Here’s the iPacers team of Contributors Joe Betz and Ross Blauvelt and Editor-in-Chief Derek Kramer here to discuss a few questions to preview the Indiana Pacers 2017-18 season that begins tomorrow night against the Brooklyn Nets. What’s in store for the Blue and the Gold in the dawn of this new era?
How many wins for the Pacers in 2017-18, and do they make the playoffs?
Joe Betz: The current over/under is 30.5. I am taking the over and think they will hit at least 32, which would be 10 less wins than the previous season, a still monumental drop. This would place the Pacers in 12th place last season–just above the Knicks.
Derek Kramer: It all hinges on whether Myles Turner makes a large leap or not. I think he’ll be good this year and better than last year, but I don’t think he makes a big enough jump to get the Pacers into the playoffs. The Glenn Robinson III injury will hurt more than you might think. Pacers win 33-35 games and finish at 9th or 10th in the East.
Ross Blauvelt: Some sites have Vegas giving the Pacers 30.5 wins this season… That’s 12 loses more than last year and on par with how the Magic and 76ers did last year. BUT, the East is notably worse this year and the Pacers (maybe I’m biased) are going to surprise people. I’m going with 35 wins. Similar to the Pistons last year. (All that said, a bottom two finish in the East wouldn’t be all the bad for a high draft pick, last year with the draft odds the old way too).
What are the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Pacers this season?
Derek Kramer: Best-case scenario is that Myles Turner, Victor Oladipo and one or two other potential long-term pieces emerge (Cory Joseph, Lance Stephenson, Glenn Robinson III, Domas Sabonis) and play awesome throughout the season, staying healthy and looking like key long-term pieces all while the Pacers can’t seem to win any games. Because the season started off with many losses, Kevin Pritchard trades away Collison, Thad Young, and Bogdanovic at the deadline for whatever draft picks that he can muster. The Pacers end up winning the lottery and a bright future looms ahead.
If you’re looking for a best-case scenario in terms of winning games this year, 6th-seed would be the highest I can see this team getting to this season, with a hard-fought first-round exit.
Worst-case scenario is that Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo both have poor seasons and/or suffer a major injury and the Pacers still finish in 9th in the East. No playoffs or high lottery pick.
Joe Betz: The best-case scenario is the Pacers end with a better record than last year and I can develop a research paper-post on why the combinations of Sabonis and Oladipo are better than the singular strengths of Paul George for OKC’s reddit; the worst-case would be the Pacers win less than 30 games and a key injury occurs to an optimal long-term player (Turner, Sabonis, Oladipo, Lance).
Ross Blauvelt: Best Case: Indiana finishes 8th in the East right around .500 with Oladipo having a career year and Myles Turner winning the MIP award (often won by a Pacer anyway) with Lance becoming a 6th-man-of-the-year contender. Chemistry gels fast and the team gets out and runs. In a weak East, there is a chance.
Worst Case: This team’s chemistry falls apart, Bad Lance returns and Myles starts to look like the leadership and scoring focus are too much. Bottom two finish in the East. The team moves to Seattle. Just kidding on that last part. Really worst case isn’t as ‘worst’ as it sounds. This team won’t be contending for at least 2-3 years anyway so a down year is to be expected and maybe hoped for.
Who is the best new addition to the Pacers?
Ross Blauvelt: I kind of want the answer to my next question to go here but you have to go with Oladipo for best addition. With the loss of a star like Paul George you’ll need scoring from somewhere. Is Myles ready? How much of the load can Thad or Bojan take on? Oladipo is going to run, put up a ton of shots and be the focal point on offense. Will he be efficient? We’ll see, but it’ll be fun to watch.
Joe Betz: I’m on the Sabonis bus, driving to Sabonis island, where I will have the sun screened for me by several Sabonis clones standing above my deck chair.
