The NBA awards (minus the All-NBA teams, cross your fingers for Paul George) will not be announced until June 26 (COME ON NBA!) during the NBA Awards Show, but we can discuss our Pacers season awards right now! The iPacers writers have each weighed in on categories ranging from MVP (not named Paul) to Best Play for the 2016-17 season that just wrapped up for the Blue and Gold.
Be sure to follow our team on twitter: Editor-in-Chief Derek Kramer, @iPacersblog, and our three Contributors: Ross Blauvelt (@TheCorner3Ross), Alexander Grant (@Vegas_SportsGuy) and Joe Betz (@Joe_Betz_).
After the season we just endured, a little positive reminiscing is good for the heart. Let’s think of the good times like Paul George’s play from March through the playoffs, Reborn Ready, Thad Young and GR3’s game winners, and the games that Monta didn’t start. Here’s our awards for the 2016-2017 season.
MVP (not named Paul George):
Derek Kramer: Second-year big man Myles Turner gets my vote. The Pacers outscored opponents by 3 points per 100 possessions with Myles Turner on the court, but were outscored by 5.9 points per 100 possessions with Turner on the bench. The Pacers were 8.9 points per 100 possessions better with Turner on the court than off. That 8.9 point differential is surpassed only by Paul George’s mark of 10.9. The Pacers were a mess defensively all season, but Myles Turner was still a force as a rim protector. While Turner still has plenty of room to grow on both ends (especially in the weight room), he’s already the Pacers 2nd most valuable player. While his offensive role strangely declined over the second-half of the season, hopefully McMillan will look to turn him loose next year instead of wanting him to “distribute the ball more.”
Joe Betz: Thaddeus Young. Look no further than his time missed due to his wrist injury and the way the Pacers played toward the end of the season as his wrist began to fully heal.
Alexander Grant: Jeff Teague. Playing for his hometown team, he averaged a career high in assists at 7.8 per game, and he also played in ALL 82 games. He has stated he’d like to stay in Indiana so hopefully the business side of the game allows it.
Ross Blauvelt: Thad Young. Glue guy. Without him due to injury the team slid. Just does it all for this team. Not flashy, but gets it done.
Most Improved Player:
Joe Betz: Myles Turner. He improved in several areas, taking a nice second year bump. The third year leap is needed for the Pacers to compete, however.
Alexander Grant: Glenn Robinson III. He proved to be a nice rotational piece with a decent jumper. His trajectory as a player is clearly trending up, and winning the 2017 Slam Dunk Contest put the Pacers in a favorable national spotlight. He can be a foundational player for the franchise in the foreseeable future.
Derek Kramer: This article from the Bleacher Report gave Myles Turner the title for the entire league as the Most Improved Player based on the metrics of RPM and NBA Math’s TPA, since I already talked Turner up in the previous award section, I’ll let that article do the talking for me here. GR3 with an easy second place. Third place goes to Rakeem Christmas for showing he can potentially be an NBA player for that brief stretch after the All-Star break. You could even argue Paul George with his career highs in scoring and in most shooting categories.
Ross Blauvelt: This one was tough. Either Glenn Robinson III or Myles Turner for me. Have to go GR3. Myles had an amazing start and did progress on year one but regressed in some ways as well. Year 3 will be interesting. Glenn went from end of the bench to major rotation/energy player down the stretch. Oh and Dunk Champion doesn’t hurt.
Best New Addition:
Joe Betz: I give this to Teague. It would be Thaddeus’s to win here if he hadn’t missed time. Teague’s durability was huge.
Alexander Grant: Jeff Teague. Hopefully he doesn’t leave Indiana, but as an unrestricted Free Agent he will undoubtedly command more than his current $8M/year price tag. Larry Bird tried to get an extension formalized after trading for Teague, so the interest to stay in “Naptown” appears to be mutual.
Derek Kramer: There are only two choices here: Thad Young or Jeff Teague. Without Thad Young’s wrist injury this would have been much tougher, but the kid from Indianapolis wins this one. Teague had a career year as he heads into free agency.
Ross Blauvelt: Jeff Teague. Starting PG, floor leader. In trading Off for Def in a way in giving up GHill, Jeff produced. Please come back.
Comeback Player of the Year:
Joe Betz: Lance. ‘Nuff said.
Alexander Grant: Lance Stephenson. The way Stephenson played to end the regular season, along with being stellar in the playoffs makes this category easy. I can’t help but wonder as a Pacers fan “what could’ve been” if Born Ready was signed earlier in the season.
Ross Blauvelt: Lance, welcome back #BornReady.
Derek Kramer: It took a combination of three injuries and a weird contract quirk to get Lance Stephenson back to the Pacers. Stephenson looked poised to have a consistent role on the Pelicans before his injury forced the Pelicans to waive him due to other injuries, then he sprained his ankle while with the Timberwolves as they decided to move on from him once his 10-day contract expired. Meanwhile in Indiana, Rodney Stuckey suffered another injury that would keep him out for the remainder of the year and because the Pacers could eliminate his player option by waiving him before the end of the season, they decided to move on. All the stars finally aligned for the return of Born Ready, and it was glorious.
Derek Kramer: One of my favorite games this year was the first game against the Oklahoma City Westbrook and friends. No Paul George that night, but so many Pacers stepped up to win a tight game on the road against a good western conference team. Jeff Teague scored 30 points on just 16 shots with 9 assists, while Russell Westbrook had his typical 30-point triple double, but needed 34 shots to get his 30+ that night. The Pacers meanwhile put up a triple double-double as a team: Thaddeus Young had 20 and 10, Myles Turner had 15 and 10, and Glenn Robinson III stepped into the starting lineup and put up 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Joe Betz: Final Raptors game at home. Huge comeback + Lance’s first game back in the Fieldhouse + salty Raptors = happiness. Plus, it was PG13 bobblehead night.
