Welcome to the Indiana Pacers installment of Blogabull's Eastern Conference preview. A reminder that these previews are a series we're running on Blogabull that fall in line with the SBNation NBA Previews. Also it's the Bulls opponent tonight.
Last year: 38-44 (9th in the Eastern Conference)
'15-'16 Vegas Over/Under: 35.5
A gruesome leg injury during last summer's USA Training Camp scrimmage to small forward Paul George all but derailed Indiana's hopes of conference contention. Frank Vogel and company made a valiant effort to capture the final spot in last season's NBA playoffs, but ultimately came up just short. With a new season on the brink, the Pacers have moved towards small-ball in the latest trend to take over the league.
In: Monta Ellis, Myles Turner, Chase Budinger, Toney Douglas, Joe Young, Glen Robinson III, CJ Fair, Rakeem Christmas, Kadeem Jack, Jordan Hill
Out: David West, Roy Hibbert, Chris Copeland, Luis Scola, Donald Sloan, CJ Watson, Damjan Rudez
Depth Chart via NBA Reddit
What to expect:
With Paul George fully recovered from last summer's leg injury, the Indiana Pacers figure to compete for one of the remaining playoff spots in a weak Eastern Conference. They may not be a conference contender this upcoming season, but there's enough talent for Vogel, one of the best coaches in the NBA to push this team to the postseason.
The Indiana Pacers as we've known them for the past several seasons are no more. Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird, and Vogel made it a point of emphasis this offseason to move towards playing a more fast paced style of basketball, overhauling the roster into one more capable of playing small ball. Their initiative this offseason, and more so during preseason, is transitioning Paul George into a small ball power forward. While that may seem like a feasible option, George has made it well-known that he isn't the biggest proponent of the move, though that's not necessarily to say he hasn't given it a chance. As the season progresses, how PG performs in his new position, in addition to his attitude towards it, will be something to keep an eye on.
Indiana has quality backcourt depth coming into the season, however where the team will find itself in trouble is in the frontcourt. The Pacers did little to replace the void left behind by West, Hibbert, and Scola, bringing in rookie Myles Turner and veteran Jordan Hill as a result. PG's body is going to take a beating down low playing the power forward position, which isn't ideal for someone coming off of a surgically repair leg. If PG,Vogel, and Bird can't come to terms on playing the position on a regular basis, the Pacers are going to find themselves in trouble.
Nevertheless, Vogel is going to have this team prepared, and ready to compete night in and night out. They're going to be stingy defensively, and if things go as planned, could be quite difficult to guard on the opposite end. Look for the Pacers to hover right around or just below the .500 mark this season, and compete for one of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spots.
Can they compete with the Bulls?
Yes and No. The new structure of this Pacers team is far different from the one the Bulls have competed against for the past several seasons. Indiana's depth in the backcourt, and Chicago's lack thereof, make it an interesting aspect of the matchup. The depth of George Hill, Monta Ellis, CJ Miles, Rodney Stuckey, and even Toney Douglas and Joe Young collectively has the potential to give a slender backcourt rotation for the Bulls trouble.
However, when it comes to the frontcourt matchup, Indiana's slim rotation and lack of quality bigs, poses a large advantage for the Bulls. Indiana's frontcourt consisting of Myles Turner, Lavoy Allen, Ian Mahinmi, and Jordan Hill present very little resistance against the Bulls deep rotation up front.
Each team has its advantages, though Chicago's collective talent far outweighs that of Indiana's.
More on the Pacers at SBNation
[BaB's own Kevin Ferrigan gives his take using his own statistical model, described as: a plus-minus that used two years of data blended with predictive real plus-minus, and minutes projections from Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com]
Most of the Pacers project to be pretty okay, owing mostly to them being in their prime years and not being horrible talents. Pau George's down year last year returning from his broken leg weakens his projection some. Indiana's projected numbers are maybe a bit more variable as a lot of roles are changing, particularly, George's as he is now playing PF, which he has never done. George Hill projects to be pretty awesome, which probably surprises a lot of people, but he's a good defensive PG and can hit catch and shoot threes off penetration by Paul George and Monta Ellis. My numbers run through the schedule have Indiana projected for 40 wins. Subjectively, I'm slightly more down on the Pacers, as I think their defense will really suffer without Roy Hibbert and I don't think their offense will be boosted enough to make up for that.