Pacers Face Several Critical Questions This Offseason
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INDIANAPOLIS – It was a disappointing end to a season that saw this Pacers team still win 48 games, despite its star being sidelined for more than half the year.
The Pacers went 48-34 for a second straight season, even with Victor Oladipo missing 46 games. Indiana went 23-23 with Oladipo sidelined.
But a four-game sweep to the Boston Celtics still left a sour taste for a franchise that is in a 5-year drought from winning a playoff series.
A very important offseason awaits the Pacers here in 2019.
Here are 5 key things to watch for this offseason:
1. Health of Victor Oladipo
Make no mistake, this is THE most important part of any off-season priority list for the Indiana Pacers.
Victor Oladipo returning to full health, and how quickly that happens, is the single most critical part to any future roster building that occurs this summer.
The Pacers need their star to get back to that 100 percent self, and be the explosive athlete that allowed him to become an All-NBA third-team choice in 2017-18, without being some 6-7 guard with an elite jump shot.
It is not yet known how the recovery time for Oladipo could affect his availability or effectiveness for the start of next season, with the Pacers yet to publicly commit to a definite timetable for their star guard.
At the age of 27 (Oladipo turns 27 May 4), Oladipo still should have many prime years ahead of him, but because his game is so predicated on that explosive nature, this recovery has to get him all the way back.
2. Who You Bringing Back?
Kevin Pritchard wanted flexibility this summer with his roster.
And he has that with Indiana’s main rotation including 6 free agents: Cory Joseph (age 27), Darren Collison (age 31), Thaddeus Young (age 30), Bojan Bogdanovic (age 30), Tyreke Evans (age 29) and Wesley Matthews (age 32).
While this season never had a true chance to reach its celling once Oladipo went down on Jan. 23, it did serve as another reminder: the talent on this team must be upgraded for realistic playoff runs to be possible.
That is the dilemma, and balance, now facing Pritchard.
In my mind, Joseph plus Bogdanovic and Young have decent (some better than decent) cases to be brought back.
But at what position(s) can you find better talents/higher ceilings for those guys.
This Indiana rotation could (will?) look very, very different next season.
Veteran Kyle O’Quinn is also a free agent this summer.
3. Money To Spend
The Pacers are expected to have around $50 million in cap space this summer.
With so many veteran free agents, and having a young core trio under contract moving forward, Indiana heads into the offseason with some of the most cap space in the league.
What can they attract to Indiana?
That’s the question facing the Pacers as they have an opportunity cap space wise to bring in some high-level talent to their group.
What would an addition of a Kemba Walker, a Khris Middleton or a Tobias Harris do for this team in their assembling around Victor Oladipo?
Of course, paying top dollar for one of those stars would likely mean that the bench unit will be relying on some more unproven guys next season.
4. Draft Needs A Definite Hit
Just like two years ago, Indiana holds the 18th overall pick in the draft.
T.J. Leaf was the choice then, followed by Aaron Holiday (23rd overall) last summer.
While it’s difficult to find consistent starting talent drafting in that range, the Pacers desperately need a big hit in the draft.
That’s especially true if they plan on being a more active player on the open market this summer.
A wing or 4-man with some length and shooting ability sounds like a nice piece to add at No. 18 overall.
As far as recent draft picks, Holiday’s role could ascend majorly this fall, whereas Leaf still hasn’t shown enough to be a top 6 or 7 guy on a team with playoff run aspirations.
5. Further Development Of Young Bigs
This summer will be centered so much on the roster turnover for the Pacers and how active they are in free agency.
What can’t be lost though is the necessary development they need from Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis.
For this team to earn a homecourt playoff series moving forward/win a series (or more), their own young bigs must take positive steps forward.
Turner was one of the league’s top defenders this past season, and took strides in his scoring output and rebounding numbers. But the playoffs saw Turner regress to the struggling player we’ve seen before in the postseason.
Sabonis was as consistent as they come during the regular season, serving as one of the most productive 6th men in the entire league. But even his dependability evaporated in the playoffs. Finding a more reliable right hand and even the occasional 15-foot jump shot needs to occur as he reaches second contract time.