The Indiana Pacers are coming off a 2018-19 NBA campaign in which they saw their star player, Victor Oladipo, go down with a quadriceps tendon tear in January, which resulted in the Pacers winning 48 games and being bounced out of the first round of the playoffs.
Now, Indiana is heading into the 2019-20 season with high hopes, particularly after a summer in which the Pacers swung a trade for T.J. Warren and landed both Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb via free agency.
Of course, Indy’s success this year is almost exclusively dependent on Oladipo’s health, so that is the major question mark for the club.
Here are the three biggest storylines for the Pacers going into this coming 2019-20 NBA season.
3. The bench
Outside of Oladipo’s recovery, Indiana’s biggest worry right now is its lack of a bench.
The Pacers lost numerous key players this offseason, as Darren Collison retired, Tyreke Evans was suspended, and Wesley Matthews and Cory Joseph both departed in free agency.
Not that those guys are world-beaters or anything, but they at least provided Indiana with some decent depth, which the Pacers no longer have.
Indy now has to rely heavily on unproven youngsters such as Aaron Holiday, T.J. Leaf and rookie big man Goga Bitadze off the pine, a problem that will be even more noticeable over the first couple of months while Oladipo is sidelined.
The Pacers can always make a trade here and there to shore up their bench, but at the moment, one cannot deny that the lack of depth is a concern, regardless of how talented their starting lineup will look once Oladipo returns in this 2019-20 NBA season.
2. The progression of Myles Turner
Is this as good as Myles Turner is going to get?
We know that Turner is a very solid all-around player and a terrific defender. He averaged 13.3 points and 7.2 rebounds this past season and led the league with 2.7 blocks a night.
But Turner’s lack of overall progression since his rookie year is a bit concerning.
Not that Turner isn’t good already, because he is, but he is probably the second-best player on the Pacers with Oladipo healthy. It’s debatable as to whether or not he is good enough to be the second-best player on a title-contending team.
I have always thought of Turner as an Al Horford type, except without the facilitating ability, which is a big thing. If he was also a guy who could run the offense like Horford, there wouldn’t be as much concern. But he isn’t, which has me believing that Turner really needs to improve as a scorer, something he hasn’t really done over the past couple of years.
1. Victor Oladipo’s return
Obviously, this is the elephant in the room: when will Oladipo come back, and how effective will he be when he does?
The general consensus is that Oladipo will make his return some time in December or January. Given how serious of an injury he had, it’s probably going to take him at least a month (if not more) to get back into game shape.
Only two other players in NBA history (that we know of) have had this specific injury: Charles Barkley and Tony Parker. The difference is that both of those guys were at the ends of their careers. Oladipo, on the other hand, is just 27 years old, so he is in uncharted territory.
When he is right, there is no doubting that Oladipo is one of the best two-way players in the NBA, right up there with the best shooting guards in the game.
But that’s just it: whether or not Oladipo will actually be “right” is the big question. If he is, the Pacers could win the East in the 2019-20 NBA season.