Tag Archives: Domantas Sabonis

The Indiana Pacers have never been more fun

The Indiana Pacers (12-9) have had better teams in the past but they’ve never been more fun than this.

Just watch this video. Feel the joy. Buy a home or rent an Airbnb in this lovely neighborhood.

Indiana’s never had more enjoyment from watching the Pacers than with this underdog group of running, gunning, have fun-ing bunch. Almost every game at the Fieldhouse turns into a house party.

The fun all starts with Lance Stephenson, who has averaged over 17 points per game in his last three and has added five assists and eight rebounds in consecutive games.

Stephenson is the Pacers prodigal son, who languishes outside of Indiana when he’s not wearing the blue and gold and thrives in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. He dances and inspires dances. He prances. He plays air guitar. He high-fives the crowd. He head-butts stanchions.

“Coach is doing a good job of letting me play through mistakes,” Stephenson said after tonight’s party of a win against the Orlando Magic. “He lets me be me.”

The Pacers fans wouldn’t have it any other way. Everything that Lance does elicits a louder reaction than if someone else would have done the same. So when he does something special as has been the case often lately, it feels like the roof may collapse.

But the Pacers are this fun for more than just Lance reasons.

Victor Oladipo made his first 11 shots tonight, which included maybe five heat checks that all went in. It got to the point where even he didn’t know what was happening after banking in a 3-pointer.

Domantas Sabonis continues to be gift from the basketball gods, (mostly the god of European big men Arydvas Sabonis). He scored 19 points while taking just seven shots, added eight rebounds and five assists. That crazy play by Lance wouldn’t have been possible without his expert cut at just the right time.

“I don’t know. It just happens,” Domas said of his on-court play with Lance, “… He understands me. It’s just chemistry.”

The Pacers other stud young big man, Myles Turner, was no slouch tonight either as he scored 18 points in the first three quarters, being unleashed from long range with five attempts and three makes. He nearly had four made 3-pointers but his toes were on the line on one attempt.

“The thing I love about this team is that we never stop competing,” Turner said.

Every game is non-stop effort from the Pacers. They may lose some games, but as Turner said, they’re always competing. Whether they’re down 22 in the third quarter or having just lost a lead at the start of the fourth quarter like tonight.

The Magic were up one briefly in the fourth quarter. Then the Pacers went on a 23-5 run.

The Pacers aren’t just a one-man show these days. Anybody is capable of a huge night to lift the team, Bojan Bogdanovic continues to show a more all-around offensive game than many expected, Thad Young is the glue guy, Darren Collison is capable of occasional 30-point nights. They play together and as a unit. They care about each other off the court.

These Pacers are modern. These Pacers are always looking to run. These Pacers love to play together. The Pacers have never been more fun.

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A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity #5: Chemistry is Cooking

For A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity, I will bring a short column that highlights something about this team that gives me hope. The season is long. We need to focus on the positives whether in the midst of a winning streak or the depths of a rough patch. And in this stretch of big (like, HUGE) wins, I thought it best to focus on something that is all too rare in the NBA: noticeable chemistry.

Continue reading A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity #5: Chemistry is Cooking

Stray Pacervations: Odds and Ends of the Indiana Pacers winning streak

Stray Pacervations is intended to shed light on the odds and ends, the small things and possible trends that happen during Indiana Pacers games. Some good. Some bad. Some neither.

The Pacers have won four games in a row, four road games in a row, five out of six overall, and just won all three games in a 4-night stretch. It’s been fun. Let’s dive right in.  Continue reading Stray Pacervations: Odds and Ends of the Indiana Pacers winning streak

Why everybody loves playing with Domantas Sabonis

Game after game, it seems like there are more and more reasons to gush over the performance of Domantas Sabonis.

