2015-2016 Record: 45-37
Gone is the team that stood up to LeBron James’ Miami Heat and battled for supremacy in the East; only Paul George and Lavoy Allen remain from the 2013-2014 team that took the Big Three to six games in the conference finals.
Also indicative of the Pacers’ roster turnover was the so-called Hill Exodus that took place this offseason, as George, Jordan, and Solomon of the same surname all have either been traded or signed a contract with another franchise in free agency. Going from three Hills one season to zero the next is truly a record that will never be broken.
The full-scale return from injury of Paul George, as well as contributions from point guard George Hill and 2015 lottery pick Myles Turner lifted the Pacers to a seventh seed in the playoffs, and Larry Bird‘s team didn’t stop there, pushing the second seeded Toronto Raptors to seven games before succumbing to the duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
Also surprising was the dismissal of head coach Frank Vogel, who is now with the Orlando Magic. Vogel was not fired, his contract simply expired and was not renewed by the Pacers, likely to provide financial stability, but the situation as a whole is curious considering the relative success Indiana enjoyed.
Following the conclusion of the season, the Pacers were very active in the trade market, taking part in two separate deals involving the Utah Jazz, Atlanta Hawks, and Brooklyn Nets. First, point guard George Hill was sent to the Jazz in a three team trade in exchange for former Hawk Jeff Teague, while on draft night, the Nets sent power forward Thaddeus Young to Indiana in exchange for the number 20 pick in this year’s draft (used to select Michigan’s Caris LeVert).
Hill and Teague are similar on paper, but logistically, we won’t know the fit until we see it on the floor. Young is a much better player, at least right away, than the Pacers would be getting with the pick they gave up, and his versatility and veteran presence will give his new team a boost.
Young’s arrival, along with the departure of Ian Mahinmi, will likely push Myles Turner to the starting center role; even though the newly signed Al Jefferson has a lot left in the tank, bigs of his type are often now utilized off the bench.
Turner has all the tools necessary to be a modern center: he can block shots, rebound, and stretch the floor, the only thing left for him to do is build on an encouraging rookie season and utilize his talents in a more suitable role.
Other than Jefferson, the bench is a little scarce, but the Pacers have a starting lineup capable of taking them once again to the playoffs, and the Bucks will need to improve a great deal to challenge them in terms of record.