“The Best is Next”: 2015-16 Indiana Pacers Season Preview

PG-13 is back! (Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports)
PG-13 is back! (Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports)

Last season: 38-44, 4th, Central Division (9th, Eastern Conference), Missed Playoffs

Notable Acquisitions: G Monta Ellis (free agent, DAL), F/C Jordan Hill (free agent, LAL), F Chase Budinger (free agent, MIN), F Glenn Robinson III (free agent, PHI), F/C Rakeem Christmas (Rookie, Syracuse, via trade w/ CLE), G Toney Douglas (free agent, NOP)

Draft Picks: F/C Myles Turner (Texas, 11th overall), G Joseph Young (Oregon, 43rd overall)

Notable Losses: C Roy Hibbert (LAL), F David West (SAS), F Luis Scola (TOR), G CJ Watson (ORL), F Chris Copeland (MIL), G Donald Sloan (BKN), F Damjan Rudez (MIN)


#DogTags:

Top DOG: Paul George

Star UnderDOG: Monta Ellis


Burning Question: Are the Pacers that depleted at power forward?

paul-george-nba-preseason-detroit-pistons-indiana-pacers-850x560

Frank Vogel is planning to start Paul George at the four this upcoming season. It’s definitely an interesting decision, as the experiment could backfire in a huge way.

George has already expressed desire to remain in his natural position (small forward) but Vogel hasn’t budged. He’s banking on extreme matchup problems on offense and hopes George’s defensive versatility will make a difference.


Storyline:

Let’s not even recap Indiana’s 2014-15 campaign. Without Paul George for all but 5 games, they were damned to a state of mediocrity. Frank Vogel’s blue-collar, veteran bunch just fell short of a playoff berth in the East. In the offseason, however, familiar faces Roy Hibbert, David West, Luis Scola, and CJ Watson all departed (Hibbert was traded but you get the point!).

A remixed version of the Pacers remains, one that will undoubtedly feature an influx of small ball, starting with Paul George making the switch to power forward.

Ahh, it’s great to see PG-13 back on the floor after his horrific injury during a Team USA scrimmage in the summer of 2014. Sure, George played 5 games late in April but that period was utilized so Indy’s superstar could shake off some rust before 2015-16.

PG has looked great throughout the preseason and looks to reclaim his spot as one of the NBA’s elite two-way weapons. For relief, Indiana selected highly touted prospect Myles Turner to do damage on the interior. We labeled Turner as a “boom or bust” talent but so far, he’s shown signs of becoming a future star.

LOL. (Daron Cummings/AP)
LOL. (Darron Cummings/AP)

Turner has already adapted his game to NBA speed but needs to play with more energy to anchor a defense in the long run. Frank Vogel is the perfect, motivational coach. Remember, this is the same guy who got a 110% effort from Roy Hibbert for 1.5 seasons…no easy feat.

For Indy to stay in the postseason hunt, they have to rely on their (usually) consistent defensive principles and maximize an assorted mix of veteran guards and swingmen on the outside.

Explosive scorer Monta “Have It All” Ellis joins a crowded rotation featuring George “Sisqo” Hill, Rodney “50” Stuckey, “Smooth” CJ Miles, and Joseph “I Gets Buckets” Young.

Individually, they each have the ability to take over games, create shots and make difficult shots look commonplace. Collectively, however, it’s a little junky. It’s a guard driven league but this isn’t NBA 2K.

Managing a group of scoring guards who work best with the ball in their hands will be Vogel’s greatest challenge this season. Indy is strong at each guard spot, on paper, and should trot out some creative three-guard lineups with Ellis, Hill and Stuckey pushing the pace, so to speak… :/

On the inside, Ian Mahinmi, Jordan Hill and Turner are the main cogs. This trio is average at best (lacks a true rim protector) and may end up as the deciding factor for Indy’s playoff hopes.

With PG looking like his old self again, the best days lie ahead in the hoosier state. A mediocre season is more likely than anything else but in the East, there’s always the chance of a breakthrough.


Projected Starting 5:


Depth Chart:

PG: G. Hill-Young-Douglas

SG: Ellis-Stuckey

SF: Miles-Budinger-S. Hill-Glenn Robinson III

PF: George-J. Hill-Allen-Christmas

C: Mahinmi-Turner-Whittington

-SOLO Hill is listed as the third SF but that really isn’t the case; Coach Vogel will find playing time for his versatile swingman, even if it is just spot minutes as a defensive stopper

-Turner is up next at the center spot; Mahinmi and JORDAN Hill have the position on lock for now but look for the rook to stand out once he develops more consistency with his back to the basket

-Indy has all of the tools to improve upon an offense that finished 19th in league in pace of play last season; Vogel could get burned playing three-guard sets on D but it’s a risk worth taking to get easy scorers; GEORGE Hill, Ellis and Young, in particular, would shine in an uptempo setting


PG-13:

PG

Paul George has looked incredible this preseason. Without the pressure of being a young star on a title contender, George is playing with a youthful exuberance that is starting to rub off on his teammates. He’s ready to take the reigns and produce one of the best seasons ever produced by anyone who’s donned Pacer blue and gold.

Here’s a taste of what’s in store:


League Pass Alert:

george-hill-paul-george-monta-ellis-nba-preseason-detroit-pistons-indiana-pacers-850x560

Indy isn’t a classic league pass team but with PG’s return and Monta Ellis’s usual, high-octane style, there is a lot of intrigue. If Frank Vogel’s allows his squad to play more freely on the offensive end, look for high point totals all year long. You can also switch over to see if Myles Turner or GEORGE Hill decide to get even more creative with their haircuts.

Indiana is a solid Eastern Conference team to watch before the late-night matchups take shape.


Indiana’s Best Case Scenario: PG-13 plays at an elite level, Myles Turner is ahead of the curve on both ends, the Pacers climb to the 6th spot in the East and upset their way to the Conference Finals (not likely!).

Frank Vogel (USA TODAY Sports)

Indiana’s Worst Case Scenario: Indiana struggles to defend the interior, ends up having too weird a mixture on the perimeter but is still competitive enough to secure a low-lottery selection.


Season Prediction:

4th, Central Division (10th, Eastern Conference), Will Miss Playoffs

“The worst has happened. The best is next.” – Paul George

#DOFGAME #DOG

-Jabari J.

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