It’s only preseason, but the Indiana Pacers showed us a little of what was possible for them this season. While most of it was good, there are a few reasons to worry as well.
It’s easy to write off anything good about a pair of preseason games, especially when two teams are playing far, far from home, but with a new roster for the Indiana Pacers, we’re at least getting a glimpse of what’s possible.
T.J. Warren won’t shoot 5 of 6 from deep every night — he shot 1 for 4 after getting us drunk on expectations in his first preseason game. We also saw him lost on defense several times, but that’s not why the Pacers brought him in, as they knew that was a liability of his.
Warren is a microcosm of the Pacers’ situation at the moment. There are great possibilities in what he and many of the new (and old) members of the team add, but we’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t look at the negatives as well.
The Sabonis-Turner pairing is still fraught with danger
No matter where you put one of them, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis are both effectively centers. We saw them both try to play the position as such more than once in the two games.
Some of those mistakes will fix themselves over time as they adjust to not always being the ‘real’ center on the court but expect to see that happen from time to time until further notice.
Turner is better at recovering when he gets caught out of place, but that might just mean teams will look to make sure they can force Sabonis to be the one having to show and recover back to the basket.
It’s my biggest fear for the Pacers this season — that in the long-run, the duo can’t work together — but they did show some adaptations, too.
There were positive signs on the offensive end: Turner spaced out to the corner more often than in the past. Even if he didn’t attempt any 3-pointers from there, it creates space. If Turner and Sabonis are sharing the floor, it only makes sense to run the pick and roll through Sabonis. They can’t leave Turner down low lurking in the dunker’s spot, so putting him on the edges is essential to creating space and having more offensive success with this lineup than in previous seasons.
Which leads into our next point…
Malcolm Brogdon is the prince who was promised
Darren Collison took what defenses would give him. Malcolm Brogdon opens them up.
While the Kings were busy trying to both guard Sabonis in the lane and keep on eye on Myles Turner in the corner, Brogdon went cross-court to find Jeremy Lamb for an open 3-pointer.
A similar play popped up later in the game with Malcolm firing a pass one-handed across the floor.
As Indy Cornrows Caitlin Cooper said, Collison could never.
It’s that sort of court vision that leads to 19 assists over two games (he only played 19 minutes in the second one) and his 50.2% shooting from the floor means they can’t back off him too far either like teams could again Collison, who couldn’t produce at the same volume.
We’ve joked about ‘pure‘ point guards and the lack of them in Indiana over the years, but Brogdon is exactly that. He played more off the ball in recent years than his rookie campaign, but until Victor Oladipo comes back, he will be the point of attack for Indiana.
Edmond Sumner Hype Train now boarding
All aboard the Edmond Sumner Hyper Train. Next stop, Indianapolis, when the Pacers host Thaddeus Young and the Chicago Bulls, but it’s best to think about reserving your seat now.
The second-year guard is showing better decision making so far in the preseason even if his game still isn’t perfect. His 17 points and 5 assists over two games aren’t earth-shattering, but he found his teammates and put them in positions to succeed.
Also, he can do things like this:
In the second quarter of game two in India, Sumner was the best player on the court and performed well against the Kings starters. He ran the offense and set up JaKarr Sampson multiple times for easy looks, got his hands in passing lanes, contested shots, and just generally made plays for himself and others.
Sumner still has a way to go before I’ll trust him running the bench unit but he is a relatively vertical wing, too. His 6’8″ wingspan doesn’t hurt on defense either as he picked up three steals in the two games as well.
Indiana just needs someone to play solid defense and avoid the offensive droughts that found Cory Joseph at times last year.
It’s only preseason, but…
We saw flashes of what this Pacers team can do even without their best player. There will be ups and downs as the teams learn to play with each other, but the building blocks are there to be something more than just a playoff team in the weakened Eastern Conference.
The Pacers don’t need Lamb and Warren to suddenly become defensive masterminds, but they’ll need them to fit and go off offensively from time to time. The Pacers don’t need Sabonis and Turner to reinvent themselves, but they’ll need to adjust how they play to make things work.
It’s a work in progress, but if we’re grading Kevin Pritchard’s offseason work so far — and we didn’t get to see Goga Bitadze at all — then it looks like KP can pat himself on the back.