We’re still on our NBA journey. The playoffs have begun, and sixteen teams vie for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Fifteen teams will join the other fourteen non-playoff teams as those who did not win the championship. If a team did not win the title, that means adjustments must be made in order to best position themselves to win next year. Here at TSFJ, we are going to present ways each franchise can fix themselves. We will have a safe way and an extreme way to do this. Sometimes, relationships just need repair. Other times, a breakup in some form is necessary. We continue with the eighth team eliminated from the postseason, the Indiana Pacers
Record: 48-34. 5th seed in the Eastern Conference
Head Coach: Nate McMillan
Playoff Result: Lost 1st Round, 4-3, to the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Rebellion thwarted. Long live The King)
Of all the playoff teams, it could be argued that the Indiana Pacers most exceeded preseason expectations. Having traded Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder and receiving Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis after their lackluster year there, it appeared the Pacers were content with regressing a bit. But Oladipo, who credits playing with Russell Westbrook for a year as to why he’s so aggressive now, blossomed into an All-Star the Orlando Magic thought he’d be when he was drafted second overall in 2013.
This overachieving Pacers team pushed LeBron James to a brink of elimination he’d never seen in April. Even as King stunned them with a devastating block on Oladipo and buzzer-beating three to win Game Five, the Pacers decimated the Cavaliers to win Game Six. Still, as in previous years, LeBron marched on to the second round, leaving the Pacers to pick up the pieces left by his destructive might.
So how do they fix it?
The Safe Fix
The Make-up Song: – Victor Oladipo “Song For You”
Something seems to click with the current construct of the Pacers’ roster. While they were bounced out the playoffs in the first round, they were good enough to win 48 games. Point guard Darren Collison, a bit of a journeyman in his own right, led the league in three-point percentage and brought a veteran presence that complements Oladipo. At the very least, the backcourt is solid. Along with a talented but young set of big men, that combination created a grit and resiliency for the team.
The Pacers need to figure out what to add. Thaddeus Young is a serviceable player, but he doesn’t provide the spacing needed in today’s NBA at the forward position. An upgrade there is a possible solution. As I’m writing this, I cannot name a bench player who I would keep on the team, even as their bench depth is why they were able to push Cleveland to seven games. If the team loves its main components, then minor tweaks are all that may be needed.
The Extreme Fix
The Breakup Song: Victor Oladipo – “Unfollow (feat. Eric Bellinger)”
There are two questions the Pacers need to ask and answer. First, how important is Victor Oladipo to the future of the franchise? Is he a cornerstone like Giannis? A secondary star like Klay Thompson is for the Warriors? Or should the team part ways with him while his value is high and start over again?
The second question is about third-year center Myles Turner. Is he any kind of necessary piece that the team can move forward with? He shows flashes of immense talent, and I totally understand it is unfair to place high expectations on young players in their first couple years—Oladipo is a prime example of that. However, there is something to be said about aggression and assertiveness. The Packers have a young, seven-foot potentially really good big man in Domantas Sabonis. So perhaps the Pacers should choose him over Turner. As wonderful as it is to exceed expectations, that causes expectations to arise. And with that, this team must take assessment of where it is and where it wants to be.
Oh yeah. I suppose I should mention Lance Stephenson, despite his antics being way more famous than his game. The Indiana Pacers should decide whether or not to continue this second stint Stephenson is on with the team. Or find someone who can bring production more than entertainment.
I don’t have the perfect formula to change the Pacers from yet another loss at the hands of the King to champion in one year, but something must change. Happy NBA, folks.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse’s good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.