Top 10 reasons to be very optimistic about the Pacers in 2016-2017

Larry Bind has had several reasons to smile this offseason, and hope for more beginning in late October.

Larry Bind has had several reasons to smile this offseason, and hope for more beginning in late October.

The Indiana Pacers have enjoyed an offseason of under the radar activity that improved the team marginally with every stroke.

Kevin Durant generated headlines by leaving Oklahoma City for Golden State, but the Pacers have built a team better suited to playing winning basketball compared to last year’s version.  In fact, they might emerge from this offseason as the most improved team in the NBA.

They also might collapse and burn if the deals and coaching change don’t work out, but there are plenty of reasons to feel very bullish about this reconstituted Pacers roster and coaching staff.

This isn’t a championship team, but after evaluating the signings, trades, and coaching change on the front end, it’s hard to make a case for a backslide if the Pacers stay healthy.

Here are 10 reasons to buy that the Pacers will be better in 2016-2017:

10 – Jeff Teague replaces George Hill as point guard.  This looks like a bit of a push except that Teague (28) is in the middle of his prime while Hill (30) is preparing to exit his.  Hill has always been a solid defender and capable offensive threat, but his lack of consistent aggression on the offensive end hampered the Pacers attack.  Teague will have no such issues.  He has always been a clever attacker.

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9 – Only the Celtics have improved along with the Pacers in the East.  The Celtics added Al Horford through free agency and Jaylen Brown with the #3 overall pick in the draft, and lost virtually nothing.  The rest of the East either unraveled (Bulls, Heat, Hornets, Hawks) or treaded water (Cavs, Toronto).

8 – Every move has made the Pacers marginally better.  George Hill for Jeff Teague isn’t going to win an NBA Championship, and neither is the 20th overall pick for Thaddeus Young.  Signing a pair of 31-year olds in Al Jefferson and Aaron Brooks (signing is rumored right now) to replace Ian Mahinmi and Ty Lawson isn’t going to put the Pacers over the hump.  In the aggregate though, those four moves are going to make make a 45-win team more competitive with the upper echelon of the East.

7 – Paul George will be an Olympian next month.  Playing among and against the world’s best may help George’s game pop to another level.  Being surrounded by excellence will either confirm in George’s mind his own excellence or motivate him to reach it.  George is no longer simply “a Pacer”, he is “THE Pacer”.

6 – Frank Vogel needed to go for Bird to assert his vision.  Replacing Frank Vogel was about philosophical differences between Pacers president Larry Bird and Vogel, not some silliness about a three year window for communicating with a roster.  it was clear from the media day press conference last season that Bird and Vogel were singing from different hymnals.  If Vogel wanted to remain as head coach, his Pacers needed to win enough to make replacing him appear ridiculous.  Bird wants the Pacers to run, and run they will.

5 – Stable no longer equals wins.  It used to be that multiple moves during the offseason showed a lack of stability that resulted in a setback for a franchise.  With the salary cap exploding and virtually all teams rebuilding on the fly, the Pacers are one of the more stable teams despite two new starters, a new coach, and at least three new second unit members.

4 – Pacers were already (kind of) successful.  Forty five wins and a near upset of the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs was a pretty good result for a team with Ian Mahnmi, Jordan Hill, and Solomon Hill playing major minutes in the front court.  After five major moves this offseason, the Pacers appear ready to take a step or two forward.

3 – No learning curve for Nate McMillan.  With many coaching changes, the new guy has to form relationships with every member of the roster.  McMillan has been a member of the Pacers coaching staff since Brian Shaw left to become the head coach of the Denver Nuggets, and he knows his way around Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the Pacers.  He knows already what the players do well and how they are best used.

2 – Al Jefferson will be productive and a mentor.  At 31, Jefferson is young enough to still have some athleticism and wise enough to get the most out of it.  That’s good news for Pacers fans when he reports to the scorer’s table, and even better news as Myles Turner evolves into a functional adult in the NBA.

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1 – The collective might be greater than the sum of the parts.  Let’s be honest, for the Pacers to win at a meaningful level, the collective will need to be greater than the sum, but with Paul George as the alpha talent the Pacers have a chance to be competitive in the Eastern Conference.  A second unit of Aaron Brooks, Rodney Stuckey, CJ Miles, Lavoy Allen, and Al Jefferson is potentially as good as any in the NBA.

Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-6p, and writes about Indiana sports at

7 thoughts on “Top 10 reasons to be very optimistic about the Pacers in 2016-2017

  1. j

    How about some college football? How bad is Purdue going to suck? Will Darrell hazell make it to the end of the season? What does Indiana need to prepare for in ball state? And maybe this is an article unto itself: Tom Allen. That guy can coach. Do people know he was an sec position coach? Do they know he likely passed on auburn to come to Indiana? What about the 4 2 5? Which guys will step into the hybrid lb safety role? What about Greg gooch and Nile Sykes on the line? Who will help Devine Redding tote the pigskin? Is camion Patrick healthy? How good is he really? What about the tight end situation? Seems precariously thin with unproven blocking. Where is Mike majette lining up? Have they figured out a way to use marquis hawkins? Lagow is the starter. But who is next? Zander can’t throw. Danny Cameron is a Cameron
    And while I’m guessing he is an asset in the film room he is a burden on the field.Austin king? Donovan hale? Lots and lots of storylines. I personally expect Indiana to take a step back this year. But I simply see it as catching their breath because the foundation is there, the culture is there and easily the best collection of coaches in a generation is there. C’mon man. Indiana football. Marcus Oliver is going to have a HUGE year.

    1. joel

      My brother are dreaming if you think IU football is going to be something special this year. If Wilson cant make it happen this year Glass needs to bounce him or someone will need to bounce Fred.
      It all comes down to recruiting, and KW has had MORE THAN enough time to get this program in the right direction. You just cant compete with the likes of Michigan, Mch St, Ohio,Wisconsin,Iowa in the big Big 10 as far as bringing players in , and lets not forget ND.

      He is 8-32 in the Big 10 since coming to IU. Yeah, you can beat up on the cupcakes and the sisters of the poor, but that only takes you so far. And if you say they’re season is a success by going to a bowl game with a 6-7 record, you are delusional. No team with a losing record should go to a post season game, but that topic is for another discussion.

      1. j

        Indiana did not have a losing record going into the bowl game. whether or not .500 teams should be in a bowl game is all about money. as a .500 team Indiana was chosen to be in that game because they are fun to watch. it turned out to be an incredibly fun, competitive game.

        I do not expect Indiana to be “something special.” I actually said I expect them to take a step backward. unlike basketball where a single recruit can put a team over the top, football recruiting is about numbers and those development. that’s happening. Indiana is in the midst of its biggest baddest offensive line pedigree in decades if not ever. wilsons teams are averaging 5 plus yards a rush. I don’t know if any iu coach since Cameron has averaged 4. unlike camerons teams wilsons are multidimensional offensive threats. the defense has been and continues to be horrible. but with the hire of tom allen, Indiana has taken a huge step forward.

        as for firing Wilson…you do realize he just signed a massive contract extension, right? I mean, the ink is still wet. I wholly concede Indiana is far from nationally relevant. but Michigan does not want to play Indiana. urban meyer has nightmares about Indiana. and while purdue is atrocious…well that bucket has been in Bloomington for quite some time now and I expect it to be there this time next year. unlike coaches past, Indiana has a chance to win most games. ask jim harbaugh. ask urban meyer.

        Indiana is better under Wilson and still getting better. wilsons teams would maul Indiana teams of years past with sheer size,athleticism and depth. I mean team size and team athleticism. nate sudfeld is obviously not randle el or Kellen lewis. you thimk tom allen might have some recruiting stroke in Indiana? he did win state titles at a 5a school. coached in Mississippi. coached in florida. recruiting ties there too. Indiana is better and getting better everyday.

        1. Joel

          Total Big 10
          2011 Indiana 1–11 0–8
          2012 Indiana 4–8 2–6
          2013 Indiana 5–7 3–5
          2014 Indiana 4–8 1–7
          2015 Indiana 6–7 2–6

          Numbers don’t lie…if you call that getting better every day and padding your numbers
          with beating directional schools, then I guess thats the expectations of the Hoosier faithful.
          You are what your record says.

          Anybody can win on any given day, but I highly doubt Harbaugh and Meyer are really concerned about IU’s ” biggest baddest offensive line pedigree in decades if not ever”. IU is not even in the same league.

          Wilson has had plenty of time. Five seasons, and nothing to show on an upward climb in the Big 10. Throw your stats out all you want , but at the end of the day ,like I said, you are what your record says. Its all about “W’s” .
          If anybody it was Terry Hoepner. Granted he had a losing record but he won more games in two years than KW has in 5.

          1. j

            that is correct. kevin Wilson won zero games his first year and six last year, culminating in a bowl game. I agree, those numbers do not lie and they show steady improvement. thank you for research.

  2. joel

    Good Points about the Pacers. They should be in the top 3-4 teams in the East, but still will have Cleveland in they’re way.

    Over the last 20-25 yrs its always been 3 teams the Pacers would have standing in front of them. NY, Bulls, Miami. Now its going be the Cav’s. Those other teams just seemed to have a little more “star” power to put them over the top, where the Pacers were just a little short in the category. If that’s gonna be Paul , he needs to assert himself this year and take it to the next level.


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