Draft Prospects: Tyler Herro

With the NBA Draft coming soon, the Indiana Pacers have a multitude of options to consider with their first-round selection. One of those targets should be Tyler Herro.

With seven in-house free agents, the Pacers could draft a new point guard, a sharp shooting wing, or a stretch four. Just about every position other than center would appear to be on the table.

The Pacers won a coin flip to pick 18th instead of 19th or 20th. It’s the second time in the last three years that they’ve had that selection, taking T.J. Leaf in 2017. Pritchard was happy to end up at 18 in the season-ending press conference.

“This year I feel good that we’re going to get a good prospect,” Pritchard said.

What Herro would bring to the Pacers:

Herro gets buckets. The biggest thing he would bring is his ability to put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. He shot 46% from the field overall, 93% from the free-throw line and made 35% of his 3-point attempts. Continue reading Draft Prospects: Tyler Herro

Plenty of positives for Pacers in NBA Draft Lottery

The Indiana Pacers weren’t a part of the NBA Draft lottery but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have a rooting interest. The results went about as well as it possibly could have for the team.

There were many winners in the lotto on Wednesday. The New Orleans Pelicans being the literal winners with the Zion Williamson sweepstakes. The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers both jumped up into the top-4 selections. There were also some losers. The team with the least amount of wins last season in the Knicks will pick 3rd. The Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers had the second-worst records in the NBA this season but will be picking 5th and 6th. The Chicago Bulls dropped all the way to 7th.

For a team that did not participate in all the festivities, the Pacers, whose first-round pick was already settled at 18th after they won tiebreaker with two other teams, “won” as much as they could possibly hope for in an event in which they weren’t actually involved.

First, Williamson, the consensus number one pick, will be going to a Western Conference team. The Pelicans seem to be the most fortunate with the timing of their lottery wins as they get a new franchise player as Anthony Davis wants to leave.

The Bulls and the Cavaliers both slipping down saw two of the Pacers Central divisional foes to lose their shot at Zion. Dropping much lower than expected limits their options even further. Chicago’s John Paxson listed things in the Bulls favor that sounds a lot like the Pacers list. Not a good night for the Bulls.

With the second pick going to the Grizzlies, this could push more speculation into one particular player that could be targeted this offseason. Indiana is faced with quite a predicament with their roster with so many free agents. After last night, maybe one of their question marks has been answered. A Mike Conley trade could be more likely to happen. Ja Morant from Murray State is already being reported as the likely pick for the Grizzlies and they may want to hand the keys to the offense to the rookie right away to let him grow with as much experience as possible. It’s no secret Memphis has been open to dealing Conley recently.

Conley, who will be 32 years old next season, is under contract for the next two years at a hefty price of $67 million combined but is coming off of one the best performances in his career. Conley, who averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game, grew up in Indiana and the Pacers sure do love their natives. His ability to score with the ball in his hands and run the offense would improve the Pacers tremendously. With Indiana not the most attractive destination in free agency, trading for someone like Conley could be their best bet to make a bold move this offseason.

A trade wouldn’t be without its risks since Memphis isn’t just giving him away. Could something like the 18th pick, Domantas Sabonis or Aaron Holiday, and salary filler be enough for them to bite? It’s unclear but the Pacers should look into how interested the Grizzlies would be in a potential deal. There were rumors that the Pacers made an offer at the deadline but talks didn’t get far.

The trade that cost the Pacers their chance at Michael Jordan

In the dark ages of the Indiana Pacers early NBA history of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the team struggled and made many poor decisions at least partially due to financial instability. Perhaps none worse than one trade that involved a future draft pick.

(30 for 30 voice) What if I told you that after the Indiana Pacers traded away their chance at drafting the player many consider to be the greatest of all time in Michael Jordan?

In 1981, Head Coach Jack McKinney led the Pacers to its first winning season (44-38) in the NBA and their first trip to the playoffs on his way to being named Coach of the Year. But the team’s success was soon cut down when starting center James Edwards was lost in free agency to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In order to keep pushing for the postseason, McKinney traded a first-round pick in the 1984 draft for Tom Owens, a journeyman center on the tail end of his career, to fill the void that Edwards left. Owens only played one season for the Pacers averaging 10.5 points per game and the team missed the playoffs with a 35-47 record.