Alexander Grant: There are a lot of games to choose from but I’m probably going against the grain here and choosing the double-OT contest versus the Cavaliers on April 2nd. It was a disappointing end result, however the game showed the Pacers can compete. Couple this OT thriller with the playoff matchups, the Pacers showed the were not going to back down from the LeBron-led champs. The games came down to the wire each time, and they showed there is hope for Indy fans.
Ross Blauvelt: In a loss, it has to be the OT loss to the Cavs. PG vs LBJ. Epic. In a win, first game of the season vs the Mavericks. Showed what Myles’ potential is as he opened the season with 31 points and 16 rebounds.
Joe Betz: Anytime Monta Ellis successfully moved the ball from his hands to another player.
Alexander Grant: There are multiple candidates for this category. Thaddeus Young had a couple dunks, and Myles Turner can certainly make some stellar defensive plays. However, the game-winning three pointer by GRIII at the Atlanta Hawks on March 5th takes the cake.
Derek Kramer: I was so moved by the game-winning 3-pointer by Glenn Robinson III against the Hawks that I was compelled to write a poem. So, I think I’m obligated to go with that one, even if I’m not a good poet.
Ross Blauvelt: GR3’s game-winning 3 vs the Hawks. His star continues to rise. If it wasn’t that: Then it was up to Thad’s dunk on Terrence Jones or PG’s dunk on Clint Capela. Or better yet, the entire 1st half of Game 3 vs the Cavs! (Editor’s Note: Now, I’m depressed again.)
Joe Betz: Nate McMillan’s decision making. From starting Monta Ellis to consistently playing lineups that he knew weren’t working and so much in between, it was a rough first year for McMillan.
Derek Kramer: The Pacers inability to defeat terrible teams. The Pacers lost far too many games this season that should have been won and winning just two of the following games against bottom feeders of the league would have put the Pacers in the 5th-seed this season: Nets, Knicks [twice], Pelicans, Sixers, Suns and Mavericks. Inconsistency was a major issue for the Pacers this season.
Alexander Grant: This Pacers team beat some pretty good Western Conference teams. Granted they only played two matchups apiece, the Pacers did not lose to the Houston Rockets, LA Clippers, or Oklahoma City Thunder. Definitely surprised me.
Ross Blauvelt: Hiring of Nate. Bird wanted the team to play faster and with a new voice. So they hire Nate McMillan who’s been on the sidelines as an assistant for years and one of the slowest pace coaches on record. Huh?
Joe Betz: Team award. This team had the opportunity to be a top 4 seed, but PG didn’t truly play like an All-Star until after the break, the offense and defense were like shambling Frankenstein monsters, and Al Jefferson’s ankle exploded.
Alexander Grant: The signing of Al Jefferson, and to see him not log a single minute of playing time in the playoffs. He was a horrible fit with the team, and I’m still wondering why the deal happened in the first place. The NBA today is spread out and three pointer happy. Larry Bird knows this and still signed the flat-footed Jefferson. He is a throwback player that should not be on the roster.
Ross Blauvelt: This team. On paper before the season most fans were super excited at the Pacers chances. With some thinking the #2/3 in the East was in the cards. Then the team was so up and down barely squeaking into the playoffs. Honorable Mention to how poorly Monta Ellis and Al Jefferson played at times.
Derek Kramer: I was a lot more hopeful in Al Jefferson. It was very discouraging to hear Kevin Pritchard say that he thought Big Al was out of shape all season and that was partly why he struggled this year. Not all of the issues were his fault as the roster and coaching didn’t allow him to often be in an advantageous situation with a lack of shooting surrounding him and his paint space being eaten away by Lavoy Allen or Kevin Seraphin for much of the year. Perhaps most disappointing though was his effort on defense. I didn’t expect Al to be good at defense, but so many times he would lazily foul a guard with his arms as he sped past him instead of trying to contest a shot at the rim. Monta Ellis’s rapid decline this season gets second, but his fit with Teague was an obvious issue in the summer.
Please Come Back Award:
Joe Betz: Jeff Teague. Teague’s personality is a bit strange, but he loves Indianapolis, is a top 10 PG talent, and attacks the basket. That’s all I’ve ever wanted…
Alexander Grant: Jeff Teague. He is about to assess his market value and I hope the Pacers can pay him. Not only because he had a career year and is a hometown guy; Teague makes the roster more attractive for potential Free Agents (Paul Millsap?!).
Derek Kramer: Paul George will be the obvious answer here next season when he hits free agency if he doesn’t sign an extension this off-season. Teague is the obvious choice this year, but CJ Miles may be as important as bringing Teague back. The Pacers are already thin on shooting with 3J, and after shooting 41% from deep this year he’s in line for a pay raise. He’s been a selfless teammate the last two years as he volunteered to play power forward two years ago and never cared whether he started or came off the bench. The Pacers had a top-5 lineup in the NBA with CJ Miles playing with the starters this season, and they’d do well to keep that unit intact coming into next season.
Ross Blauvelt: Jeff Teague. Outside of the obvious who else would play point guard next year if he’s not brought back (Lance?, Joe Young?!), Jeff played exceptional when the ball was in his hands. Yes, the Pacers give up some defense with him on the floor but his offense at times makes up for that.