The Indiana Pacers were one of the surprise stories of the season last year and enter this year with high expectations. Victor Oladipo was the breakout player of the year last season as he got himself into great shape and started to put it all together. The Pacers have two players that saw that and are attempting to do the same thing this year in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. This team won 48 games last year, but enters this season with a win total of just 46.5 wins.
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Their top seven from last years in minutes played are all back and the eighth player on the list, Lance Stephenson, has been replaced by Tyreke Evans. That’s one of the biggest upgrades for a position of any team in this league and he should have real Sixth Man of the Year buzz. He averaged 19.4 points per game while shooting 40% from three in fifty-two games last season. They also made another major bench upgrade in adding Doug McDermott, a career 40% shooter from three, that will help this team spread the floor a lot better than last season. Depth was an issue last season and these two should definitely help fix that this season.
The key for this team this season is Turner and Sabonis. Can they continue to develop and can they play together? These guys essentially play the same position and both of them look like future stars at that position so figuring this out is key. Turner seems to have the inside track and if he has improved his defense, he could be the key. That said, Sabonis fits more in a modern NBA system with his playmaking and outside shooting. I’d love to see both of these guys break out this year.
There are some people out there who want to bet against Victor Oladipo. I am not one of those people. Last year was just the breakout, this year I think he should go up another level. He shot 47% from the field, 37% from three and 79% from free throw last season. I could see a jump to 50/40/90 this year. Now that he had his first taste of success, he’s thirsty for more.
The question to me about this team is if they can play as hard as they did last year. A lot of teams you get that “nobody believes in us” type thing going and it rallies everyone together. Well, this year people believe in them and they are ready for them. Will that mess up the mojo?
That said, I think this will be a close one. 46-48 wins feels just about right. I’m going to go with the over here, but just barely.
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