Derek Kramer: Some of the bigger new acquisitions will only be here for a single season so it’s hard to call them the best addition (Bojan, DC, Old Man Wilkins). Cory Joseph could the best, but the Pacers will have to re-sign him for that to be the case. Oladipo will put up his numbers, but I have a feeling his game will sour on me after about a month of inconsistency with his jump shot. If TJ Leaf figures out how to play a little bit on the defensive end, he could be the guy here as well. Ike Anigbogu is a dark horse for the best new player in 5 years if he can stay healthy. Domas Sabonis is my bet for immediate success though. He and Lance are already showing the chemistry that Lance and Kevin Seraphin quickly developed last season.
Who will be the biggest surprise this season?
Derek Kramer: Old Man Wilkins. First, that he’s alive. Second, that’s he’s on an NBA team. Third, he’s playing some spot minutes. Fourth, he’s actually not half bad.
Ross Blauvelt: I’ve already been surprised by Domantas Sabonis. Someone who is not afraid to bang in the post and get rebounds which has been a weakness of the Pacers. He very quickly can become a fan favorite with his style of hard nose play and may be my first new jersey purchase. Plus, you have to love left-handed players, I mean come on.
Joe Betz: Ike Anigbogu playing in a pre-season game surprised me most. I thought he would not be ready in any way, but he showed that his skills, while raw, are there, and you cannot teach his frame. He could become the backup shot-blocking center the Pacers had in Mahinmi, but with an extra level of athleticism and size. If he develops well this year, I expect him to challenge for a rotation spot next season because….
Does anyone get traded at the deadline?
Joe Betz: Someone is definitely getting traded whose name begins with Albus, Thaddeus, or Bojan. A late first would be a nice rebuilding chip for any of these players.
Ross Blauvelt: I think absolutely. A veteran who can help a contender. Be it Thad Young, Bojan or Cory Joseph I could see getting moved before the deadline. I love all those guys and don’t want to lose them, but that’s what you do when you don’t have a shot. Especially if the Pacers leave that roster spot open to absorb a large contract along with a draft pick they would get back for one of those players I think. Glenn is back in Dec/Jan, Bojan could be expendable even earlier. If TJ Leaf starts to show something, who knows?
Derek Kramer: I think one of this group gets traded at the deadline: Bojan, DC, Thad, Less Big Al. Thad would be the most likely choice because the Pacers have more depth at the big spots than any other position and nobody is likely to want Al Jeff. Maybe you get the partial guarantees of DC and Bojan to someone, but those could also wait until the draft.
Does Myles Turner make the All-Star team this season?
Derek Kramer: Lots of All Stars have gone to the other conference, but there’s a lot of youth lurking for their first opportunity to make the squad. It’ll likely come down to team success as the Pacers have struggled to get an All-Star outside of playoff years besides Danny Granger when he averaged over 25 points per game. If Myles is only averaging say 17 and 8, then the team’s success will probably decide whether he’s seriously considered for the All-Star team this year. If he’s at 21 and 8, he makes it regardless.
Ross Blauvelt: Last year’s Front Court Eastern Conference players. LBJ, Giannis, Butler, PG, Love, and Millsap. There are three spots that just opened up there with those players going West. I think Embiid if healthy and Porzingas are locks to make it this year. Leaving at least one spot left… so will a Pacers player make the All Star team? Myles has the best shot in a weak frontcourt pool. So I say yes, he makes it.
Joe Betz: The attempt to force-feed Myles in the pre-season looked rough at times. I still think he can be an 18 and 9 guy, but he will need to shine in a few games with big performances to warrant the fan vote. I see Turner as an All-Star snub this year.
What are you most excited about for this season?
Derek Kramer: For Myles Turner to be the guy instead of the 4th or 5th option like he was so often last season. Also, a full season of Lance: the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between.
Joe Betz: The Lance-Sabonis pick and roll. Honk-Honk! All aboard the Sabonis bus!
Ross Blauvelt: Watching players growth and a team that you can root for each night. Through the first few preseason games, the players seem to enjoy each other and playing together. They are hustling and trying (something that was lacking last year far too often). Also: watching Myles take on this leadership role, Oladipo get more of a focus, and the development of players like Sabonis, Leaf and Glenn. It’s refreshing and exciting to watch a team you are proud to root for. A reset button has definitely been pressed but the Pacers won’t have the team chemistry issues of last year.