Most of the NBA rumors floating around this off-season have involved trades or free agent signings. However, now that the dust has mostly settled on the major summertime moves in the NBA, talk is beginning to focus on which teams have improved themselves the most since free agency officially began on July 1.
The Indiana Pacers are a team who quietly had a very strong summer, but their efforts did not go completely unnoticed. According to The Herd with Colin Cowherd radio program, the Pacers are now one of the top 5 teams in the NBA after their roster overhaul this summer. Host Colin Cowherd opined that Indiana is now the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, behind only LeBron James and the defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cowherd pointed out that the Pacers have a true superstar in Paul George, as well as a strong supporting cast led by Jeff Teague, Al Jefferson, and Monta Ellis. Myles Turner is coming off a stellar rookie season, and is expected to be even better in his “sophomore” season. Cowherd failed to even mention the acquisition of Thaddeus Young, who, like Jefferson, is a proven, productive veteran who is being penciled in as Indiana’s starting power forward next season.
Cowherd is not alone in his praise of the Indiana Pacers. The Cheat Sheet has also concluded that the Pacers are an NBA title contender in 2016-17. In addition to the value Indiana added to their roster this off-season, the publication points out that the team also has a new head coach, Nate McMillan. McMillan is expected to change the Pacers’ culture by exacting more discipline and accountability than the team experienced under former head coach Frank Vogel.
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The Pacers have made some savvy moves to strengthen their bench, but the most significant transactions began when Indiana traded their first-round pick in this year’s NBA Draft (No. 20 overall) to the Brooklyn Nets for power forward Thaddeus Young. Young will give the Pacers far more leadership and production this season than any of the potential draftees would have, so this will be huge plus for Indiana, particularly in the short-term.
The next domino to fall was Indiana’s involvement in a three-team trade that yielded point guard Jeff Teague, an Indianapolis native and former NBA All-Star. The Pacers had to give up George Hill to make this deal work, but Teague is an equal-to-better talent than Hill, and Teague offers skills as a point guard that the Pacers did not have when Hill manned the position. Teague is an upgrade in terms of speed and athletic ability, and he is excellent at driving the lane to set up his own shot or one for a teammate.
Once free agency commenced, the Pacers signed center Al Jefferson to a three-year, $30 million deal. Jefferson comes to Indiana with an impressive resume, having averaged a double-double multiple times during his 12 years in the league. He will likely be Myles Turner’s backup, but will play major minutes off the bench and act as a mentor for the Pacers’ young center.
The NBA rumor mill suggests that the Indiana Pacers will pose a threat to the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as other up-and-coming teams like the Boston Celtics. Do you agree that the Pacers should be on the radar as a front-runner in the East?
[Photo by AJ Mast/AP Images]