June 6, 2019, 2:37 am
The Pacers didn’t catch the same attention that the other top teams in the East did, but had the looks of a team that could make some noise before an unfortunate injury to their star. Our Post-Mortem series takes a look at what happened in Indiana, where free agency could shake up a team that’s definitely on the rise.
2018-19 Record: 48-34
The Pacers entered the season with a roster very similar the one they had in the previous year and ended it with the exact same record of 48-34. The only major difference was having their best player in Victor Oladipo for a mere 36 games this season.
Oladipo’s season ended on January 23 when he tore his quadriceps muscle in his right knee versus the Raptors. This was the same knee that had bothered Oladipo during the season and is expected to cost him some games during the 2019-20 season as well.
The Pacers could not win games that Oladipo missed during the 2017-18 season, and while they struggled without him during this season they managed a 23-23 record in his absence and remained competitive in each and every game before getting swept by the Celtics during the first round.
The team did add Aaron Holiday, the brother of Justin and Jrue Holiday, with the 23rd overall pick and veterans Kyle O’Quinn and Doug McDermott prior to the start of the season while also signing Wesley Matthews after he was bought out by the Knicks.
Matthews was not expected to fill Oladipo’s role, but rather provide some defensive presence following his injury and space the floor in order to take some of the pressure off of Bojan Bogdanovic, who turned in a career year.
Despite Oladipo’s impending return the Pacers will likely look to add scoring and wing depth. The team was in the middle of the pack and averaged 108.0 points per game during the regular season (22nd). The only playoff team that averaged less during the regular season was the Pistons with 107.0 points per game.
As for departures, the team could move one of their bigs in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. One provides offense, while the other protects the paint, but chopping their minutes up has hindered both of their fantasy value and has impacted the rhythm and constancy of the team. They’re not a natural fit together and if the Pacers can make it work quickly they may hit the trade phones.
Starting point guard Darren Collison is expected to test free agency and so is backup Cory Joseph. The Pacers will likely look to add a veteran and could take their shot on Kemba Walker if he were to leave the Hornets. Walker would add a major scoring punch and would help alleviate some of the pressure from Oladipo once he returns, giving them a scoring tandem in their backcourt. Expect point guard to be Indiana’s primary focus moving forward.
Both Thaddeus Young and Bogdanovic will be unrestricted free agents this summer, but the team will likely look to secure both of them.
For the third straight season as head coach, Nate McMillan finished above the .500 mark. He also coached the team to playoffs without an star-level player before getting swept by the Celtics in the first round. Following the loss of Oladipo, the team did not have much to work with as far as talent on the roster. In fact, Oladipo was the only player on the roster to have ever played in an All-Star game.
McMillan used what he had to work with and continued developing the defensive culture he instilled since taking over the head coaching duties. No team did a better job than the Pacers when it came to limiting their opponents’ scoring, allowing a league-best 104.7 points per game and only allowing opponents to shoot 45 percent from the floor (6th-best in the NBA).
The Pacers were good at controlling the clock and forcing other teams to play to their tempo, but while they offered one the league’s best defenses, they struggled on offense once they lost their focal scorer in Oladipo.
The Pacers were terrible from the 3-point line and ranked second-last in the league by only making 29.2 percent of their shots from behind the arc. The team also struggled to get unassisted baskets without a true dynamic, playmaking ball-handler and ranked 24th in the league with 34.7 points per game on unassisted shots. Even when Oladipo was on the floor the team struggled to create their own shots and only averaged 38.2 points per game on unassisted shots during that 36-game stretch.
ADP: 19/12 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 194/199 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 51/53 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 51
2018-19 averages: 36 G | 31.9 MP | 18.8 PTS | 2.1 3PM | 5.6 REB | 5.2 AST | 1.7 STL | 0.3 BLK | 2.3 TOV | .423 FG% | .730 FT%
Oladipo’s season was cut short after suffering a torn quadriceps muscle in his right knee on January 23 after only playing 36 games. This is a devastating injury — Oladipo’s timetable is still uncertain and his availability for the start of the 2019-20 season is in question.
Before getting hurt, Oladipo was averaging career-highs in assists and rebounds, while shooting below his career mark (.443 FG percentage) from the field. The dip in field goal percentage was not a shock as Oladipo was expected to shoulder much of the scoring load coming into the season and was the focal point for opposing defenses. He was also nursing a sore knee for most of the season before suffering the season-ending injury, which likely aided in the dip in field goal percentage.
Oladipo’s durability will be in question heading into the 2019-20 season, but he could provide late-season value in leagues with an IR spot available. His inherent injury risk will likely affect his draft position, but when healthy Oladipo has proven to be an All-Star worthy of of a second-round pick in fantasy leagues.
