Pairing of Turner and Sabonis the talk of Pacers Media Day

With Media Day unofficially marking the start of a new season for the Indiana Pacers, there’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding the team that saw a lot of change over the off-season  with no bigger question than the now starting big-men duo of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis.

Can the two play together on a successful team? Who guards who defensively? Can they figure out the spacing issues on offense? These are questions that may decide the fate for the upcoming season and both Nate McMillan and Myles Turner’s press conference started off with a question early on about the pairing.

“Me and Domas have been talking about playing together for a long time now,” said Turner. “We definitely still have a lot of work to do but I think we bring a lot to the table.”

Coach Nate McMillan said match-ups will dictate who guards the four and who is the five, but deep down, we know they are both centers. Turner acknowledged the challenge that guarding the perimeter will be for one of them as well.

“Offensively, we should be able to figure it out since we do different things,” said Turner. “Defensively, guarding stretch 4s will be a challenge but I know Domas has been working, I’ve been working.”

McMillan is focused on the defensive fit and hopes the offense added around them help fix some of the issues we’ve seen in the past.

Both are talented and deserve to start, but as much as we talk about positionless basketball, they both may be single position players as far as the eye-test is concerned. And in an era where spreading the floor with smaller players is considered conventional wisdom, zaging to everyone’s zig could make sense — or be a complete disaster.

The good news is they posted a 2.8 net rating in 429 regular season minutes last year with a 99.6 defensive. The bad news is that came with a 102.4 offensive rating. So they locked it down defensively but just got by on offense.

If there’s any more good news on this front, it is that it has improved as a pairing over time. Their first season together saw the duo’s net rating at -8.7. The fact it is in the positive now, despite the offensive issues, is a small success.

However, in the playoffs, that became an unmitigated failure. A -27.6 net rating made up of an 81.5 offensive rating and a 109.1 defensive rating. Both saw their weaknesses exposed and there was little help from anyone else to save the day.

In the regular season, their offense struggled to get efficient looks, and the Celtics did their best to make that worse while exploiting the lack of flexibility of Domas and Myles defensively.

Obviously, both young players took time this summer to address some of their weaknesses, but will it be enough to support the Pacers until Oladipo’s return?

The answer is likely yes, as regular-season basketball is more about teams showing their way works than meticulous planning for each opponent.

But when the playoffs roll around, even with Oladipo, will they be able to share the floor in a net-positive way?

The Pacers are betting on themselves and the two young centers sorting it out. Maybe some more practice will help.

Until then, the uncertainty continues, and that’s without addressing questions like whether Malcolm Brogdon can stay healthy and be the secondary creator the Pacers need when Oladipo returns. Another unknown is how Goga Bitadze fits into all this, especially if the Sabonis-Turner pairing fails. Whether or not Aaron Holiday is going to live up to expectations this season is another question lingering.

We’ll start to get answers soon enough.

Other things we learned today

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