Indiana then traded Mr. Owens to the Detroit Pistons for a second-round pick in the 1984 draft and won a combined 46 games over the next two seasons.

The Pacers finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference in the 1983-84 season and McKinney was fired. That draft pick they traded away for a short-term fix ended up being the second overall selection.

The 1984 NBA Draft is widely considered one of the best ever and ended up having five Hall of Famers. Hakeem Olajuwon went first overall to the Houston Rockets. The Portland Trail Blazers infamously took Sam Bowie and Michael Jordan fell to third with the Chicago Bulls. 

Maybe the Pacers would have made the same mistake the Blazers did and that’s the decision that would haunt them the most from the 1980s instead of the Owens trade. Or maybe Jordan would have led Indiana to multiple NBA titles like he did with Chicago. We’ll never know.

Donnie Walsh took over the Pacers personnel decisions in 1986 and steadily built the consistently competitive, respectable franchise that came closer than anyone to beating the Jordan Bulls during their dynasty as they took them to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1998. 

Jon Wertheim of SI.com once said the Pacers were trying to break the “curse of Tom Owens,” similar to the Red Sox curse of trading away Babe Ruth. With all their bad luck since he said that in the early 2000s, it rings a little more true: Malice at the Palace, the GQ Photo with the struggle of 2013-14, Paul George’s broken leg, and Victor Oladipo’s injury.

Aaron Holiday in line for increased role

In his rookie season for the Indiana Pacers, Aaron Holiday flashed his promise frequently but was often confined to the bench behind a pair of veteran point guards.

Don’t expect that to be the case in his second year.

“I feel he should be a rotational player next season,” said Pacers head coach Nate McMillan of Holiday during last week’s press conference. “There’s certainly some areas he needs to grow, but I like what he brings to the floor. He’s a young kid that has a great deal of confidence in himself. I think he can help us. … He certainly should be in the rotation next year.”

McMillan said he was impressed with him from the start of training camp and he earned the respect of his teammates too.

“I love Aaron, man,” Myles Turner said after the Pacers were eliminated from the playoffs. “He’s just so poised. I feel like any position he’s in he can be himself. You can’t make him speed up. You can’t make him get out of character.” Continue reading Aaron Holiday in line for increased role

Writing is on the wall for many Pacers free agents

One thing appears certain for the Indiana Pacers as the off-season approaches: changes are coming. With so many veteran free agents on the roster and the team getting swept in the first round, they’ll be looking to make upgrades.

Based on the comments from Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard at Wednesday’s press conference, the writing may be on the wall for more than a few major contributors from last year’s team including Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Tyreke Evans, Wesley Matthews and perhaps even team captain Thad Young.

“We’re willing to think big,” said Pritchard.  “… I’m super proud of this team, but we have to improve our talent.  The Boston loss was as challenging a series as I’ve ever been a part of. I thought we’d win a few games. We all have to look in the mirror and look at our process. We’ve got to get better.” Continue reading Writing is on the wall for many Pacers free agents

Why Tyreke Evans didn’t live up to expectations with the Pacers

Tyreke Evans was supposed to be the secondary playmaker that could help push the Indiana Pacers farther in the playoffs but nothing went according to plan for either party.

After a disappointing season that never lived up to expectations, it’s as hard to see Evans wanting to come back to Indiana as it is to see Indiana wanting Evans back. Both sides are likely ready to move on from this one-year failed experiment.

A combination of a lack of freedom to make mistakes, a lack of rhythm from not having the ball as often, a nagging knee injury that required treatment multiple times and just poor play all contributed to his ineffective, frustrating year with the Pacers.

After being suspended for one game very early in the season for being late to practice (and being late a number of times prior to that), it seemed like Evans was in the doghouse for much of his time in Indiana, never fully regaining the trust of the coaching staff. Tardiness is Nate McMillan’s biggest pet peeve and Evans found out how seriously he takes being on time.

