Big Changes in Indiana
Change. It’s constant in all aspects of life. Whether we want it, whether we don’t, change happens. This blast from the past photo was the cover of GQ in March of 2014. The same year in which the Pacers took the first seed in the Eastern Conference, before later being bounced in the conference finals by the “Big 3” in Miami. From that back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals starting five, only Paul George remains. Even head coach Frank Vogel who made the playoffs in five of his six years with a record of 250-181 is gone. (Now HC of the Orlando Magic) Last season, Paul George returned in prime fashion following the gruesome leg injury he suffered in the summer of 2014 while playing with Team USA.With George healthy and pieces such as Myles Turner the young center out of Texas, and veteran Monta Ellis by his side. Larry Bird set out this offseason to shake up the Pacers from top to bottom.
Following the 2015-2016 season the Pacers and Larry Bird decided against renewing a contract with Frank Vogel, instead they decided to promote assistant head coach Nate McMillan. McMillan has 12 years of head coaching experience, five years with the Seattle SuperSonics (OKC Thunder now) and seven years with the Portland TrailBlazers. In those 12 years he went 478-452 with five playoff appearances. McMillan and the Pacers agreed to a 3-year deal. After filling the head coach vacancy the Pacers also hired Bill Bayno and David McClure as assistant coaches.
G George Hill - (Traded to Utah Jazz)
PF/C Jordan Hill - (Minnesota Timberwolves)
F Solomon Hill - (New Orleans Pelicans)
PG Ty Lawson - (Free Agent)
C Ian Mahinmi - (Washington Wizards)
C Shayne Whittington - (Released)
G Aaron Brooks
F Jeremy Evans
PF/C Al Jefferson
PG Jeff Teague
F Thaddeus Young
F Georges Niang (Drafted 2016 2nd rd pick 20)
Swish or Brick
In this section I’m going to break down the Pacers moves further by deciding whether it was a “Swish or Brick”, then I’ll elaborate my thoughts.
BRICK: Promoting Nate McMillan. Now I have no doubt that McMillan is a solid proven NBA head coach, nor do I think he can’t be successful with this roster or team. However, Larry Bird has been adamant to play uptempo and even said recently he wants the Pacers to average 105 points per-game. Again not impossible, but raises a few eyebrows to why McMillan was picked as that guy.
SWISH: Jeff Teague, Al Jefferson, Thaddeus Young. Three underrated and overlooked by the vast majority. Pacers haven't had a real point guard since Jamaal Tinsley, George Hill played great defense, but he was more of a combo guard in skill set. Teague is not the defender Hill is but he can do things offensively Hill couldn’t do, specifically attack the basket. Thaddeus Young was an absolute steal for a first round draft pick. It was a gloomy year in Brooklyn and Young was one of the lone bright spots. A solid 16 & 9 guy, plays defense, hustles, doesn’t need the ball in his hands. Al Jefferson signed a three year, 30 million deal. Let that sink in. Big Al was a get. Jeffersons’ role likely will be off the bench behind Myles Turner. Which sounds picture perfect, Jefferson with the second unit adds a steady scoring option/threat.
Up in the Air: Keeping Monta Ellis. Now Ellis was a good unexpected signing last year. He’s a veteran shooting guard a bit streaky, but a solid overall player. One major downside, very ball dependent. How he meshes with a true point guard in Jeff Teague, who will have primary ball handling duties, will be vital to whether or not keeping Ellis was a Swish or Brick.
Record Prediction: 51-31