He’s been called the quarterback of the offense by Thaddeus Young. Nate McMillan said early in the year that they like to run the offense through him while he’s out there. He’s played two games while battling an illness only to produce a couple of his best performances of the season in those contests.  Continue reading Why everybody loves playing with Domantas Sabonis

Lance Stephenson makes ’em dance their way to a comeback victory

INDIANAPOLIS — After being down by 22 points with less than six minutes left in the third quarter, the Indiana Pacers outscored the Detroit Pistons 51-22 the remainder of the game to win in impressive fashion by a final of 107-100 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Pacers were kick-started by none other than the infectious energy of Lance Stephenson in the fourth quarter as he scored all 13 of his points and grabbed six rebounds in the final 12 minutes.  Continue reading Lance Stephenson makes ’em dance their way to a comeback victory

The Indiana Pacers pick-and-roll coverage on James Harden was doomed from the start

The Indiana Pacers got off to a slow start last night against the Houston Rockets and never recovered. After a first quarter where they were outscored 35-18, the Pacers ended up being beat by a final score of 118-95.

The Pacers biggest problem was dealing with the Houston Rockets best player in James Harden.  Continue reading The Indiana Pacers pick-and-roll coverage on James Harden was doomed from the start

For Myles Turner to grow, more opportunities are necessary

Should Myles Turner be considered in the NBA’s group of future frontcourt stars along with Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid?

If the Indiana Pacers want to find out, they’re going to need to give Myles Turner the ball. With a lot more consistency and frequency.  Continue reading For Myles Turner to grow, more opportunities are necessary

Stray Pacervations: The Good, The Bad and the In-Between

Stray Pacervations is intended to shed light on small things and possible trends that happen during Indiana Pacers games. Some good. Some bad. Some in between.

1. Domas Sabonis rebounding and pushing the pace. There are so many things to love about Sabonis’s game already, but this might be my current favorite. When Sabonis grabs a defensive rebound and no defender is near, instead of pausing and finding the outlet pass, Sabonis will immediately turn into a dribble while looking for an open man. It’s a small thing but it helps the Pacers gain a little bit of extra time for their budding transition offense.  Continue reading Stray Pacervations: The Good, The Bad and the In-Between

Two-Ahh: Pacers cruise to easy win over Kings

Domantas Sabonis continues his impressive start with the Indiana Pacers.

Within the first seven minutes of the game, Sabonis had nine rebounds to go with six points.

At the end of the first half with the Pacers up 55-30, Sabonis had yet another double double already with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists.  Continue reading Two-Ahh: Pacers cruise to easy win over Kings

Two-Ahh: Pacers run past the Wolves while setting a franchise record in shooting percentage

In some games, the box score simply speaks for itself. In this game, the Pacers box score was a work of art.

The Pacers shot a franchise record 66.7% on their way to 130 points as they beat the Minnesota Timberwolves for their first road win of the season.  Continue reading Two-Ahh: Pacers run past the Wolves while setting a franchise record in shooting percentage

Two-Ahh: Pacers comeback effort falls short against Heat

In the middle of the third quarter, the Pacers trailed by 21 points, and it looked like the fourth quarter was going to be 12 minutes of garbage time.

But the Pacers had other ideas.

These new-look Pacers refused to give up, cutting the deficit all the way to just two points with 12 seconds to play, but the Heat made both free throws to ice the game and won by a final of 112-108.  Continue reading Two-Ahh: Pacers comeback effort falls short against Heat

iPacers Discuss: Season Preview

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?  Continue reading iPacers Discuss: Season Preview

Leaf leads comeback with 18 points in the fourth quarter

Pacers first-round draft pick TJ Leaf scored 18 points in the fourth quarter as the Pacers overcame a 10-point deficit with six minutes remaining to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-102. The Pacers are now 2-0 in the preseason.

“This is my second NBA game,” Leaf said after the victory. “It definitely gives me some confidence knowing if I play my role I can be successful.”

Leaf did most of his damage from beyond the arc as the rookie hit four 3-pointers in the quarter. During Summer League, Leaf had not yet adjusted to the longer above-the-break NBA 3-pointer and missed every non-corner three he took, but he seems used to the distance now. Three of his long balls were near the top of the key.