And Evans’s play while on the court did him no favors. He struggled to be consistently productive with major trouble finishing at the basket. He made just 49% of his shots within three feet of the rim according to Basketball Reference (a career low), ranking among the very worst in the league at finishing those attempts. All those misses were nice for Domas Sabonis, who was often in the right place for putbacks on his layups.

Evans, according to NBA.com’s play-type tracking data, made 134 of 308 layup attempts on the season (43.5%). Even though he struggled to finish at the rim, his ability to get to the rim was often helpful for the team as seen by the Sabonis put-backs. The Pacers often were able to get rebounds on these plays after the defense focused its attention on forcing a miss and either get an easy put-back or restart the offense. For a team that often struggled at getting to the basket once Oladipo went down, Evans ability to get to the rim was valuable, even if it wasn’t often successful. Continue reading Why Tyreke Evans didn’t live up to expectations with the Pacers

Victor Oladipo: “I’m going to be the best in the league.”

Indiana Pacers All-Star guard Victor Oladipo continues to progress in his rehab and appears as confident as ever in the first episode of The VO Show.

“I’m going to be the best in the league,” Oladipo emphatically tells the camera after some shooting drills. “Watch what I’m saying. I’m not playing no games, man.”

He then points to his leg and calls it “a blessing” as he walks out the door.

During the training session, he works on hand-eye coordination while dribbling in a seated position and while he’s walking gingerly still, he is jumping slightly on his shots. Continue reading Victor Oladipo: “I’m going to be the best in the league.”

Should the Pacers fire Nate McMillan?

The Indiana Pacers season is over after being swept for the second time in three years during Nate McMillan’s tenure as head coach. Should they start searching for a replacement to get them deeper into the postseason?

If you only look at the team’s overall performance this season, it’s hard to see why the Pacers would want to move on at this current moment. Victor Oladipo missed 46 games and the Pacers impressively matched their win total from the previous season at 48. That’s a huge accomplishment. They’ve exceeded all reasonable expectations in each of the last two years and he’ll deservedly get a few votes for Coach of the Year this season because of that.

The Positives

Indiana had the third-best defensive rating in the league and the team gave maximum effort every game, never giving up no matter the circumstance. McMillan’s disciplined approach clearly has had its effect on this group, and the players have bought into the culture of the 3Ts (Toughness, Togetherness, Trust) and have praised him at various times in recent memory. Continue reading Should the Pacers fire Nate McMillan?

The struggle is real for the Pacers offense

Down 0-2 in a series that many gave them no chance to win before it even began, the Indiana Pacers are on life support.

The offense has died for entire quarters in each of the first two games. The Pacers pair of young big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis have been non-existent on offense. Late-game execution has been a nightmare. And yet despite these and other issues, Indiana comes home feeling like they’ve beat themselves against the Boston Celtics, who have been considered a contender in the East all season.

“We can’t have these mental lapses,” said Sabonis after the second game. “It’s all execution. For us, it feels like we lost both games.”

Pacers coach Nate McMillan called the last minute “the worst basketball I’ve seen in a long, long time.Continue reading The struggle is real for the Pacers offense

Do the Pacers have anything left as the playoffs approach?

INDIANAPOLIS–The Pacers have looked like they’ve been out of energy for weeks.

Tonight, as they faced a Brooklyn Nets team that was trying to clinch a playoff spot, it showed enough for Pacers head coach Nate McMillan to speak candidly about it after the game.

“We’re talking about we want to play,” said McMillan, “but I may have to make some decisions for some guys [to rest]. Because our motor is very low right now, that effort that we saw at the start of the game. We can’t start like that.”

McMillan highlighted the 12 offensive rebounds in the first half as a sign that the Pacers had no fight in this one, and while he doesn’t think it’s a lack of effort, he did admit that perhaps the team has hit a wall.

“Guys have given extra since Victor’s been out. We’ve had to lift and probably ask for a little bit more from this group since we lost a key player like that,” said McMillan. “… We’ve squeezed our guys a lot to get to this point. Is there anything left? I think so.”

