They've overhauled their roster to supercharge the offense, which ranked 17th in the league last year. Defense-first George Hill has been replaced by Jeff Teague to add shooting from the point guard spot. Rim protector Ian Mahinmi has turned into low-post scorer Al Jefferson, and Thaddeus Young will bring firepower from the wing. On the bench, defensive guru Frank Vogel is now coaching in Orlando, and Nate McMillan will be in charge of overseeing the offensive renaissance.
The unstated goal was to improve enough to persuade Paul George to stay in Indianapolis in two years, when he can opt out of his contract. Some homegrown talent should help too. In a limited role as a rookie last season, Myles Turner averaged 16.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. Now Indiana will need his size and shot blocking to anchor the defense, giving the 6'11" Turner a chance to turn into a full-fledged star.
As his playing time increases (he averaged just 22.8 minutes in 2015--16), Turner will also be able to show more of his low-post and midrange games. If he blossoms, the 20-year-old can raise the team's ceiling this season—and, if he's good enough to be a running mate for George, make an even bigger impact down the line.
PROJECTED LINEUP | 2015--16 stats
COACH NATE MCMILLAN (1st season with Pacers)
2015--16 RECORD 45--37 (2nd in Central)
PG JEFF TEAGUE*
15.7 PPG; 5.9 APG; 43.9 FG%; 40.0 3FG%
SG MONTA ELLIS
13.8 PPG; 4.7 APG; 42.7 FG%; 30.9 3FG%
SF PAUL GEORGE
23.1 PPG; 7.0 RPG; 41.8 FG%; 37.1 3FG%
PF THADDEUS YOUNG*
15.1 PPG; 9.0 RPG; 1.5 SPG; 51.4 FG%
C MYLES TURNER
10.3 PPG; 5.5 RPG; 1.4 BPG; 49.8 FG%
SF C.J. MILES
11.8 PPG; 2.7 RPG; 40.9 FG%; 36.7 3FG%
PG RODNEY STUCKEY
8.9 PPG; 2.7 RPG; 41.3 FG%; 24.1 3FG%
PF LAVOY ALLEN
5.4 PPG; 5.4 RPG; 0.5 BPG; 51.6 FG%
TELLING NUMBER 16.3
A rival scout sizes up Indiana
Almost everyone I've talked to thinks they're going to be better because, on paper, they've added a lot of names and offensive talent. Jeff Teague is the obvious one, but there's also Al Jefferson and Thaddeus Young.... People don't think George Hill [now with the Jazz] was good, but he's a stud defender. Teague is nowhere near as good. They're gonna miss Hill. And Jefferson is nowhere near as good defensively as Ian Mahinmi [who's with the Wizards], so they're going to miss Mahinmi too.... The other thing is, they lost [coach] Frank Vogel [to Orlando]. They kept Dan Burke, the assistant who was in charge of the defense, but Vogel was the guy holding people accountable.... Paul George is a top 10 player. He's a great defender when he wants to be, but he conserves energy at times on that end. He's never had a coach who held him accountable for the shots he takes. That could improve in a better-ball-movement, up-tempo offense.... If George is your No. 1 playmaker and Monta Ellis thinks he's No. 2, where does Teague fit in? If he's just spotting up, how effective is he? There will be stretches when George and Ellis are off the floor where Teague's playmaking really helps them. But I think he probably gives up more defensively than he adds offensively.... Myles Turner is still a little ways away from being as good as people think he is. He's a very good midrange shooter, he'll make turnarounds from the post, and he'll throw in the occasional three. He's a very good rim protector. He'll struggle a bit in pick-and-roll defense, but he's got a bright future.
Indy is a playoff team but will need luck with Turner and heroics from George to make the progress real.