Indiana Pacers season preview, roster and schedule 2018: Tough times await
The Pacers are now in the post-Paul George era, but still aren’t committing all the way to a full-scale rebuild.
Arrivals: Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, T.J. Leaf, Cory Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, Ike Anigbogu, Edmond Sumner, Damien Wilkins
Departures: Paul George, Jeff Teague, C. J. Miles, Monta Ellis, Lavoy Allen, Aaron Brooks, Rakeem Christmas, Kevin Seraphin, Georges Niang
If there was an actual award for the worst trade a team made in the offseason, the Pacers would’ve won this year after their inexplicable decision to trade superstar Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Was that really the best offer the Pacers had on the table for a top-15 player in George?
None of that matters now though. Indiana are stuck with Dipo and Domas for the foreseeable future and the two now will be centerpieces of their rebuilding effort along with promising young center Myles Turner.
The Pacers completely overhauled their point guard rotation this offseason. They let Jeff Teague and Aaron Brooks walk, stretched Monta Ellis, signed Darren Collison in free agency, and picked up a useful player in Cory Joseph from the Raptors in a salary dump. While Collison and Joseph are serviceable veterans, neither is really a starter-caliber point guard.
They also brought in rookies T. J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, and Edmond Sumner. Anigbogu, who went from a projected first-rounder to the mid-second round, has a chance to be a real steal if his knees hold up. However, Leaf doesn’t offer quite the same upside despite being their actual first-rounder (18th overall), and he’ll start out as the third option at his position with Thad Young and Sabonis both above him in the pecking order.
Projected depth chart
C – Myles Turner / Al Jefferson / Ike Anigbogu
PF – Thaddeus Young / Domantas Sabonis / T.J. Leaf
SF – Bojan Bogdanovic / Glenn Robinson III
SG – Victor Oladipo / Lance Stephenson / Damien Wilkins
PG – Darren Collison / Cory Joseph / Joe Young
It’s tough to think of things the Pacers will actually do well next season. Indiana was the definition of mediocre last season even when they had a top two-way player in George. They finished 15th in offensive efficiency and 16th in defensive efficiency.
Turner is obviously the best thing the Pacers have going for them at the moment. He’s coming off a strong sophomore season where he put up 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks. He’s primed for a breakout season in Year 3 now that he’ll be the team’s first or second option on offense, and could put himself in the discussion with Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, and Nikola Jokic as one of the league’s best young big men.
Apart from him, though, it’s unclear what other clear positives the Pacers have on the roster. They forced a good amount of turnovers last season, ranking sixth in turnover rate. However, four of their top six steals leaders are no longer with the team, so it’s unlikely that they keep that rate up.
Turner has a lot of very good attributes, but rebounding isn’t one of them. The Pacers were one of the worst rebounding teams in the league last season and the 21-year-old’s lack of dominance on the boards played at least some part in their struggles. They were 25th in defensive rebounding rate and 24th in offensive rebounding rate. Those numbers are in danger of dwindling further with their second-best rebounder George onto pastures new.
Another thing the 2016 Olympic gold medalist did very well was shoot three-pointers. He made over 2.5 of them per game at a 39 percent clip. Well, he’s gone now, as are their second and third-best shooters, C. J. Miles and Jeff Teague. In extension to the aforementioned Joseph and Oladipo, Indiana added Bojan Bogdanovic, but all figure to be downgrades as shooters from last year. That’s bad news for a Pacers team that already finished way down in 26th in three-point attempt rate.
With George and Teague both gone, the Pacers also lost their only players who could actually create on offense. Oladipo and Bogdanovic will now be tasked with bailing the team out when the offense stalls, which could be fairly often.
Player to watch – Myles Turner
The Pacers could legitimately be one of the most uninteresting teams in the entire league next season. The PG13 era is now officially over at the Crossroads of America. The four-time All-Star is the type of player who can compel anyone to watch this team play. Turner is easily the closest thing the Pacers have to that kind of player at the moment.
Turner has the exciting two-way ability to become a star in this league. He has the combination of shooting and explosiveness which could make him a force on offense, in addition his length and mobility can be a real game-changer defensively.
