After losing in seven games to the second-seeded Toronto Raptors in the first round of the NBA playoffs, the Indiana Pacers went into the off-season hoping to push the team to the next level. As NBA free agency begins to die down, the Pacers look ready to compete for a top 3 seed in the Eastern Conference due to their off-season acquisitions through the draft, free agency, and trades.
The Pacers traded George Hill in a 3 team deal and netted Jeff Teague from the Hawks in return. While Teague had his worst statistical season since 2014 this past year, he still put up better numbers than George Hill, despite playing less minutes. Although Teague may not be as good of a perimeter threat as Hill is, his play-making and basketball IQ place him in a tier above Hill. No matter how fans view this trade, the Pacers definitely got an upgrade at the point guard position.
Thaddeus Young was acquired from Brooklyn in exchange for the 20th pick in the NBA draft. Thaddeus Young is a proven NBA player who was stuck on a horrible Nets team, and the Nets’ pure desperation to get a spot in the draft ended up being a steal for the Pacers. Young is a power forward who can fit in the Pacers offense, as he provides some floor spacing with a mid-range touch and occasional three point stroke. He can score in bunches and is a career 50% shooter, and his offensive prowess will lighten the load on Paul George. While Young may not be renowned for his defensive abilities, his offense is what’s needed most. Whether Young starts or comes off the bench, he will put up points the Pacers desperately need.
In the second round of the draft the Pacers were able to snag Georges Niang of Iowa State. In college, Niang was a triple-double threat with a knack for scoring and shooting the long ball. With his large frame he should be able to hold his own in the NBA, and for a second round pick, he is well worth the investment. He likely won’t see consistent minutes in his rookie year, but he will have his opportunities to prove his worth for the Pacers.
In free agency, the Pacers got a solid player in Al Jefferson. Big Al may not be the star he once was in Utah and Charlotte, but his offensive skill-set for a big man is one of the best in the NBA. With an array of post moves and mid-range jumpers, Jefferson always has the ability to put up 20 points. Injuries may have derailed his past season, but if Jefferson can stay healthy, he will provide inside scoring for this Pacers squad which has never featured a prominent scoring big man. It is rumored that Jefferson is likely to come off the bench with Myles Turner starting, and this bench role can help him maximize his offensive talents while hiding some of his defensive shortcomings.
The Pacers had one of the best off-seasons of any NBA teams. If their new acquisitions can gel quickly with the likes of Paul George and Monta Ellis, the Pacers can expect a high rise up the Eastern Conference standings like many experts are predicting.