It is gloomy in Indianapolis. Arguably the most talented Pacer of all time, Paul George, has announced that he will not be returning to Indiana after the 2018 season. Fans of the Pacers have watched the star emerge as a skinny guard out of Fresno State into the player he is today. It is tough. But Pacers fans shouldn’t quit on the franchise yet.
With George gone, the good news is that the best player on the Pacers, Turner, can still not legally drink alcohol. Turner is the focal point in this rebuild. If he can add enough strength to play with the best centers in the league in the paint while still maintaining his outside shot, he has potential to be a top five center in the league.
I still do not believe he has the ability to lead a top five team in the league. In fact, it is nearly impossible for a big man to lead a team to a championship (see Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Karl Anthony Towns, etc.). But it is undeniable that he has the ability to be one of the best “Robins” in the entire league.
He needs to improve his rebounding. His rim protecting and floor spacing on offense are great traits, but to be a elite big man you need to be a good rebounder. Seven rebounds per game as a teams center is simply not good enough. If he can push double-double territory, bulk up to improve his defense, stay out of injury and make the same improvements he made from year one to year two, the Pacers could have a star on their hands.
And guys, he’s freaking 20 years old.
The other familiar faces
The other two current Pacers that can help the rebuild are Glenn Robinson III and Lance Stephenson. However, besides them, there is not a single Pacer this team is desperate to retain.
Robinson was signed as basically a roster filler two years ago, but he proved to be a quality “3&D” player as he found himself in the starting lineup midway through the year. He improved his totals from last year in minutes played, points, rebounds, assists, steals, free throw percentage, field goal percentage and three point percentage. A guy who is a big, solid defender who shoots the three ball at around 40% is essential to any team, let alone one who is rebuilding. With another good offense and presumably at least 30 minutes per game next year as a starter, Robinson could turn into a great player for the Pacers.
Stephenson is the bigger question mark here. In 2014, Stephenson was a borderline all star who led the league in triple doubles. After bouncing around team to team for three years and finally resigning with the Pacers this year, he finally got back his mojo by being one of the best players on the team and reviving Indiana’s season. The Pacers have mentioned the idea of playing Stephenson as the point guard during the rebuild. I say do it. One of two things will happen. Indiana will either find a diamond in the rough and find out Stephenson is a quality point guard, or he will be awful and they will get a good draft pick out of the situation, only to move him back to shooting guard the next season. Both could turn out being positive for the Pacers.\
The Paul George Trade
This is essentially the biggest component of the Pacer’s rebuild. What will they get out of Paul George? The front office has rumored that practically every team in the entire NBA has reached out to them about Paul George, but what kind of trades have they been offered?
The most obvious team to trade him to is the Lakers. The Lakers hold by far the most leverage out of every team in the league because George has essentially guaranteed he’ll play for them in 2018. Reports have said the Lakers are willing to offer the Pacers Julius Randle, #27 and #28. If that is all they can get out of PG, that is tough. Randle is a young prospect, and they could maybe get a decent bench guy out of one of those two picks, but a top 15 player in the league should yield more than just that, right?
Insert the Boston Celtics. Danny Ainge and the Celtics have by far the most assets and draft picks to throw at a team like the Pacers for George. The Lakers could potentially be scared by PG playing for Boston for a year and falling in love with the team and resigning there. If the Pacers can convince the Celtics to give up Jaylen Brown and a future first round pick, the Lakers may have to give up Ingram, Luol Deng to absorb that bad contract and either #27 and #28 for George. If that’s the case, the Pacers win.
Move up in the draft
Let’s say the Pacers land the Ingram trade. That gives them a core of Stephenson, Ingram, GRIII and Turner with picks #18 and #28. Those picks may not give you much. What the Pacers can do is make a trade with a team in the lottery of #18 and Thad Young. If you make that trade with any team between the picks of 11-14 (Charlotte, Detroit, Denver and Miami. All teams who have expressed a “win now” mentality) then you are in business to make a big splash. Instead of landing a guy like Justin Patton, you’re looking at a Donovan Mitchell or a Justin Jackson.
Then you still have #28 to work with. Why not go after a serviceable point guard here? As I mentioned earlier, Stephenson is a major question mark at point guard. Drafting a point guard at this spot gives the Pacers some security in case Stephenson is a bust. My pick is Josh Hart out of Villanova.
Get ready Indianapolis. This team is bad. Not good. But there are pieces here for a great rebuild. With a top 5 pick in the 2018 draft and one or two more young prospect acquisitions, not all is bad in Naptown.
PF-Free Agent Sign (A Derrick Williams or Terrnace Jones like player)
SG-Glenn Robinson III