“It was good to see him knock down some shots and stay aggressive,” said Nate McMillan, “We drew up a play for him and he came off and nailed that three, so that was a big shot. A very confident kid, and that’s how we want him to play, don’t worry about mistakes, stay aggressive and play the game, and I thought he did that.”

When Leaf hits his 3-point shot, he can then use his drive game as defenders have to close out hard on his shot attempts. Leaf took advantage on a couple of drives in the fourth as he earned a trip to the foul line on the first and scored on a layup on the second.

While he did his damage against Cavaliers bench guys like Derrick Williams and Channing Frye, it’s encouraging to see the rookie take advantage of these kinds of matchups. This is where Leaf can make his mark early in his career on the offensive end. He’ll struggle on defense as he’s slow on the perimeter and needs to add strength inside. This was a good sign for Leaf to show he can contribute early, as increased struggles may have led the Pacers to go back to Al Jefferson as the backup center and move Domantas Sabonis to backup power forward.

Sabonis was another bright spot in game two of the season as he scored 17 points in only 18 minutes, making six of his eight shot attempts and adding seven rebounds. Sabonis shot under 40% in his rookie season, primarily because he was limited to the perimeter. With the Pacers, his post game should be utilized much more, which should lead to a higher field goal percentage for Sabonis.

Other notes from game two:
Glenn Robinson III’s injury is a missed opportunity. Bojan Bogdanovic has struggled with his shot in his first two games as a Pacer. Bogdanovic has only one made 3-point shot in nine attempts and it was banked in. If GR3 was healthy and playing well, he might be making some noise to move into the starting lineup. Instead, he’s only able to watch and rehab as he awaits his ankle to heal up. Hopefully, he can return at full strength and still have a breakout season that he seemed poised for before the injury.

Damien Wilkins is going to make the team. McMillan played the 37-year-old for 24 minutes, more than just about anyone in the second preseason game. Alex Poythress played only four minutes, while Ben Moore and Jarrod Uthoff have still yet to see the floor. You have to question McMillan’s decision making here as there’s little to be gained by playing Wilkins that much instead of the young guys that could gain tremendous experience playing at an NBA pace. It would be beneficial to the Pacers to see what they have in Moore, Uthoff, and Poythress in these next two games in an actual game setting.

Myles Turner continues to look awesome. Early in the game the Pacers were struggling to keep up with the LeBron James-less Cavs, but Turner was a bright spot. This may be a common occurrence when the Pacers play contenders this season. In one short two-minute stretch, Turner scored a basket on a fadeaway in the post, made a great recovery on defense to block a Kevin Love layup attempt, made a perfect pass for an assist to wide open Oladipo for a layup, and then hit another jump shot on the Pacers next offensive possession. He finished with 12 points in 21 minutes.

The Pacers are intent on shooting more 3-pointers. The Pacers had one of the highest percentages from distance last season but were at the bottom of the league in attempts. The Pacers are averaging 30 3-point attempts in the first two preseason games so far this year and while the results haven’t been great, it’s good to see the Pacers embracing the long range game. Percentages should improve as Bojan finds his jumper again and Turner’s shot starts falling, but players like Lance Stephenson and Victor Oladipo will likely shoot plenty of threes, but remain inconsistent on results. This would still be better than Stephenson and Oladipo settling for midrange jumpers instead.

iPacers Discuss: Grading Every Off-Season Transaction

The Indiana Pacers have been in a major state of transition since Paul George declared his intentions to depart the franchise. So how has Kevin Pritchard fared with his moves this off-season? 

The iPacers team offers their thoughts on each of the moves here.

The Draft: TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Edmond Sumner

Joe Betz: B

Drafting T.J. Leaf in the first round was a safe pick. It wasn’t exciting, but as the Pacers front court depth dwindles after releasing Rakeem Christmas and Lavoy Allen into free agency, and with Al Jefferson likely waived at the end of this upcoming season with the last year of his contract only partially guaranteed. Leaf as a skilled big man with developing range is solid. Passing on John Collins and Caleb Swanigan might come back to haunt Indiana, though…(same with O.G. Anunody). No pressure, T.J.!

