The Indiana Pacers have quietly improved themselves this offseason while other teams around the league salivate over superstars, Kevin Pritchard has been able to add great role players at an exceptional value. Amongst those additions are Tyreke Evans (1 year, $12M), Doug McDermott (3 years, $22M), and Kyle O’Quinn (1 year, $4.5M).
After defying all odds last season, Indiana will come out with even more of a chip on their shoulder after they were given no chance against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first-round of the Playoffs. Seven games later, the Pacers were headed home but a couple missed calls could have changed that outcome.
I expect the 2018-19 Pacers to finish as a top-3 seed in the Eastern Conference come April. This will not come without tribulations though. Some players will fade and some will excel in new roles, but the team will be successful through and through. Specifically, Myles Turner needs to put that offseason training program to good use down low next season. Watch for him to average somewhere near 20 PPG in 2018-19.
Victor Oladipo was named an All-Star for the first time in his career along with being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. He will again be named an All-Star next season to gain back-to-back honors as he leads Indiana to a 38-20 record before the February break. Joining him will be Bojan Bogdanovic, who will be participating in the 3-point shooting contest.
Offseason additions will pay dividends for Indiana in that Tyreke Evans will blossom into one of the best sixth-man options in all of the NBA. After averaging 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.2 assists last season in Memphis, Evans should flourish leading the second unit. It would not surprise me to see him in the game during crunch time where
playmakers thrive such as Evans. Running alongside him and spotting up from deep in that bench group will be McDermott who shot just a shade below 50% from behind the arc last season in Dallas. Shooting was another must add this offseason for the blue and gold.
Rookies Aaron Holiday and Alize Johnson will both have made an impact by midseason. Holiday will begin the year as the third option at the point, but his hard nosed defense and good decision making should bode well for him when he sees increased minutes as the season progresses. Johnson on the other hand could make an impact sooner than Holiday. He has knack for rebounding the basketball, something Indiana struggled with last season and is a tenacious defender. Both have performed very well during the short Summer League games so far, and much better than last years first-round pick, T.J. Leaf.
By the time April roles around, Indiana will look like one of the most complete teams in the league from top to bottom. After they wrap up there season with 53-29 record, eclipsing the Milwaukee Bucks for the Central Division banner, Indiana will look to keep that steam rolling in the Playoffs. Without LeBron James, the Eastern Conference Playoff landscape is incomparable to years prior. In reality, James has always been a Pacer killer as he and his comrades have knocked Indiana out of the Playoffs five of the last seven Playoff appearances.
2019 will be the year the tide changes. Indiana will be a force to be reckon with and make it through the first-round with ease. As the competition gets steeper, the Pacers resilience will prosper, eventually sending them to their ninth Conference Finals appearance in franchise history. They will be up against an absolutely loaded Boston Celtics team who is hungry after last years breakdown.
You be the judge of what happens from there…
Will they lose to Boston and fall to 1-8 in Conference Finals all time? Will they make the second NBA Finals appearance in franchise history? Will they win the NBA Finals for the first time ever?
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