McMillan said they will have the day off tomorrow and will be in talks with everyone to see what they need to do in terms of rest to be ready for the playoffs next week. The Pacers are just one win shy of their 48 wins from last year while Oladipo has missed over half the season. It’s an impressive feat but the team has been running on fumes.

The Pacers have struggled with their tough schedule since the All-Star break, seemingly playing a team fighting for something in the playoffs every night. They’ve gone 7-14 since February 25th and just 3-9 since March 16th.

“If we hit a wall or run out of gas, there’s nothing we can really do about that but try to rest as much as possible and continue to go out there and play,” said Thad Young. “That happens when your star player goes down. You have to give a little bit more. You have to elevate your game. It’s a process. … The biggest thing is just to continue to play, stay the course and making sure we’re there on the defensive side.”

Young was very focused on the poor defensive effort from the Pacers tonight, mentioning the many lapses on that end with backdoor cuts, letting guys blow by them, not smashing down on rebounds.

“Defense is what wins games for us and we haven’t been playing very good defense,” Young said. “… That’s not what we do as a team, we keep guys in front of us, we play physical on the defensive end and we make teams work for each and every bucket. That’s what we haven’t been doing.”

Young suggested the team going back to the basics and doing “high-school” drills like closeouts and putting guys in forced help positions.

Domantas Sabonis, who had his 30th double double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds, wasn’t a fan of the idea of taking games off or resting games but even he noted that the team has lacked energy.

“I think it’s the energy,” Sabonis said of what needs corrected before the playoffs. “If we don’t have energy, we can’t guard. Everyone’s thinking ‘Oh, he’s going to help me out, he’s going to help me out,’ but we just got to stick together. The main thing is not falling apart.”

The Pacers have one week before the playoffs begin to recharge and find the energy necessary to pull off the upset against the Celtics. They’re now officially locked into the 5th seed.

“I’m very confident in our group that we’re gonna do well,” said Darren Collison, who made his return to the lineup by making just 2 of his 12 shot attempts. “I think we match up well with them; we’ve been playing them well all year long. I’m not just looking at the last game. I think when we play our best, we can beat any team in the East and I’m very confident about that.”

For the Pacers to be at their best, they made need to take this week and rest.

 

Visiting with Oladipo just what the doctor ordered for the Pacers

After Victor Oladipo suffered his season-ending knee injury, the Indiana Pacers looked doomed to a downward spiral as they immediately lost their next four games.

They were in the middle of a 4-game road trip and had lost to their third non-playoff opponent in just six days, but then the schedule gave the Pacers a blessing. They would have an off day in Miami where Oladipo was staying after having surgery on his ruptured quad tendon.

Typically, the patient is the one who needs the visitors to uplift them after a major operation like Oladipo’s but for the Pacers visiting with their All Star was just what they needed.

“It was good to see him, physically,” Myles Turner told the Indy Star. “He was in good spirits. I didn’t expect anything less.”

Doug McDermott agreed and told the Star, “He’s always got energy. He’s always upbeat. He gave us words to hold on to. Vic is still our vocal leader even when he’s not in the locker room. We still talk to him. He texts us. It was good just to hear his voice and be around him.” Continue reading Visiting with Oladipo just what the doctor ordered for the Pacers

Edmond Sumner gets a new contract from Pacers

The Indiana Pacers have added Edmond Sumner to their NBA roster with a 2-year deal with a team option on the second year according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“Stuck with it through the ups and the downs. And left it up to God. It’s a blessing man. Journey has been crazy but it’s not over,” Sumner wrote on Instagram.

Sumner was previously on a 2-way contract which limits the amount of time that he can spend with the Pacers to 45 days. His 45 days were likely up and the Pacers signed him to the 2-year deal in lieu of converting the contract for just the rest of this season.

Sumner has shown flashes of potential throughout the season, highlighted by his 17-point game against the Lakers earlier this week. He was sensational for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, averaging 23.9 points per game on 50% shooting overall and 40% from 3-point range. And he plays well on the other end too.