Adding Ike Anigbogu and Edmond Sumner in the second round elevates this draft grade from a C to a B for me.  Both Anigbogu and Sumner were pegged as first round talents going into last season, with Ike even picked to go to the Pacers in the first round by a few mocks leading up to the draft. Sumner’s ACL injury pushed him out of first round discussions almost immediately, whereas many were surprised that Ike slid as far as he did because of his knee ailments.

Anigbogu and Sumner have potential to be steals with starting-caliber talent, and Leaf could become a contributing member off the bench as early as mid-season, though it’s likely he will not play much until 2018-2019.

Ross Blauvelt: B+

Tough to give it a grade now. I’m more the wait and see in 2-3 years how they develop. But off the cuff. B+ for the Pacers. Tough drafting at 18. No real game changers so you have to go for upside. Leaf at 6’10” is a floor stretcher and will play multiple positions. Young and skinny, and maybe not the guy most wanted but his Summer League play intrigued. I expect him to get some solid minutes this year as the 9th or 10th man in the rotation. Maybe an Austin Croshere type? Anigbogu and Sumner are fantastic 2nd round picks. Players with potential if they can stay healthy. That’s what a second-round pick is for. Sumner is the future at PG 6’6″ and athletic. Anigbogu is a beast already defensively, just wait if he develops an offensive game.

Derek Kramer: B-

I don’t love the TJ Leaf pick. Though he showed he has an array of offensive skills in the Summer League, he’s got a long way to go on the defensive end. Unless Thaddeus Young is traded, it’s hard to see Leaf finding many minutes on the court this season as McMillan is unlikely to trust a rookie with no defensive skills (i.e. Georges Niang last season). In the end if he can stretch his range out past the NBA 3-point line, the Pacers found an Austin Croshere-clone at 18 and that’s not bad for where they were picking.

Anigbogu and Sumner are perfect low-risk, high-reward picks for the second round and that raises the draft grade for me. Getting Sumner on a 2-way contract that allows the Pacers to keep his rights while he heals and then plays for the Mad Ants but not take up a NBA roster spot makes it even better. Anigbogu is worth the risk as he could potentially be the Pacers needed enforcer down the line.

Paul George traded for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis

Derek Kramer: C

Paul George and his agent did all they could to torpedo his trade value and this grade would be higher if Pritchard showed the patience that he was preaching after draft night. Ultimately the deal is fine as the Pacers get two contributors that should be starters either immediately or in the near future, but there’s simply no way OKC doesn’t still have this deal on the table a few days later once Gordon Hayward had decided where he was playing. Maybe Ainge still doesn’t make a good enough offer but better to at least hear it out. No draft picks, not even a second-round selection doesn’t help either.

Joe Betz: B-

Paul George, through his agent, deliberately tanked his trade value to make the Lakers offer more appealing. That factor has to be considered when evaluating this trade.

Returning two starters, each lottery picks beginning to enter their prime or several years from their prime, is a solid return for Indiana. Victor Oladipo will begin to enter his prime through his current contract, and Domantas Sabonis started 66 games as a rookie for a playoff team in the West. Both can play and both have room to become better. No trade was going to return a player of Paul George’s caliber—this trade swung for talent and upside, and I think it connected.

This would be higher if the Pacers were able to also return a draft pick, which would at least give the Pacers another asset. Who knows what offers were truly on the table, and who knows if the Pacers might have been able to squeeze out a better deal if they had waited? We can only really judge what the Pacers returned within the context of PG’s desire to be traded—specifically his desire to be traded to LA.