ADP: 77/44 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 32/21 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 15/32 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 74
2018-19 averages: 74 G | 28.6 MP | 13.3 PTS | 1.0 3PM | 7.2 REB | 1.6 AST | 0.8 STL | 2.7 BLK | 1.4 TOV | .487 FG% | .736 FT%
Turner was a defensive force for the Pacers and took a big step forward as a rim protector, swatting a league-high 2.7 shots per game (also a career-best). The 6’11” Texas product started in every game he played this season for the Pacers.
Turner’s impact was not only felt on the defensive end. He improved on his 3-point percentage from 35.7 percent during the 2017-18 season to 38.8 percent during the 2018-19 season. Turner is only 23 years old and has plenty of room to improve, but Domantas Sabonis splitting time at center has directly impacted Turner’s playing time. Rumors have surfaced that the organization may look to move one of their big men following a disappointing playoff run and this would open up an avenue to extra playing time and upside for the remaining center.
Turner will need to improve on his touch around the rim (48.7 percent from the field) to be included among the elite centers, but he is only heading into his fifth year as a pro and still possesses immense upside if the Pacers trade Sabonis and free up a few extra minutes and shot attempts for him at the five. Perhaps letting Thad Young leave in free agency also opens things up if the Pacers keep both of their younger bigs.
ADP: 128/80 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 63/58 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 80/79 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 76
2018-19 averages: 76 G | 28.2 MP | 11.2 PTS | 2.6 3PM | 3.1 REB | 6.0 AST | 1.4 STL | 0.1 BLK | 1.6 TOV | .467 FG% | .832 FT%
Collison came into the 2018-19 season in the final year of his contract and provided fantasy owners with modest counting stats and great percentages.
What Collison lacks in size and athleticism he makes up for with his decision-making. The 32-year-old, 6’0’’ point guard finished seventh in the league with a turnover to assist ratio of 3.67 and nailed 40.7 percent of his shots from behind the arc. The veteran was forced to step up in the absence of Oladipo and averaged 12.6 points and 7.0 assists in the 40 games without him compared to the 9.6 points and 4.9 assists in the 34 games Collison played alongside him.
Collison is set to explore free agency the summer and could draw some interest from competitive teams looking to bolster their depth. The Pacers could bring him back, but with the roster in limbo and Oladipo’s expected return date in question they could opt to give Aaron Holiday extended run or bring in another veteran point guard who is more capable of scoring. The team has been rumored to have some interest in Kemba Walker, among others, but it would come at a steep price.
ADP: 82/118 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 51/41 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 76/69 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 81
2018-19 averages: 81 G | 30.7 MP | 12.6 PTS | 2.6 3PM | 6.5 REB | 2.5 AST | 2.8 STL | 0.4 BLK | 1.5 TOV | .527 FG% | .644 FT%
Young is the definition of solid and has been known for doing the stuff that does not appear in box scores. His durability is never in question as Young has started and played 81 games in each of the past two seasons.
Young used to be considered undersized at his position (6’8’’ power forward) but that did not stop him from challenging bigs down low and guards on the wing and this is clearly evident after he led the NBA with 2.75 steals per game.
Young took a step back as a 3-point shooter this season after shooting a mediocre 25.0 percent (28.6 percent during the 2017-18 season) and will need to work on his shot over the summer. But while his 3-point percentages dipped, he was slightly less shy when it came to shooting them. This season Young doubled his attempts from three, averaging 2.0 attempts per game compared to his first two seasons with the Pacers in which he averaged 0.3 triples on 1.0 attempts per game.
The Pacers’ power forward is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and the team will likely look to bring back the veteran captain unless it hinders them from signing a star-caliber player. They may also want to open up more minutes for younger frontcourt players, but Young will have no problem drumming up interest no matter what.
ADP: 139/136 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 62/62 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 94/93 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 81
2018-19 averages: 81 G | 31.8 MP | 18.0 PTS | 2.6 3PM | 4.1 REB | 2.0 AST | 0.9 STL | 0.0 BLK | 1.7 TOV | .497 FG% | .807 FT%
Bogdanovic entered the 2018-19 season in the final year of his contract with limited expectations, but most of that was thrown out of the window once he was forced to step up in the absence of Oladipo.
The 30-year-old forward produced career-bests in points, rebounds, assists and both 3-point and field goal percentage.
He was required to shoulder the scoring load left behind by Oladipo and did not fault in the slightest, shooting an absurd .425 from three over the course of the regular season. But perhaps the most mind-blowing stat he produced is his effective field goal percentage of .575 from a wing player. To put this stat into perspective, we could take a look at Kawhi Leonard’s effective field goal percentage of .546.
