The Indiana Pacers have been one of the biggest stories during the first month of the 2017-18 NBA season.
Indiana was expected to undergo a rebuilding process following the offseason trade that sent Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder. But even immediately after the trade, several experts criticized them. Apparently receiving Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis wasn’t good enough for someone like George, widely believed to be among the top 15 or 20 players in the entire league.
Fast forward towards the end of November, and the Pacers are in very good shape at the moment. Indiana currently has a 10-8 record, but don’t let that number deceive you. They are in the midst of a four-game winning streak, and are coming off consecutive road wins against the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic. Those two franchises might very well fight for a low seed in the East later in the season, and Indiana is already playing better than them.
A big reason why Indiana has gotten to such a positive start has been their offensive play. They average 108.9 points per game, a figure that ranks sixth in the league and fourth in the East. Indiana also leads the entire Association in three-point percentage (.404) and is fourth in field-goal percentage (.479). They definitively look better than last year, something not many believed when George left the franchise.
And yes, losing someone like George definitely hurts. But no one could say the newcomers are not surpassing the pre-season expectations. Let’s take a look at Oladipo, for instance. He had struggled to live to his pre-Draft hype and never developed into anything more than a secondary scoring option, but the former Thunder guard is currently leading the team with 22.9 points per game. He is also shooting 44.7 percent from three-point range. Both figures are career-highs for him.
Myles Turner has struggled with injuries early on, and a concussion forced him to miss several weeks. However, Sabonis performed admirably in his absence and continues to do so now that he’s coming off the bench. Sabonis ranks fifth in the team in scoring with 12.7 points per contest, but also adds 9.2 rebounds per game. He has emerged as a steady presence in the paint and could be a player the Pacers want to build around for the future. A partnership between him and Turner would be incredibly hard to stop, as both players complement each other quite well.
Turner needs to get back to his best shape in order to perform. However, everybody knows he is one of the most talented big men in the entire league. The talent and the potential are there, so he should begin to produce sooner than later. And Darren Collison is having a career-year as well. The veteran point guard had bounced between several teams in the past. However, it seems he finally found a home in Indiana. The numbers back that up, as Collison is currently averaging 12.6 points with 6.8 assists per game. He ranks 10th in the league in the latter department.
Indiana needs to improve on the defensive end of the court, and the bench needs to start producing a bit more on a consistent basis. But there is no question the Pacers are looking far better than anyone expected in the first weeks of the season. And if they continue to gel as the season progresses, then watch out. They might emerge as a sleeper team that no one would like to face come playoff time.