NBA Future Power Rankings: 18. Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers: Since battling with the Miami Heat in back to back Eastern Conference Finals appearances, the Pacers have drastically changed their roster and team identity. Indiana was once a defensive juggernaut under defensive minded coach Frank Vogel. This season Vogel is gone along with two of the team’s best defenders from last season, George Hill and Ian Mahinmi. The Pacers certainly improved their offense this offseason and finally have the pieces to run a fast paced approach, but in the process they sacrificed their defense. Hill, one of the top defensive lead guards in the NBA, will be replaced by a below average defender in Jeff Teague. They are both solid outside shooters, so what the Pacers really did was trade Hill’s elite defense for Teague’s superior playmaking ability. If I were starting a team from scratch I would prefer Teague, but for the Pacers Hill was the better fit. Teague will be sharing a backcourt with Rodney Stuckey, Aaron Brooks and Monta Ellis. All of these players are average to below average defenders and undersized guards. Ian Mahinmi had a breakout season as the Pacers defensive anchor last season, and was rewarded with a 4-year $64 Million contract with the Washington Wizards. I don’t blame the Pacers for letting Mahinmi walk, but I disagreed with their approach at replacing him. Trading the 20th pick in the draft for Thaddeus Young was a great deal value wise, but he’s once again not the best fit for Indiana. Young is a good player, but he is somewhat undersized as a power forward and an average defender at best. His presence also forces last season’s breakout rookie Myles Turner to play center and fill Mahinmi’s role defensively, a big task for such a young player. To backup Young and Turner the Pacers signed Al Jefferson to a 3-year $30 million deal. Jefferson is still one of the league's elite post-up threats, but this is outweighed by all of his negative traits. Jefferson is already 31 years old, has an extensive injury history, and was even suspended for 5 games last season for breaking the league's anti-drug policy. To top if off, Jefferson has been one of the worst post defenders in the game since joining the NBA, and should only get worse as he accumulates more injuries and declines athletically. The reason I have the Pacers ranked inside the top 20 is they still have Paul George for at least two more seasons and Myles Turner for three seasons on his rookie contract. Even after his horrific injury, George remains a top-10 player in the NBA and one of the best two-way players in the game at just 26 years old. Turner was a pleasant surprise as a rookie last season flashing immense potential. Not too long ago the idea of having a stretch power forward swept the league. Turner represents one of the many young players who could start the movement of teams looking for stretch centers. Turner can hit threes, score in the post, rebound, and defend. On paper the Pacers improved a lot this offseason by adding some big names and offensive firepower. Unfortunately, I fear they got worse overall and will now have one of the bottom ranked defenses in the NBA..