While the numbers may take a hit with the impending return of Oladipo at some point next season, the percentages are real and Bogey proved he is more than a capable scorer for the Pacers and could do so without hurting the team. The team will likely look to add some help during the offseason, but nonetheless Bogey is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Pacers will likely look to retain him as one of their “glue guys.”
ADP: 124/130 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 76/96 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 85/106 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 74
2018-19 averages: 74 G | 24.8 MP | 14.1 PTS | 0.2 3PM | 6.8 REB | 2.9 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.4 BLK | 2.2 TOV | .590 FG% | .715 FT%
Sabonis entered the season in a timeshare situation that fantasy owners knew would be relevant. While Turner provides elite rim protection, Sabonis offers an offensive alternative. This really hindered both of their overall upsides given that McMillan never felt comfortable running them together for very long.
Nonetheless, Sabonis made the most of his limited minutes and improved statically across the board from the year before. In fact, he only averaged 0.3 minutes more per game than he did during the 2017-18 season, but averaged 2.5 more points and 1.6 more rebounds per game. He looked more comfortable finishing at the rim as he improved upon his 2017-18 field goal percentage from .524 to .592 this season.
The moral of the story is both centers are better than their numbers show and the rumors are spiraling that the Pacers will look to move on from one of them. Sabonis is still on a rookie deal that does not expire until 2020. This makes it pretty easy to move Sabonis to a contending team looking for bench support if the Pacers want to go that route. Turner, on the other hand, looks to be locked into Indiana’s future for the long-term.
ADP: 971/144 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 162/170 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 182/188 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 69
2018-19 averages: 69 G | 29.4 MP | 12.2 PTS | 2.6 3PM | 2.5 REB | 2.3 AST | 0.9 STL | 0.2 BLK | 1.3 TOV | .400 FG% | .810 FT%
The Pacers went out and signed Matthews following his trade/release from the Knicks. While he played shooting guard, no one expected him to fill the void left behind by Oladipo. Matthews is far from his prime, but is still serviceable from three.
He played and started all 23 games he appeared in after signing a veteran minimum contract to finish out the season. Over that span Matthews averaged 10.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting .386 from the field and .369 from three. It may seem like Matthews struggled from the floor mightily, but more than half the shots he took per game were from three, bringing his effective field goal percentage to a clean .500.
Matthews will head into the summer as an unrestricted free agent and will likely look to provide veteran depth for a playoff caliber team. The days off him being used for anything other than streaming 3-pointers seem over.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 133/125 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 192/179 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 82
2018-19 averages: 82 G | 25.2 MP | 6.5 PTS | 0.7 3PM | 3.4 REB | 3.9 AST | 1.1 STL | 0.3 BLK | 1.0 TOV | .412 FG% | .698 FT%
Joseph had himself a season to forget as he had the worst statistical year since his rookie campaign back in 2012. He only shot .412 from the field compared to his career average of .444 and only made .698 percent of his free throws when his career average is .761.
It’s not a matter of workload or minutes as he has averaged at least 25 minutes per game over the last four seasons, but rather a clearer depiction of who Joseph is as a player: a game-manager.
While he backed up Collison at point guard, they basically chopped up the minutes and gave Joseph almost the same amount of opportunity off of the bench. He only started nine games for the Pacers this season, but once again Joseph proved he is an ironman and played in all 82 games for the second consecutive season and more than 80 games for the fourth straight season.
Unfortunately, the Pacers roster was not fit to lose Oladipo. The lacked explosive players who could score on their own and were stocked with veterans who would help round out a competitive, contending team. Joseph fits that bill and is expected to hit free agency this summer looking to find a similar spot. It is expected that Aaron Holiday will take on a larger role next season and that would mostly be dependent on the departures of Collison and Joseph.
ADP: 124/130 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 211/253 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 250/309 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 69
2018-19 averages: 69 G | 20.3 MP | 10.2 PTS | 1.1 3PM | 2.9 REB | 2.4 AST | 0.8 STL | 0.3 BLK | 1.7 TOV | .389 FG% | .719 FT%
The Pacers had high expectations for Evans coming into the season and they were not shoes he could fill. The team was hoping the could capture some of the playmaking they saw from Evans during his short stint with Memphis last season to help take some of the pressure off of Oladipo.
It was part of Evans’ disappointing season that led the front office to acquire Matthews; the team wanted to keep Evans in a bench role. If we want to look at the glass half-full approach, 69 games is the most Evans has played in a season in the past six years. He dealt with some minor knee ailments during the course of the season and eventually received PRP treatment.