The contract gives the Pacers flexibility with their prospect. They can decline the team option this season but then offer him a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent or if they exercise his team option, he’ll be a restricted free agent the next season. If the Pacers want to keep him around, it should be easy to do so for the foreseeable future.

This puts the team at 15 guaranteed contracts after the addition of Wes Matthews which means the Pacers will likely not be adding anyone else to the team during the season.

Wesley Matthews has ‘Pacers spirit’

The Indiana Pacers didn’t make any league altering trades at the deadline but don’t overlook the coming addition of Wesley Matthews.

Matthews, who was traded to the New York Knicks earlier this week, agreed to a buyout and plans to sign with the Pacers for the veteran minimum once he clears waivers according to multiple media reports.

As with any midseason addition to a group with great chemistry, it’s always important to consider how someone will fit in the locker room. Matthews seems like an ideal culture fit that goes with the organization’s mantra of the 3Ts: toughness, togetherness and trust.

“Perfect pickup for us,” Thad Young told reporters after Thursday’s game. “… Most of all he brings toughness, a defensive mentality we need. He embodies what we do as a team. He has that Pacers spirit in him already.” Continue reading Wesley Matthews has ‘Pacers spirit’

Reports: Pacers to sign Wesley Matthews

The Indiana Pacers will sign Wesley Matthews after he agreed to a buyout from the New York Knicks according to multiple media reports.

Continue reading Reports: Pacers to sign Wesley Matthews

Trade deadline: Pacers acquire second-round pick in trade with Rockets

The Indiana Pacers did the Houston Rockets a favor by taking on Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin in a trade. For their troubles, the Pacers will get a second-round pick from the Rockets in the deadline deal reported by ESPN.

The Pacers will waive both of these players, having no intention of keeping them on the roster. The Rockets motivation is getting below the luxury-tax threshold in the trade.

To make the trade legal, the Pacers do have to send something to the Rockets but it will likely just be a top-55 protected second-round pick that will never actually convey to Houston. Continue reading Trade deadline: Pacers acquire second-round pick in trade with Rockets

Rumors: Pacers made an offer for Mike Conley

The trade deadline is quickly approaching and the Indiana Pacers are showing up in Mike Conley rumors.

Sam Amick and Tony Jones of The Athletic both reported that the Pacers have been in contact with the Memphis Grizzlies about Conley.

Jones reported that Pacers offered one young player and one veteran but the Memphis counter off was far too high. It seems the trade demands for Memphis make this deal unlikely to happen. Continue reading Rumors: Pacers made an offer for Mike Conley

Pacers need to find more opportunities for Myles Turner

Myles Turner has shown some things on the offensive end of the floor over these last two games that he hasn’t in the first three years of his career. The Indiana Pacers just lost their superstar and they need someone to step up.

Turner looks like he can help fill some of that Oladipo-sized void on offense. Now he just needs the ball with some consistency.

In the first half against the Grizzlies, Turner only had three shot attempts. After playing well in the third quarter with 7 points on 3-of-5 shooting and doing his DPOY-candidate thing on the defensive end, he didn’t come back into the game until four minutes were left in the fourth quarter and didn’t attempt another shot until less than one minute was left. This kind of thing just shouldn’t happen as often as it does with a player like Turner.

The lack of consistency in touches for Turner has long been an issue for the Pacers. While his stats may say that his development has been stagnant during his career, it feels more true that it’s his role that hasn’t evolved along with him. Especially when you see him make some of the moves he’s made recently.

Turner waves off Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic to take that last possession ISO of the half and makes a gorgeous hesitation move to blow by the defender and get the dunk. How many centers are making that move? Earlier in the half, he beat Kevin Durant in a one-on-one situation with a pump fake and nailed the shot. You have to find more ways to get a guy like this frequent touches with chances to score.

With no Oladipo, there’s no reason for him to not be involved more often than he currently is. His usage percentage has dropped from 22% in December to 16% in January before the game against the Warriors. He’s taking three less shot attempts per game than he did in the previous month. That trend can’t continue.

