By Jamie Bailey
It’s the dog days of summer, the days are long, and I can’t wait for football season to start. However, It occurred to me the other day that I really miss basketball. The NBA off-season has slowed considerably. The dust has settled and we can start looking at the teams and if they improved or not. I was looking at one of the teams roster the other day and I think they got a lot better this off-season. That team is the the Indiana Pacers.
Indiana had a so-so year in 2015 but they still made the playoffs. They finished as the number 7 seed in the East, and they took the Toronto Raptors to game 7, losing a close one after a furious comeback. Indiana fired their coach Frank Vogel, and replaced him with Nate McMillan. Vogel was a pretty damned good coach, but Bird let him go. While I think this didn’t make them better they certainly didn’t get worse. McMillan is good basketball mind, and it was nice to see him get another job. Indiana was an OK team with a superstar in Paul George but they needed to get better and that is exactly what they did.
They traded for hometown product Jeff Teague. Teague should help them immensely at the point guard position. Last year they played Monta Ellis at point guard. Monta is more of a combo guard he and Paul George move well without the ball. I expect for Ellis and Paul George to shoot better this year and be more efficient. They also signed free agents Al Jefferson and Thaddeus Young. Young is an intriguing player, he’s long and athletic, and he can play multiple positions. This gives the team flexibility depending on match ups or if the injury bug hits the team. Al Jefferson was a bargain signing and Indiana needed a low post scoring threat and they got that. Jefferson is a solid center and has been for years. He’s capable of scoring 16-20 a night and giving you double digit rebounds.
Indiana won 45 games last year, and if they stay healthy, I expect for them to win 50+ games this up-coming. While they became a better team they still aren’t the class of the East. That still belongs to the Cavaliers. That being said I expect a strong year from the Pacers, and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals is not out of the question. They along with the Celtics will be fun teams to watch next year in the Eastern Conference.