Ross Blauvelt: A-

All those rumors were just that. Rumors. His value was torpedoed by the LA rumors since everyone knew he had to be moved. To get back two former lottery picks. One just a second-year guy who Pritchard sees as a future “Davis” brother enforcer type and the other an athletic SG who most of Indiana already knew. Just like Pritchard said, young, energetic and trending toward upside and surprise type players. You weren’t getting a PG-type player back in the trade and draft picks are even more of a hit or miss thing. This year’s draft felt like everyone in the top 10 were can’t miss prospects but that’s not always the case. A known commodity player is sometimes better than an unknown draft pick. A surprise trade for sure but after it sank in, I’m happy with it. Oh, and bonus keeping PG out west. That OKC vs IND game will be very interesting.

Darren Collison signs 2-year, $20-million deal (Partially guaranteed second season)

Joe Betz: C-

DC’s return shows the Pacers have engaged in a holding pattern in order to find a long-term point guard. His contract allows the Pacers to move away from Collison easily next season, so that is terrific, but Collison’s recent off-court issues cloud my perception of his value in this trade. He is a middle-of-the-pack starting point guard who will not win you many games, but he also won’t lose you many.

Ross Blauvelt: D+

Not sure the thought here. Collison has already be on the team in the past, has off court issues, then with the Joseph signing…. i guess it shores up that position but wouldn’t it be just as good to let Joe Young finally have a crack at the lineup?

Derek Kramer: C

I’m surprised to be the highest grade here. Collison is fine as the placeholder point guard until Cory Joseph or another future becomes the future starter next year, but signing a guy that has pleaded guilty of domestic violence is interesting after waiving Monta Ellis for smoking weed. I’d rather the Pacers have taken a chance on a young point guard like Tyler Ennis or Pierre Jackson, but Collison will be fine for the year or two that he’s here and his deal keeps future cap space open. He shoots much better than last time he was here which will be helpful for the starting unit’s spacing. 

Bojan Bogdanovic signs 2-year, $21-million deal (Partial guarantee on second season)

Joe Betz: C+

I like Bojan’s game, but his impact on the floor diminishes greatly if his shot cools. He struggles to defend more athletic wings and bang with more physical fours, so positionally, he is almost always targeted on defense. In some ways, he reminds me of Al Jefferson regarding his potential impact on a game: if he is on, he will sustain your lead or build it, but if he is off, he becomes catastrophically bad. This was the second “holding pattern” signing of the summer. The Pacers will seek long-term point guard and wing options moving forward…you know, just the two positions on the court that make or break your ability to win in the modern NBA.

Derek Kramer: B

Another veteran signing that likely won’t be here long, another fine addition to the team. My only issue with it is if he takes away minutes that should be going to Glenn Robinson III after McMillan said the starting job was Bojan’s to start off when training camp begins. Hopefully this was just a way to motivate GR3. Bogdanovic can shoot and will add spacing. I’d like this move more if he would play small ball four more often than it seems this roster will allow. If not for the CJ sign-and-trade, I’d rather the Pacers have kept Miles instead, but Bojan’s deal is short and very small guarantee on the second season will allow the Pacers to move on if they choose to after just one season.

Ross Blauvelt: B

Losing a shooter in CJ you need a new shooter with this bunch. Bojan is that albeit weaker all around compared to CJ Miles. Only other issue I see is it may take minutes away from Glenn and I really want him to have his shot this year.

CJ Miles sign-and-trade for Cory Joseph 

Joe Betz: A

This is potentially the best move of the Pacers off-season so far. Joseph provides a potential long-term option at point guard whose skillset compliments both Turner and Oladipo. He can defend his position, and though he is not a great shooter, teams do have to respect his ability to score. It will be interesting to note if the Pacers like what they see and then bite by offering a multi-year deal, as Joseph does have a player option for the 2018-2019 season. Is Joseph more of a “system” player whose skillset is improved by excellent coaching, or is he talented enough to thrive in multiple environments and roles?

Going into next year, I want Glenn Robinson to earn starting minutes. Is he a starter in this league? Let’s find out. Come on, Nate!

Ross Blauvelt: A

Love this. Would love to still have CJ though too. But seems the Pacers and he were going in different directions. Plus sending him to a winning opportunity is nice for him. Now Joseph, a perennial backup, gives the PG position some stability and possible starter. Definite improvement in the backup PG minutes if that is where he goes.

