After a solid comeback season for star wingman Paul George, the Pacers are trying to build a team that will properly utilize the prime years of an elite NBA player. The first move made this summer was the acquisition of veteran point guard, Jeff Teague. A draft night trade followed this for combo forward Thaddeus Young. Since then, they have added veteran big man Al Jefferson and have been rumored to be interested in trading for Kings’ swingman Rudy Gay. From the looks of things, the Pacers are building for now. Star players are hard to come by and it’s best practice to take advantage when you have one.
Based on their current roster, their projected starting lineup is going to include Jeff Teague and Monta Ellis at the guard spots, Paul George and Thaddeus Young at the forward positions and sophomore big man Myles Turner at center. This lineup has the potential to be extremely versatile both offensively and defensively. What they lack in size, they more than make up in athleticism and quickness. Three guys in that starting lineup can create a shot and force a defense to shift.
The one glaring issue that could keep this lineup from success is poor 3-point shooting from Thaddeus Young and Monta Ellis. Young shot a putrid 23% from distance last season. That will have to improve if he is to be the stretch 4 Indiana needs him to be. Ellis shot just under 31% from 3-point range. If they don’t improve, defenses will just pack the paint and not have to shift much to keep the likes of Paul George and Jeff Teague from penetrating effectively.
With that being said, this team should thrive in transition. Teague, Ellis, George and Young can run in transition with the best of them. I expect them to play an aggressive ball-hawking type of defense and try to force turnovers. Doing this will simplify things on the offensive end.
The second unit will feature the low-post skills of Al Jefferson and exciting young point guard, Joe Young. I expect the second unit to have a more deliberate style of play because of Jefferson’s lack of mobility. I also suspect that Jefferson was brought in to mentor Myles Turner and aid his development, while challenging him for minutes.
This team has enough talent to be as high as a 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference. But there is a very delicate balance that must be achieved for this to happen. Paul George must produce at an elite level all season. Jeff Teague has to control the pace of the squad and consistently provide a threat against the defense. Monta Ellis must improve his shot selection and decision-making just enough to take the pressure of being hyper-efficient off of the stars.
Myles Turner must maintain his motor and learn how to pick his spots while being aggressive on the offensive end. Thaddeus Young must rediscover his shooting stroke and use his mobility to cause mismatches off of the ball. Head coach Nate McMillan will surely have his hands full this season, but he has the experience and familiarity with the players needed to get his message across. Look for the Pacers to turn heads one way, or another.