Pacers preview: As Indiana turns page on Paul George era, all eyes on Turner, Oladipo
The Pacers will look to move forward after the offseason trade of Paul George
Standing side by side, staring stone-faced and straight ahead into the camera, Lance Stephenson, Myles Turner, Darren Collison, Thaddeus Young, Victor Oladipo and Al Jefferson posed for a portrait during Indiana Pacers media day.
A short time later, the team's official Twitter account sent out the picture, accompanied by the caption, "New year, new team," which is about as good a way to sum up the Pacers offseason as any.
It truly is a new team in Indiana. For the first time since the 2009-10 season, Paul George will not be on the roster, after the Pacers ended the months-long saga between the two by sending him to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Jeff Teague is gone, and so too are C.J. Miles and Monta Ellis.
Despite dealing away the team's best player and only All-Star, and losing three other key players, GM Kevin Pritchard didn't go full rebuild mode. Instead, he signed veteran free agents such as Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison. Cory Joseph was brought in as well. Lance Stephenson, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson are back, leading to a mish-mash roster full of youngsters the Pacers hope will be their core of the future (Turner, Oladipo, Sabonis, T.J. Leaf). The veterans will probably also ensure they aren't one of the worst teams in the league, but won't be enough to push them to the playoffs.
Making or missing the playoffs and how many wins they wind up with does not matter this season for the Pacers. In all honesty, they'd probably be better off in the long run losing a bunch of games and getting a high lottery pick, but it's hard from the team and players' perspective to set out with that goal in mind. Instead, this season is about development and growth, as it is for so many teams who figure to be outside of the playoff picture.
The Pacers are Turner's team now. The keys were officially turned over to him following the George trade. If he can make another leap and show he's capable of being the team's centerpiece for the foreseeable future, that would mean more to the Pacers than any amount of wins this season.
Turner has all the physical tools you could ever want in a big man, and had a very strong season for a second-year player, averaging 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks. Like many young players, however, he was inconsistent at times, especially toward the end of the season. If he can become more consistent with his play, as well as continue to develop his outside shot (34.8 percent from 3 last season), the Pacers would be thrilled.
Additionally, the Indiana brass will want to see Oladipo prove he's capable of being more than just a solid guard in this league. He's certainly not a bad player, but you'd hope he's a lot better than "not bad" as one of the two players you get for George, and one you'll be paying $21M a year for the next three years. As the key figure in their backcourt, Oladipo will have all the touches he wants, and all the opportunities to remind people why he was the No. 2 overall pick just a few years back.
The development of those two -- Turner and Oladipo -- is what this season is all about in Indiana. The Pacers would love to see the likes of Sabonis, Glenn Robinson III (who will be out until December) and Leaf improve over the course of the season as well, but whether or not Turner and Oladipo look worthy of being the team's one-two punch for the future will make or break this season in Indianapolis.
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