Derek Kramer: A-

Getting Joseph for CJ Miles is a great deal for the Pacers as they didn’t seem interested in bringing him back. Only an A- because it ends the dream of Lance Stephenson playing point guard.

Bonus Round: Waiving Monta Ellis

Grade: A+ from Everybody

Who starts for the Indiana Pacers in 2017?

The Indiana Pacers roster is starting to take shape after many changes to the team in the first couple of weeks of the off-season.

Additions:

Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Darren Collison, TJ Leaf, Bojan Bogdanovic, Ike Anigbogu, Edmond Sumner

Subtractions:

Paul George, Monta Ellis, CJ Miles, Jeff Teague, Lavoy Allen, Rakeem Christmas 

As the Pacers begin their “rebirth,” who are the Pacers going to start next season?

After the press conference introducing Oladipo, Sabonis and Collison, Nate McMillan said the only starters that were for certain were Oladipo and Myles Turner. After that, “we’ll see.”

Today, McMillan said that Bogdanovic will start training camp as the starting small forward. “It’s his job to lose,” said McMillan.

Here’s some different options that TJ Pacers can look at with their current roster:

Start the Vets:
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Myles Turner

Currently, it seems this is the most likely starting lineup, though it’s surprising that McMillan didn’t list Young among his for-sure starters when he was among the most important players for the Pacers last season. This may mean the Pacers are looking to move Young before the season. If they move Young, Sabonis likely takes the starting power forward spot.

Start the Youth:
PG: Cory Joseph
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Glenn Robinson III
PF: Domantas Sabonis
C: Myles Turner

If the Pacers look to move some of their added veterans at the deadline, this could be the lineup by the end of the season. Robinson seems like the most likely to earn his spot over the incoming veteran as the fourth-year player has consistently shown improvement from year to year and performed well starting in place of George last season. Even if the Pacers keep their roster intact this season, the lineup may end up like the next one before too long.

Middle Ground:
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Glenn Robinson III
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Myles Turner

The Pacers would be wise to see if Robinson can handle a full-time starting role before he enters free agency next season. With the way young wings always get paid in free agency, the Pacers have to find out if Robinson is worth investing $15 million per season. If they don’t start him, he may be cheaper next season or he could look for a better opportunity elsewhere.

Let’s Get Weird:
PG: Lance Stephenson
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Glenn Robinson III
PF: Bojan Bogdanovic
C: Myles Turner

Starting Point Lance seems to have completely died now that Collison and Joseph have joined the team, but this unit that surrounds Stephenson with shooters could score a lot of points. Oladipo could guard opposing point guards and Stephenson would run the offense. Even with Joseph, Stephenson should be running the second unit most of the time as the first man off the bench.

A Little Less Weird:
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Lance Stephenson
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Myles Turner

A Little More Weird Super Small Ball
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Lance Stepenson
PF: Glenn Robinson III
C: Myles Turner

Here’s a couple unconventional and unlikely options with Stephenson at small forward.

Pacers begin their rebirth and introduce Oladipo, Sabonis and Collison

The Indiana Pacers introduced Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Darren Collison yseterday as the Pacers post Paul George era began. Here’s some quotes and what we can takeaway from the press conference.

If you missed the press conference, you can watch it in its entirety here.

Kevin Pritchard on Paul George: 

Pritchard began with nothing but praises for what George meant to the organization. We wish him (Paul George) the best. Some great plays over the last seven years. It’s tough, but we have to move on.”

Pritchard says he spoke with George on multiple occasions. It was a private conversation. He said PG wishes the Pacers well and wishes it didn’t go the way it did. “Paul is a very caring person. I think he wishes this would have been a little different.”

Pritchard on Oladipo and Sabonis:

“Both are winners. That’s why both were lottery picks, that’s why we sought them out to be part of this deal.”

Pritchard said he wants tough, togetherness, smarts, fliers, and young players going forward who compete night in and night out. New guys have the balance between rookies and experience. He made it clear that he sought these players out instead of only having teams making offers.