Evans was set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but was recently suspended for two seasons for violating the NBA’s drug and alcohol policy.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 322/322 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 351/361 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 50
2018-19 averages: 50 G | 12.9 MP | 5.9 PTS | 0.9 3PM | 1.3 REB | 1.7 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.3 BLK | 0.8 TOV | .401 FG% | .820 FT%
The Pacers went into the summer of 2018 knowing they needed another ball-handler and they didn’t wait until the second round to look for one. Holiday was selected with the 23rd overall pick to play behind Darren Collison and Cory Joseph. he played limited minutes and never started a game, but head coach Nate McMillian and the Pacers front office liked what they saw from Holiday.
He’s gritty like his older brothers and does a lot of the things that do not show up in the box score, but has the true makings to be an NBA point guard. Holiday showed, even in limited minute,s that he is not afraid to shoot as he averaged just over 5.0 shot attempts in just about 13 minutes per game. This impacts his overall field goal percentage, but that is to be expected from a rookie point guard adjusting to the NBA level.
Holiday is expected to have an increased role next season with a few ball-handlers likely leaving town and could be playing closer to 20 minutes per game. The Pacers are still competitive and considered a playoff team, so it seems unlikely that they will opt to start the young guard out of the gate, but Victor Oladipo’s return time is still in question and Holiday may find himself in a more active role to begin the season. He could even be one injury away from having his crack at starting.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 257/244 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 336/323 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 77
2018-19 averages: 77 G | 17.4 MP | 7.3 PTS | 1.1 3PM | 1.4 REB | 0.9 AST | 0.2 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.5 TOV | .491 FG% | .835 FT%
McBuckets’ first season in a Pacers uniform was somewhat disappointing, but that was to be expected. This is McDermott’s fifth team in only six seasons after being drafted with the 11th overall pick in 2014.
He signed a three-year deal to with Indiana in order to provide some spacing and support off of the bench, and while it may not look pretty from a fantasy perspective, he did just that by knocking down threes at a .408 clip. He also posted his best overall performance from the floor during his career with an average field goal percentage of .491.
McDermott will be under contract with the Pacers for another two seasons, but he isn’t likely to be much of a fantasy impact player as long as he is playing behind Bojan Bogdanovic.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 335/341 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 374/375 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 77
2018-19 averages: 45 G | 8.2 MP | 3.5 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 2.6 REB | 1.2 AST | 0.2 STL | 0.6 BLK | 0.7 TOV | .507 FG% | .810 FT%
It was an underwhelming season for O’Quinn as he played the fewest amount of minutes and games since being drafted back in 2012, but he still cemented his name as one of the better per-minute producers while on the court with per-36 numbers of 15.1 points, 11.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists. Those are career-best per-36 marks for both points and assists.
O’Quinn is set for free agency this summer and one would imagine that a contending team would have room for him. He is a great role player who plays with a ton of energy regardless of how often he checks in. The Pacers may be able to entice him into staying if they decide to move on from one of Turner or Sabonis. Unless you are looking to stream a spot-start mid-season there is no reason to watch O’Quinn in standard-sized leagues.
ADP: 124/130 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 341/325 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 420/401 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 58
2018-19 averages: 69 G | 9.0 MP | 3.9 PTS | 1.1 3PM | 2.2 REB | 0.4 AST | 0.1 STL | 0.2 BLK | 0.2 TOV | .541 FG% | .613 FT%
The second-year forward played largely in a bench role and only started one game for the Pacers this season, but Leaf is one of the youngest players on the roster at only 22 years old and stands to see increased playing time if and when the Pacers decide to move on from one of their bigs.
He is mainly slotted behind Thaddeus Young, but the uncertain nature of Indiana’s frontcourt next season could give him a few more minutes of playing time.
Leaf does not need to be on draft boards to start the season, but could provide decent scoring and rebounding numbers in the case of spot-starting for injuries, a role Sabonis thrived in during the 2018-19 season.
The Pacers are in desperate need of offense. Without Victor Oladipo the team struggled to put points on the board and was forced to rely on Bojan Bogdanovic for the bulk of their scoring needs. They will need to add a scorer; whether by trade or free agency.
The front office has been rumored to be willing to trade one of their centers in Domantas Sabnois or Myles Turner and could do so to fill some of their weak spots.
Their biggest concern will be finding a backcourtmate with Collison and Joseph in line to be free agents this summer. While they are both valuable commodities for any playoff caliber team, neither player has been much of a difference-maker in the starting lineup.
Much of their success will be hinging on Oladipo’s availability, and he still does not have a concrete timetable to return. The team will need to rely on their stout defense to stay in games while he is gone.
The Pacers may try to make a big splash and accelerate their timeline, or they could play it safe and wait for Oladipo to return to full health before getting flashy. Either path would be understandable, as the East could look very different a couple months from now.