me to talk about the Pacers’ offseason and what to look for in their upcoming season.
Kevin F. Love: The Pacers added 2 players through the draft in Aaron Holiday and Alize Johnson. How did you rate the picks and do you expect either player to contribute this season?
Tony East: I give the Holiday pick a C and the Alize pick an A. Alize I’m slightly biased AND revisionist. I was at his draft workout and he looked great besides a weird shooting form, and he had an exceptional summer league. He seems like he could be a rotational piece at some point. But not this year. He’s the 7th big man in the pecking order, he won’t play much.
But the important guy is Holiday, who seemingly everyone is higher on that me. I have a general rule of drafting, and that is never select anyone shorter than me. Aaron Holiday does not pass that one rule.
He’s a solid shooter, which means he probably has a place in the NBA to some degree. But his finishing around the basket is concerning, and he is a turnover machine. He has a lot to learn to be truly effective, and I’m not sure he will ever hit that point, though again his shooting means he could have a place in the league anyway.
In terms of role, Holiday is stuck at as the 5th guard and 3rd point guard, so he is probably looking at a garbage time only role. Given that he is a rookie point guard and rookie point guards usually stink (crap this is going on a Sixers blog isn’t it?) I think it’s fine that he won’t play much.
KFL: Victor Oladipo made a tremendous leap as a player last season. How can he continue to grow? What’s one aspect of his game that if addressed this offseason, would transform his game yet again?
TE: Vic’s improvements were the storyline, but at the same time he was almost too talented for his own good, if that even makes sense. He was not ready for the attention of double teams, and that was evident in the playoffs even more so.
That is the part of his game he needs to improve the most. He would pick up his dribble or try and force a pass when the traps came, and it led to turnovers more often than not. If he can learn how to keep his dribble and open up passing lanes for himself, he will be impossible to slow down.
KFL: How do Tyreke Evans and Victor Oladipo fit together? What does Tyreke bring to the table that the Pacers didn’t have last year?
TE: Short answer: Great!
Long answer: Their fit is mostly that now the Pacers can always have a solid shot creator with the ball on the floor. When one sits, the other hits. What Tyreke offers is a quality options when Oladipo is on the pine, something the Pacers didn’t have last season – they were 0-7 when he didn’t play.
When they share the court, Tyreke is a great option for Vic to cough it up when he gets hit with aforementioned double teams. Having two above average three-point shooters who can also create off the dribble is never bad. But the important part that the Pacers didn’t have last year is that Reke can bail out Oladipo when the double teams come and be a consistent scorer on Oladipo’s off nights. He should fit exceptionally well.
KFL: Myles Turner will be a restricted free agent next summer. As far as you can tell, is Turner part of Indiana’s long term plans? What’s his role within the roster construction?
TE: He is absolutely a part of the long term plans. There are, what, 6 centers in the league who can shoot threes and protect the rim effectively? That play architype is a rare breed (dammit, Sixers blog again)
Barring a massive step forward from Domantas Sabonis (see also: the next question) Myles is the starting center for the next half decade. I’m guessing he gets around Capela money on next year’s more favorable market and the Pacers are happy with that. He will be around for a whle.
KFL: Do the Pacers have a breakout candidate?
TE: That Domantas Sabonis guy!
Let’s cross off everyone else: all the other starters are 30+ years old, TJ Leaf isn’t very good or useful, Aaron Holiday is a rookie, and everyone else on the team is fairly establish sans Sabonis (and McDermott I guess). He’s the most likely candidate.
Last season was effectively Sabonis’ “rookie season” at center (this whole Sixers blog thing makes my terminology awkward. Simmons was my ROY, I swear!) since he spent his actual rookie year playing power forward in OKC. This makes the upcoming season his sophomore year as a center. There is room for growth.
He is already an above average passer for his position. He sees the game at a high level. That bodes well for his ability to improve in other areas (namely pattern recognition). If he becomes an average defender he could push Thaddeus Young for a starting spot.
KFL: Are people sleeping on the Pacers for the 2nd season in a row? Did they do enough to compete for an Eastern Conference Finals bid?
TE: Yes and no (lazy answer). The second half of your question is why I say no: people recognize that they are in theory talented enough to reach the Eastern Conference finals. That means that I think people understand how good they are this time.
BUT I think that the gap between the Pacers the top tier of the East (whatever teams you call it) is smaller than the gap between the Pacers and the tier below them (Milwaukee/Washington etc). I think that is getting overlooked. So in that regard they are probably being slept on.
KFL: What are some Pacers storylines you’re looking forward to next season? What do you want to know about this team?
TE: Doug. McDermott.
I think people think lowly of McDermott because he performed poorly compared to his draft position. He isn’t like a lottery pick level of impactful. But my god can that guy shoot, and the Pacers need shooting.
I really want to know how good he can be with most of his expectations thrown out the window. Now all he is expected to do is shoot and look like he’s trying hard when he cuts. I want to know how effective and useful he can be in that role, especially because his deal is three seasons long.
The Pacers needed a guy like McD on the second unit last season. If he can shoot like he always has, the Indy bench is going to be stupid good.
KFL: Where can readers find your work and how can they stay on top of it?
TE: I tweet out most of my work on my personal account @TEastNBA, but I would be nothing without the awesome guys who write with me over at 8points9seconds.com. They pump out so much great and creative content that you need to follow along with if you want to keep up with this Indy team.
I’d like to give a big thanks to Tony East for joining me! Make sure to check his work out and to give him a follow on Twitter.