On trade rumors:

Pritchard: Less than 5% of rumors were true. Put out to the media for a reason. Probably not going to happen or wasn’t real. Boston offered the rights to Larry Bird even (joke).

On the team in general:

Pritchard: “I want to build this organization & have five guys that play together. We feel these guys are top-level talent.”

Pritchard: “This is a rebirth. We’re excited about the future. We wanted tough kids & guys who play together…We didn’t want to go down to the bottom. We want to be a competitive team. Everybody’s saying we have to go to the bottom; that’s not true. The Pacers don’t start at the bottom. We want to compete next year.”

Pritchard: Lots of models on really bad, competitive, or cap out. Our focus is on growth in front, with good kids all about the team and a surprise to the upside.

On making the Playoffs:

Pritchard: Until we know what the team is, no limit or ceiling on this team. Not sure what ‘team’ goals are yet. (Vague, but in the east, playoffs aren’t that far off)

More Changes to come? 

McMillan: Pritchard isn’t finished building the team.

Pritchard: There are free agents and trades that we’re still looking at. “Shooting is something I’d really like to add to this roster … Shooting is of imperative importance.” (literally an hour later, Bojan Bogdanovic is signed)

On Darren Collison:

McMillan: “He will be looked upon to lead us. Darren will be an old vet to lead this roster.”

Collison on how he’s changed since he was a Pacer the first time: I can definitely shoot better than last time in Indiana and more comfortable as a leader. Time in Sacramento wasn’t ideal.

Welcome back to Indiana Oladipo:

Oladipo: “To come home, there’s no feeling like it. To get off that plane the other day and realize I know where I’m at, there’s no feeling like it. This is where it all started. I’m a Hoosier.” (while wearing a ‘feathery’ cap, hope his jumper this year is feathery)

Did the IU connection influence Oladipo the signing?

Pritchard: Not at all.

Oladipo: IU fans are already there anyway.

Oladipo on if he there’s anything to his game we haven’t been able to see yet: “Just wait and see. (Smirk) Love the opportunity. Nothing like playing for the home team.”

 

Welcome Domantas Sabonis:

Sabonis: “At first I was in shock, but I’m excited for the opportunity. Ready for the season.”

Pritchard: Sabonis is a “great screen setter” and “underrated passer.” He can be one of five guys on a floor who can make plays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin Pritchard found what he was looking for in Victor Oladipo

For a couple of weeks, we heard non-stop rumors about Paul George. Would it be Boston? Maybe some high draft picks, Bradley and plan for the future. Could it be Cleveland? Maybe a 3-team deal with Kevin Love for draft picks again. Maybe Denver? Gary Harris could come back to Indiana. How about Portland? Loads of mid-first-round picks and a role player? Or just ship him where he wants to go in Los Angeles? Late-round firsts and Julius Randle is all they’ll offer? Pass.

Fast forward to June 30th hours before free agency officially starts, and I bet not a single fan or NBA junkie was expecting to hear Oklahoma City and Paul George spoken in the same breath. But Ramona Shelburne tweeted it (Woj was waiting to start his new ESPN gig at midnight) and the madness became reality.

Paul George was going to OKC for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. No draft picks involved in the deal. The Pacers made the trade official today.

While we all have our opinions on Kevin Pritchard should have done or should have taken, we’ll never know what any of the other offers actually were. We’ll hear rumblings, especially from Boston, but only Pritchard knows what he had on the table and why he felt like he couldn’t wait another week before pulling the trigger on the OKC deal.

While the trade has been mostly panned by critics, there are a few things to consider.

First: The draft isn’t a sure fire thing. Sure a top-15 pick is more likely to warrant a higher caliber player, but busts outnumber the success stories in some drafts. A known commodity that has some NBA experience and still has room to grow is sometimes better than an unknown draft pick. Even most of the rumored offered didn’t include a top-15 pick anyway.

