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NBA: Indiana Pacers starting to show light despite being overlooked

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Feature
361   //    14 Dec 2017, 08:29 IST

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The Indiana Pacers were overlooked this offseason, but they are proving everyone wrong this season.

The Indiana Pacers are starting to look like a great team this season, sporting a record of 16-12, which places them fifth in the Eastern Conference. At the pace they have been going recently, we could see them in contention when the playoffs come around. I have them as my dark horse this season.

The Pacers went 42-40 last season to finish seventh in the Eastern Conference. They were then beaten by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs. After losing in the first round, the Pacers decided to have a big offseason with almost a full roster rebuild.

Jeff Teague and Aaron Brooks both left and decided to join the Minnesota Timberwolves after only one year with the Pacers. Rodney Stuckey sustained a left patellar tendon strain and was then waived the next day during the playoffs.

Kevin Seraphin was waived during the offseason and signed with FC Barcelona Lassa in the Liga ACB. Georges Niang got waived by the team in the offseason before signing with the Golden State Warriors. He currently plays for their affiliate team, the Santa Cruz Warriors.

C. J. Miles decided to leave and sign with the Toronto Raptors. Monta Ellis and Lavoy Allen were waived by the team. Rakeem Christmas was also waived and signed with the Galatasaray Turkish club. The biggest part of their team, Paul George, was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo.

The Pacers obtained Cory Joseph from the Raptors for the draft rights of Emir Preldzic. They also traded cash considerations for the New Orleans Pelicans' second round pick, Edmond Sumner.

The Pacers picked up T. J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu with the 18th and 47th overall picks in the 2017 NBA Draft, respectively. They also signed Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, and Alex Poythress over the offseason. They also signed Damien Wilkins despite the fact that he hadn't played since 2013. The Pacers only returned six players from last season.

The trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder mentioned earlier was speculated as a loss for the Indiana Pacers and a win for the Thunder. But in reality, the Pacers were the team that won that trade.

The Thunder saw George and then Carmelo Anthony join reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, but they are only 13-14, which places them ninth in the Western Conference. They just haven't been able to play well together and string together key wins.

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On the other side, Oladipo is playing out of his mind. Last season with the Thunder, he only averaged 15.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.3 blocks per game. This season, he has averaged 24.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.

These numbers not only make Oladipo and All-Star caliber player, but they put him in contention to win the Most Improved Player award this season. Sabonis has been a great sixth man off the bench as well, lighting it up for an average of 12.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

The Pacers have a nice balance of young and veteran players that play well together. Their starting lineup consists of Collison, Oladipo, Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner. Collison and Young bring the veteran leadership, putting up respectable numbers night in and out.

Oladipo and Bogdanovic are hitting the primes of their careers. Turner is the dominant big man and also the Pacers' main building piece at the age of only 21 years of age. The Pacers also have a strong bench, which helps them win games.

The bench mainly consist of Sabonis, Joseph, Lance Stephenson, and Al Jefferson. Stephenson and Jefferson bring the veteran leadership off the bench. Joseph is starting to hit the prime of his career and Sabonis will be another building block for the team. 

Looking at this team during the offseason didn’t spark up much conversation except for the fact that they were set to have a rebuilding season. With a median age of 25.5, they were in the middle of the league when it came to age, and they didn’t have any superstar players.

Nobody expected Oladipo and Sabonis to make this much improvement. Collison is passing the ball exceptionally well this season, leading to open looks and spreading the floor. Finally, Turner is getting better each year with more experience.

This team is looking very strong this season and will be even better in future years. This is a team to look out for this season, and don’t be surprised if we see some upsets from them.

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