5 Things Learned From First Half Of Pacers Season
Andy Lyons | Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS – The midway point of the NBA season is here for the Indiana Pacers (21-20).
Even with the All-Star break still a month away, the Pacers have played 41 of their 82 games with mid-January now approaching.
By just about anyone’s standards, the Pacers have been a surprise team in the league.
What have we learned about Nate McMillan’s second season as the head coach of the Pacers?
Indiana is on pace to win 42 games this year. That’s a far cry from the low 30 numbers almost everyone was predicting for this revamped roster.
Credit should be handed out to the roster construction of Kevin Pritchard and the meshing together of Nate McMillan, which have the Pacers in a position for a playoff berth this season.
When Victor Oladipo is healthy, this is a team that looks capable of possibly winning a playoff series this spring.
Should expectations be re-set for the Pacers?
Probably not, but the first half of the season has shown that the Pacers have a core building here that could speed up the rebuild that came following the Paul George trade.
How much has Victor Oladipo meant to the Pacers this year?
They are 21-15 with him. And they are 0-5 without him, losing by an average of 12-plus points in those games, including some of the uglier offensive performances of the season.
Oladipo has to be one of the frontrunners for NBA’s Most Improved Player. He’s averaging 24.6 points per game, 5.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, while shattering his career-shooting numbers, particularly by connecting on 41 percent of his three pointers.
When late-game situations have arisen for the Pacers, Oladipo has more than often delivered.
The opportunity here with the Pacers, plus Oladpio’s strong commitment to an improved self over the summer, has made quite the marriage in Vic returning to this state.
Myles Turner’s Stagnant Development
Injuries aside, Myles Turner has not made the jump many expected in his third NBA season.
His numbers (13.9 points per game, 6.5 rebounds) are actually down from starting 81 games last year.
With Turner currently out with a right elbow injury, he’s missed 8 of 42 games this season.
While Turner is protecting the rim at a really high clip (he ranks 2nd in the NBA with 2.24 blocks per game), the offensive development has not been there.
Turner continues to settle for his patented perimeter looks and has not made strides in becoming a more consistent low-post/around the rim scoring threat.
At the age of 21, and with a tremendous work ethic, Turner could still blossom into a more versatile offensive threat, one that plays truer to his 6-11 frame.
But we haven’t see that yet this season and it’s an area that is holding the Pacers back from becoming a top-4 potential seed in the NBA.
The Other Guy In The Trade
When talking about the future of the Indiana Pacers, the name Domantas Sabonis should be front and center (alongside Victor Oladipo and still Myles Turner).
Sabonis was certainly not just a ‘throw-in’ when the Paul George trade was announced last June.
The 21-year-old big guy has been outstanding in coming off the bench to average 12.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
Indiana has received a high-level of skill from Sabonis, allowing Nate McMillan to be really creative in using their ‘backup’ center.
Sabonis excels at scoring in the post, can face up and is also a guy who you can play through as a passer in the half-court offense.
The Pacers have a budding big man in Sabonis, who continues to be a reliable option off the bench, and in occasionally closing out games.
Defensive Concerns Remain
If you are re-setting the bar for the 2017-18 Pacers in the second half of the year, this is an area for improvement.
The Pacers have not been playoff-caliber on the defensive end of the floor (20th in points allowed, 23rd in field goal percentage defense).
This is easily where the loss of Paul George has been most felt.
Indiana lacks a dominant/long wing defender, which could be improved if Glenn Robinson III makes it back around the All-Star break.
Nate McMillan’s team has done a successful job in establishing pace on offense this season, but the defense is still lagging behind.
If that side of the floor improves in the spring, the Pacers are capable of winning a playoff series.