Second: The OKC front office is one of the most esteemed in the league. They viewed Oladipo and Sabonis as obviously valuable. They just gave Oladipo a 4-year, $84 million contract extension. You don’t give that to a player you don’t think is any good. And they spent a first-round pick on Sabonis last year and it’s unlikely they were ready to give up on him after just one season.

“We feel very strongly about the potential Victor and Domantas bring to our team and what they mean for the future of the franchise,” said Pritchard in the Pacers statement officially announcing the trade. “Both are highly competitive, highly skilled and both are winners. That is why both were lottery picks, that is why we sought them out to be part of this deal.”

Of the three big names traded in the offseason (Chris Paul, Paul George, Jimmy Butler), Oladipo might be the best over Patrick Beverly and Zach LaVine.

So what are the Pacers getting in Oladipo and Sabonis?

You can read about why you should be cautiously optimistic about Sabonis here.

Victor Oladipo, 25, returns to Indiana where he spent three years collegiately down the road at Indiana University.

With a new era emerging for the Pacers organization, Pritchard has already told us what he wants the new identity for this Pacers team to look like.

“I think if you look at some of the teams that are successful, it gets a little position-less, and they just have flyers all over the court,” Pritchard said in his opening press conference as president of basketball operations. “It’s drive and kick and shoot a lot of threes, and then back on defense you can switch. I’d like to get more to that.”

He also emphasized physicality and toughness.

Let’s start with shooting, Oladipo, who averaged 15.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game last season, has been steadily improving his jump shot each year of his career as his shooting percentages have gone up after each season. He’s gone from shooting 41.9% in his rookie season to 44.2% overall and from 32.7% as a rookie to 36.1% from 3-point range.

Despite popular belief to the contrary, Oladipo can shoot the 3-pointer, he’s just incredibly inconsistent. He’s similar to CJ Miles in the past in that he’ll go through stretches where he can’t miss, but then it’ll seem like he hasn’t made a three for weeks right after. These are his monthly percentages splits from long range:

October: 25%
November: 44.2%
December: 25%
January: 35.8%
February: 25%
March: 49.2%
April: 18.2%
Playoffs: 34.4%

If he can find some consistency with his shot, he might push that 3-point percentage up to 38-40% where defensives will have to respect his outside shot. This will be paramount to his long-term success as a Pacer.

This past season spent alongside ball dominant Russell Westbrook gave him plenty of opportunity to play off the ball and spot up more, albeit at the detriment of his driving preference. His catch-and-shoot ability has definitely improved.

Oladipo is known for having a great work ethic, so if he never finds a consistent shot it won’t be from a lack of trying.

On defense, Oladipo definitely fits the bill as a player that can switch onto multiple positions and in the defensive-minded mold Pritchard wants. He receives a handful of votes each year for the all-defensive teams and he’ll be a definite improvement defensively for the Pacers at the shooting guard position. So long, Monta Ellis.

The fact that he can play both ends of the court is best part about his game. He won’t be a liability on either end though he has room to improve in both areas. Per NBAWowy, the Thunder were a net 7.1 points per 100 possessions better with Oladipo on the court than off.

You just might not want him to be guarding any children.

If he spends time on the court with Lance Stephenson, Oladipo can guard point guards while Stephenson can run the offense on one end but guard bigger wings on the other.

Oladipo can also be a ferocious finisher at the rim as he won the Dunk of the Year at the first NBA Awards show and he’s competed in a slam dunk contest in the past.

As former Pacers player and current announcer Clark Kellogg once said, “Victor Oladipo is like a baby’s bottom, smooth and sometimes explosive.” At times, he does make poor decisions on his aggressive drives as he averaged nearly as many turnovers as assists (2.6 assists and 1.8 turnovers) last season. His assist numbers were career lows; however, that’s due to playing with Westbrook who ran everything in OKC.

But what is Oladipo’s ceiling? He’s now been in the league for four full seasons. Can he become more than a solid starter or rotation player? Is he just a great sixth man? The Pacers have him under contract for the next four years to figure out if he can become more. Time will tell if the Pacers bet on Oladipo was a good one.