The Indiana Pacers are coming off of a 2018-19 campaign that you can’t help but feel was incomplete.
It was clear that the Pacers were one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference during the first half of the season, but a season-ending quad injury to Victor Oladipo in late January thwarted their chances of making a playoff run.
But now, Oladipo is on the mend, and Indiana is on the rise.
The Pacers entered the offseason with a lot of money to spend, and while they weren’t able to land any of the top-tier free agents, they did as much as they possibly could to improve the team.
It started when Indiana swung a trade for forward T.J. Warren on the day of the draft, and then later that night, the Pacers selected Georgian big man Goga Bitadze with the 18th overall pick.
Obviously, Indy still had work that needed to be done, so it then went and landed both Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb in free agency. The Pacers did lose Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic in the process, but if Warren and Brogdon stay healthy, you can’t help but feel like Indiana upgraded this summer,
In an Eastern Conference that has gotten quite a bit weaker this summer with Kawhi Leonard heading out West, the Pacers may very well be the early favorites to represent the East in the 2020 NBA Finals.
No, they aren’t a media darling, so they probably won’t get that type of respect, but that’s flat out wrong, because this is a very good basketball team.
I will say that Indiana does need some depth, as it lost numerous pieces such as Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Wesley Matthews and Tyreke Evans (Evans was suspended) and didn’t do much to add to its bench, but the Pacers are obviously hoping for guys like T.J. Leaf and Aaron Holiday to take steps forward, and who knows? Maybe Bitadze will give Indiana something during his rookie campaign (if he comes over to the NBA next season, that is).
But honestly, right now, the East as a whole features a bunch of rosters that lack depth. The Boston Celtics lost just about all of their depth this summer. The Philadelphia 76ers still don’t have a bunch. The Milwaukee Bucks lost Brogdon to the Pacers.
Taking that into consideration, Indiana is basically just one of a cluster of teams that need to add more pieces, but where the Pacers may hold an edge over everyone else is fit.
This Indy roster just seems to fit together, as the Pacers have a lot of length and athleticism and great defensive potential, plus decent perimeter shooting.
Of course, just about all of Indiana’s hopes for next season hinge on the health of Oladipo, as we don’t really know how he is going to come back from this quad tear, an injury that only Charles Barkley and Tony Parker have experienced before him (and they were much older).
But it’s hard not to love what the Pacers have done this summer, putting a reliable, incredibly efficient scorer in Brogdon next to Oladipo and adding a much bigger offensive threat than Young in Warren. Getting Lamb for three years at $10 million a year was also a phenomenal move.
Based on everything Indiana has accomplished, it deserves an A-minus for its summer.
Again, there are still some pieces the Pacers need to add. They absolutely need more proven depth, particularly in the frontcourt. But Indiana is unquestionably one of the best teams in the East.
Hats off to Kevin Pritchard for a job well done.