In what is likely to be a forgettable campaign for the Pacers, the Texan’s progress will be the most fascinating thing to follow on the team.
Oct. 18, Wednesday, vs. Brooklyn
Oct. 20, Friday, vs. Portland
Oct. 21, Saturday, at Miami
Oct. 24, Tuesday, at Minnesota
Oct. 25, Wednesday, at Oklahoma City
Oct. 29. Sunday, vs. San Antonio
Oct. 31, Tuesday, vs. Sacramento
Nov. 1, Wednesday, at Cleveland
Nov. 3, Friday, at Philadelphia
Nov. 5, Sunday, at New York
Nov. 7, Tuesday, vs. New Orleans
Nov. 8, Wednesday, at Detroit
Nov. 10, Friday, at Chicago
Nov. 12, Sunday, vs. Houston
Nov. 15, Wednesday, at Memphis
Nov. 17, Friday, vs. Detroit
Nov. 19, Sunday, at Miami
Nov. 20, Monday, at Orlando
Nov. 24, Friday, vs. Toronto
Nov. 25, Saturday, vs. Boston
Nov. 27, Monday, vs. Orlando
Nov. 29, Wednesday, at Houston
Dec. 1, Friday, at Toronto
Dec. 4, Monday, vs. New York
Dec. 6, Wednesday, vs. Chicago
Dec. 8, Friday, vs. Cleveland
Dec. 10, Sunday, vs. Denver
Dec. 13, Wednesday, vs. Oklahoma City
Dec. 15, Friday, vs. Detroit
Dec. 17, Sunday, at Brooklyn
Dec. 18, Monday, vs. Boston
Dec. 20, Wednesday, at Atlanta
Dec. 23, Saturday, vs. Brooklyn
Dec. 26, Tuesday, at Detroit
Dec. 27, Wednesday, vs. Dallas
Dec. 29, Friday, at Chicago
Dec. 31, Sunday, vs. Minnesota
Jan. 3, Wednesday, at Milwaukee
Jan. 6, Saturday, vs. Chicago
Jan. 8, Monday, vs. Milwaukee
Jan. 10, Wednesday, vs. Miami
Jan. 12, Friday, vs. Cleveland
Jan. 14, Sunday, at Phoenix
Jan. 15, Monday, at Utah
Jan. 18, Thursday, at Portland
Jan. 19, Friday, at L.A. Lakers
Jan. 21, Sunday, at San Antonio
Jan. 24, Wednesday, vs. Phoenix
Jan. 26, Friday, at Cleveland
Jan. 27, Saturday, vs. Orlando
Jan. 29, Monday, vs. Charlotte
Jan. 31, Wednesday, vs. Memphis
Feb. 2, Friday, at Charlotte
Feb. 3, Saturday, vs. Philadelphia
Feb. 5, Monday, vs. Washington
Feb. 7, Wednesday, at New Orleans
Feb. 9, Friday, at Boston
Feb. 11, Sunday, vs. New York
Feb. 14, Wednesday, at Brooklyn
Feb. 23, Friday, vs. Atlanta
Feb. 26, Monday, at Dallas
Feb. 28, Wednesday, at Atlanta
March 2, Friday, at Milwaukee
March 4, Sunday, at Washington
March 5, Monday, vs. Milwaukee
March 7, Wednesday, vs. Utah
March 9, Friday, vs. Atlanta
March 11, Sunday, at Boston
March 13, Tuesday, at Philadelphia
March 15, Thursday, vs. Toronto
March 17, Saturday, at Washington
March 19, Monday, vs. L.A. Lakers
March 23, Friday, vs. L.A. Clippers
March 25, Sunday, vs. Miami
March 27, Tuesday, at Golden State
March 29, Thursday, at Sacramento
April 1, Sunday, at L.A. Clippers
April 3, Tuesday, at Denver
April 5, Thursday, vs. Golden State
April 6, Friday, at Toronto
April 8, Sunday, at Charlotte
April 10, Tuesday, vs. Charlotte
The Pacers obviously aren’t good enough to make it to the playoffs without Paul George, but they’re also not quite bad enough to sink to the bottom of the conference. Instead, they end up in limbo, finishing in the 10-12 range in the East.