Turner, to his credit, is starting to take things into his own hands at times. He’s been aggressive with driving the ball from the perimeter way more in the last two games than he ever has been, especially when it’s been awhile since he’s taken a shot. This was his first shot attempt since four minutes were left in the first quarter against Memphis.

Maybe this is what he needed to do all along, but it’s hard to put the lack of purposeful involvement on Turner, when he was once told he needed to “distribute more” after having the best month of his young career in January 2017 when he averaged 17.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

The purpose of that from Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan at the time was to encourage Turner to make the extra pass, instead of shooting it at every opportunity. While Turner has made many strides as a passer since then, it feels like the pendulum never swung back to Turner being a centerpiece for the Pacers offense. All of these passes in last two games are plays that he likely doesn’t make during his rookie season.

Two of these passes come after he starts to try and create for himself. Giving him the freedom to create more often may allow him to be a better playmaker for others at times as well.

Turner’s starting to make moves off the dribble that are insane for a big man. The amount of space this crossover creates should have McMillan drooling over his young stud. His defender almost falls over on this play!

Ben Pfeifer of 8 points, 9 seconds has making Myles Turner a focal point of the offense as one of his three keys to figuring out the offense without Oladipo.

Let. Myles. Do. More.

It’s always felt like he has a shorter leash than others when it comes to shot selection though this seems to be getting better.

The Pacers are starting to embrace his 3-point shot more and more of late which is good to see. Turner took seven from distance against the Grizzlies and finished by making his last three attempts after missing his first four. The fact that he kept shooting them despite the slow start is huge.

After starting the year off slowly as a 3-point shooter making just seven of his first 31 attempts, he’s made 30 of 63 long-range shots since December (47.6%).

Turner was one of few bright spots in the blowout loss to the Warriors. He was one of only a few players that looked like they belonged on the floor competing against the defending champs. The Pacers have to find more ways to get him opportunities on the offensive end.

Where do the Pacers go from here?

The Indiana Pacers lost Victor Oladipo to a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game. He suffered a ruptured quad tendon that could put him out anywhere from six to twelve months.

There are no adequate words to describe the numbness that comes in the moments and hours directly after witnessing an injury that devastating. Shock, disbelief, clinging to some tiny hope that it isn’t as bad as it seems.

There was no joy in watching the Pacers continue to play after Oladipo was taken out on a stretcher. No anxiety as the game was close in the final minute. None of that mattered much. The Pacers had already lost more than this one game could possibly make up for. Continue reading Where do the Pacers go from here?

Victor Oladipo suffers knee injury, leaves on stretcher

Indiana Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo suffered a devastating knee injury and left on a stretcher during the second quarter in Wednesday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors.

Oladipo was hustling back on defense when suddenly his knee seemed to give out as he was getting close to challenging the play. You can hear Oladipo scream in pain when the play happens.

Pacers trainer quickly covered Oladipo’s knee with a towel after a quick look and called for a stretcher.

The Pacers came out in this game with a mission to show they can compete with the top teams in the East especially after struggling in their first two games against the Raptors. They had played well and with some of their best defense of the season to start but now their focus switches to how long their superstar Oladipo will be out.

The Indiana Pacers have announced that it is a serious right knee injury and that Oladipo will have an MRI tomorrow. No other updates will come tonight from the team officially. Prayers up to the heart and soul of the Pacers.

ESPN reports that Pacers fear a season-ending injury that will require surgery.

Darren Collison is quietly returning to form

The Indiana Pacers dominated the Detroit Pistons in every way imaginable last night as they won by 37 points. One of the many highlights of the night was Darren Collison’s perfect shooting performance as he made all seven of his shot attempts for 19 points.

These shot attempts weren’t wide open attempts. Collison made some impressive shots while also dishing out seven assists with only one turnover.

The fact that he only took his first shot with four minutes left makes his perfect shooting night even more impressive especially with a taller player directly in front of him and the shot clock winding down.

After his first dunk of the season that made the entire bench lose its collective mind and following it up with a step-back 3-pointer, Myles Turner decided to capture the Collison moment in all its glory by pretending to take a picture with his hands. Continue reading Darren Collison is quietly returning to form