NBA Preview: The Indiana Pacers just won’t quit

Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner dunks during overtime of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, in Indianapolis. Indiana won 130-121 in overtime. (Darron Cummings/AP)

GM: Kevin Pritchard
Head coach: Nate McMillan
2016-17 record: 42-40 (7th in the Eastern Conference)
2016-17 result: Lost 4-0 in the first round
Key departures: Paul George
Key acquisitions: Victor Oladipo, Donatas Sabonis, Cory Joseph, Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdanovic

The Indiana Pacers just won’t quit.

After Paul George made it public that we was planning on leaving Indiana once his deal expired next summer, the Pacers had to act quickly in order to salvage their 2017-18 season.

General Manager Kevin Pritchard accepted a low-ball offer from the Thunder, that included no draft picks, Victor Oladipo and Donatas Sabonis in exchange for one of the best two-way players in the game.

Instead of rebuilding, the Pacers tried to re-equip their roster. Oladipo will head into the 2017-18 season as the Pacers’ highest-paid player with his new four year extension set to kick in. The 25-year-old is capable of acting as a second fiddle to an emerging big in Myles Turner.

Along with returning players like Al Jefferson, Monta Ellis, Lance Stephenson and Thaddeus Young, the Pacers added capable rotation players in Cory Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison.

Head coach Nate McMillan will have a tough task balancing his roster’s minutes, knowing he also has young pieces in Ike Anigbogu, T.J. Leaf, and Glenn Robinson III who need time to develop in what might be a lost cause of a season.

Potential Breakout Player:

We can officially welcome the Myles Turner era in Indiana. The 11th pick in the 2015 Draft, Turner has a chance to become the team’s only all-star.

His versatility at six-foot-11 should excite every Pacer fan. In 2016-17, he averaged 14.5 points, 7.3 points, 2.1 blocks while making 40 three-pointers on the season, numbers that have only been matched by Anthony Davis (2016-17) and Andrei Kirilenko (2003-04). He also continued to add to his repertoire, upping his three-point shooting percentage from 21.4 as a rookie, to 34.8 per cent as a sophomore.

Last year, he was only behind George and Jeff Teague in field goal attempts on the Pacers. Now that both former all-stars are no longer in Indiana, it becomes Turner time to carry the load with more than 10.7 field goal attempts a game.

Biggest X-Factor:

If the Pacers are going to exceed expectations this season and contend for a playoff seed it’s going to be thanks to Lance Stephenson.

The NBA’s leader in triple-doubles throughout the 2013-14 season, Stephenson is an enigma. And after signing a three-year deal last March, it’s nice to see that he’s back home in Indiana, where he started his career and made two Eastern Conference Finals appearances.

Stephenson is still only 27, and after playing for six teams in the past three seasons, some continuity should do him good. Either as a starter or by coming off the bench, the six-foot-five combo guard is always someone to look out for, knowing that when he finds his groove he becomes nearly impossible to defend.

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