The Indiana Pacers are facing a rebuild operation following their playoff defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, which brought an end to their 2016-17 season.
Nate McMillan’s men were aiming to build on a decent previous campaign when they won 45 of their 82 contests and took the Toronto Raptors all the way in their post-season clash, only to lose in seven games to DeMar DeRozan and company
The Pacers made numerous additions in the off-season, trading to acquire Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young, although neither player was able to rise to the occasion throughout the term.
Indiana had major issues surrounding Paul George with enough talent to send the club on a charge towards the playoffs, enduring an up-and-down campaign with arguably more lows than highs.
George remained one of the NBA’s finest players, earning his fourth berth at the All-Star game. The 27-year-old operated at the peak of his powers throughout the term, but even his brilliance could not inspire the Pacers to at the least challenge the Cavaliers in the playoffs.
LeBron James and his side brushed McMillan’s men aside with ease, securing a whitewash victory in the first round.
The lack of success drew the ire of George whose contract was set to expire in 2018. Rather than lose their star man for nothing – the Pacers traded him away at the end of the term to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Changes were afoot in the front office as well, with legend Larry Bird leaving his post as president of the club. As a result, the future of Indiana basketball faces an unclear path, starting next season.
We’ll now look back at their 2016-17 campaign in what would be George’s final term at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Middling Early Form
The Pacers began the term at home against the Dallas Mavericks and Myles Turner came out of the blocks firing, scoring 30 points to inspire an overtime victory. However, the club followed their triumph with disappointing performances on the road, suffering back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets and the Charlotte Hornets.
George kickstarted his season with a 30-point outing to get his team back on track against the Los Angeles Lakers, although November would prove to be a microcosm of their campaign, failing to break beyond the .500 barrier.
Hard-fought victories over the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and Cavaliers in successive matches proved that the Pacers did have talent on their roster. However, they also experienced crushing defeats against the Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and the Portland Trail Blazers highlighted the deficiencies with McMillan’s outfit.
December began on the right note as the Pacers received contributions from the entire outfit to overcome the Los Angeles Clippers on the road, only to fall to a crushing 35-point loss to the Warriors the following day.
George produced a 37-pointer to see off the Trail Blazers in a dominant outing, while he was equally impressive to take his side to a 15-14 record with back-to-back triumphs over the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards.
The momentum was stymied with four defeats on the bounce during the Christmas period, knocking Indiana back below .500, although 2016 ended on a high note when George led his to victory against the Chicago Bulls with another 37-point display.
Lacking Clinical Edge
The new year began extremely well for the Pacers, winning their opening four matches of 2017. Turner, Teague and George put in quality performances to drive their side to a perfect start, defeating the Magic, Pistons, Nets and the New York Knicks.
All four victories were fairly convincing, but Indiana were brought back down to earth by a hammering at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. McMillan’s side did bounce back immediately securing successive wins over the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings.
Three defeats in a row threatened to spoil an impressive month, but the Pacers responded with a brilliant run of form to seven matches on the bounce to take into the beginning of February, including a narrow three-point triumph over the Thunder.
The momentum was lost heading into the All-Star break with arguably the club’s worst run of results of the campaign. Although they were faced with tough opposition, including the Cavaliers twice and the San Antonio Spurs, the Pacers dropped six games on the bounce to put the pressure back on.
March proved to be a frustrating month as every time Indiana appeared to be heading on the path to the playoffs defeats sent them back below .500. McMillan’s men put their hopes in jeopardy by losing five out of their six matches to close out, with a one-point loss at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves highlighting their issues.
Even a 47-point performance from George was not enough to defeat the Cavaliers in a double overtime clash, but five wins on the bounce to end the season secured their spot thanks to the All-Star. George maintained his fine form against the Cavs in the first round, but the Pacers simply lacked the quality to compete with James and company falling to a resounding loss.
The Pacers face a very uncertain future after trading away their best player. The move to send him to the Thunder was reportedly to keep him out of the Eastern Conference amid interest from the Celtics, although the club could have secured better value from trading the 27-year-old to Boston.
Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis arrived in swap and both players have decent records in the NBA, with the former averaging 15.9 points per game throughout his career. Sabonis was selected 11th overall in the 2016 Draft and had a solid rookie season, although the Pacers will need a lot more from the 21-year-old in his sophomore campaign.
Corey Joseph will also be in place for the 2017-18 term, with Indiana trading away their rights to Emir Preldzic to land the 25-year-old from the Raptors. He was a solid player, but he faces the challenge of replacing Teague’s production, who left the club to join the Timberwolves.
The Pacers selected T. J. Leaf with the 18th selection in the 2017 Draft. He had good pedigree around the hoop in the college game, notching 16.3 points per game in his 35 appearances. He has to at least offer an impact from the bench next season to help his team that will be short on quality.
Expect McMillan’s men to take a step back without the presence of George next term, with not a lot of quality there to replace his production. This is reflected in their odds to win the Eastern Conference at 80/181.00+800080.0080.00-0.01 with Bet365 – that should be treated with caution by punters next term.
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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