10 Things Learned After Pacers Preseason
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INDIANAPOLIS – We are less than a week away from the Indiana Pacers starting their 2017-18 regular season.
The Pacers wrapped up their four-game preseason slate on Tuesday night.
Under second-year head coach Nate McMillan, the Pacers went 3-1 in the preseason, winning all three games in which their regulars played (over the Bucks, Cavs and Maccabi Haifa, a team from the Israeli Super League with hardly any NBA talent).
Of course, the preseason is still the preseason.
When things get real on Wednesday, Oct. 18, the Pacers will be a team that many peg as a fringe playoff team, at best, this year.
What did we learn after the Pacers’ four-game preseason schedule?
- Victor Oladipo is The Guy: It would be a surprise if anyone other than Oladipo led the Pacers in scoring this coming year. Oladipo’s pace in the open floor rivals that of anyone in the NBA. The best news for the Pacers from the preseason: Oladipo was 6-of-12 from three-point range. If Oladipo can reign in his ball handling and shoot the ball at a higher rate, he’s going to have the chance to be an Eastern Conference All-Star this year.
- Defense Still a Concern: On Tuesday night, the Pacers allowed Israeli team Maccabi Haifa to score 26 points in the paint in the first half. This is a team that starts one player over 6-7 and scored 24 total points in the paint in their entire game versus the Jazz last week. Nate McMillan did not like how his team defended the catch against Maccabi Haifa. Keeping Myles Turner on the floor, thus giving the Pacers a rim presence, remains an issue.
- Two Theories on Offense: Nate McMillan was not happy with how his team finished the preseason offensively. Too stagnant, too much one-on-one and not enough quicker ball movement. Myles Turner knows the stationary offense cannot become the regular-season norm, but he has already seen a stark contrast in half-court offense from last year. Said Turner, “The ball stopped a lot last year. We had some guys that can take a lot of guys off the dribble, but I feel like we relied on that too much. This year I feel like we are moving the ball a lot better so far.” And, frankly, the Pacers do not have the individual talent to sit back and rely, consistently, on that late-clock isolation offense.
- Quicker Tempo > Outside Shooting: The Pacers are going to be a much more dynamic team in the open floor this year, but their outside shooting could be very streaky. Specifically, Victor Oladipo and Lance Stephenson have the ability to finish at the rim routinely, but teams are definitely going to sag off these two. For the Pacers to be a true running team, they must be better defensively so Oladipo and Stephenson (who looks in much better shape this year) can get out into the open floor.
- Pacers Love Sabonis: And fans will, too. The 13th overall pick from last year has come over in the Paul George trade and shown that he will be a very reliable big off the bench. Domantas Sabonis averaged 12.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in 20 minutes per game this preseason. A pick-and-roll duo of Stephenson and Sabonis will carry the second unit. Myles Turner is a huge fan of Sabonis and the Lithuanian native could be a pseudo starter for the Pacers, when his production/minutes play out this year.
- Bojan Struggles Mightily: It was an ugly preseason for Bojan Bogdanovic from three-point land. The 37 percent career three-point shooter, connected on just 13.3 percent of treys in three preseason games. If Bogdanovic can’t shoot it more efficiently, he becomes a liability in the starting lineup. The Pacers need him shooting at a high clip, especially because the depth on the wing has already been tested with Glenn Robinson expected to miss at least the first 20 games of the season.
- Second-Team Role for T.J. Leaf: Through the early ups and down of the preseason, the first-round pick will be the four-man when the Pacers turn to their second unit. Leaf was 5-of-8 from three-point range in the preseason. However, his defense and playmaking off the dribble are a major work in progress. With Stephenson and Sabonis likely dominating the ball with the second unit, Leaf should have chances off the ball to make plays thanks to his basketball IQ and spot-up shooting.
- GRIII’s Injury Opens Door for Wilkins: The left ankle injury to Glenn Robinson III meant the Pacers needed to find a new backup wing. That has allowed 37-year-old journeyman Damien Wilkins to seize the opportunity. Wilkins has shot the ball well this month and could very well find his way onto the roster. It remains to be seen just how McMillian will handle the 3-position with the second unit, but Wilkins has probably done enough to earn at least a roster spot, until GRIII returns.
- Extended Training Camp Coming: With the Pacers wanting a four-game preseason schedule this year, that has allowed them a weeklong of practice before the regular season starts next Wednesday. Establishing chemistry and working on conditioning are two areas McMillan wants to key on, along with the offensive and defensive concerns mentioned above.
2017 Pacers Preseason Schedule (3-1 record)
-Wednesday, Oct. 4: Won at Milwaukee, 104-86. (Myles Turner: 17 points, 10 rebounds; Victor Oladipo: 15 points; Lance Stephenson: 17 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists)
-Friday, Oct. 6: Won at Cleveland, 106-102. (Rookie T.J. Leaf led the Pacers with 18 points, including 4-of-5 from three-point range; Domantas Sabonis added 17 off the bench; Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner led the starters with 14 and 12 points, respectively).
-Monday, Oct. 9: Lost at Detroit, 107-96. (The Pacers rested four starters and their top two bench players on Monday night. Veterans Damien Wilkins-14 points and Al Jefferson-12 points led the Pacers in scoring).
-Tuesday, Oct. 10: Beat Maccabi Haifa, 108-89. (Victor Oladipo led seven Pacers in double figures with 18 points, inlcuding 4-of-5 from three-point land, playing against the 2016-17 Israeli Super League runner-up).