Pacers 1st Half Recap: Happy Thursday to the Pacer faithful!
Hope everyone is enjoying the beautiful March weather and the NBA break because the second half of the season is set to return, and the Pacers are back in action on Friday night against Lebron James and the L.A. Lakers.
First Half Summary: Struggled late and injuries continue to slow down this team
The first 35 games of the season were a struggle for the Pacers as they found themselves at (16-19) and No. 19 in the latest power rankings at the break.
It was a little over a month ago the Pacers were (12-9) and trying to weather a storm of injuries that have slowed this group down. Indiana has dropped 10 of their last 14 games that saw four and five game losing streaks and has dropped the team to 10th in the Eastern Conference Standings.
Having to play without two key starters in forward T.J. Warren and guard Caris Levert has rattled this team as the two have only logged 117 total minutes on the season.
Warren went out in the 4th game of the season following foot surgery, and the question remains will we see him at all this season. Rumor is Warren hasn’t touched a basketball since the 4th game of the season and is still in a walking boot, so the chance he comes back is very slim with the playoffs a little over a month away.
Levert came over in the blockbuster trade that sent superstar James Harden to Brooklyn and guard Victor Oladpio to Houston. During Levert’s physical, doctors found a cancerous mass on his left kidney that required surgery.
Levert has been practicing which is great news for the organization, so a return could be sooner rather than later but continued patience will be needed.
Despite the struggles, the Pacers first half wasn’t a total bust. Domantas Sabonis made his second consecutive All-Star berth as a focal point of the Pacer’s future and the now.
Center Myles Turner continues to lead the league in blocked shots and is a defensive player of the year candidate and the Sabonis-Tuner duo is meshing and meeting the expectations they have hoped for.
Malcolm Brogdon continues to be the leader of the offense and the bench has been solid in helping them stay in the majority of games. The team is only 3 games under .500 with the second half starting.
First year Coach: Nate Bjorkgren
There has been a lot of chatter on first year head coach Nate Bjorkgren and his job status. For those that are not fans of the coach, it’s time to lock it in because he is not going anywhere anytime soon. Nate appears to have impressed both his players and General Manager Kevin Pritchard with his calm demeanor and willingness to try different things.
Under Bjorkgren, the offensive scheme is built on space and player movement. Since the departure of Oladipo, offensively the Pacers are ranked 18th in and are -2.2 in net rating. Bjorkgren”s defensive schemes and constant changes are fresh and new which has been exciting, but even with Myles Turner anchoring the middle the Pacers are ranked 18th in defensive rating at (110.9).
Having the right personnel to fit the offensive and defensive schemes would benefit Bjorkgren’s system, so some trades could be looming to find those types of players.
Wth the trade deadline coming up, we should expect the Pacers to be fairly busy. Making adjustments on the wing in adding a defensive stopper would help this team in the second half.
Myles Turner has had a career season, and all off season he was one of the bigger names in the trade speculations. Due to the rise of his play could he be on the move to add vital pieces and let Sabonis roam the paint alone? The biggest question is what is his worth and will GM Kevin Prtichard bite on moving his longest tenured Pacer?
The second half of the season: Tough Stretch For Pacers
The Pacers start the second half of the season on Friday, March 12th, with a loaded schedule coming out of the break. Their first six games feature a slate of Western Conference playoff teams in the L.A. Lakers, Phoenix Suns, and Denver Nuggets before an East bout with the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat in back to back games.
This team is going to be tested early before things settle in. A 3-3 stretch would be nice.
Getting the roster back to 100% would help this team and fix some of the scoring issues. Stated earlier, TJ Warren has been out most of the season since playing in the first four games to start the season. Getting him back in the line up would be a nice addition for the team as he provides 15.5 points per game on 52.9% shooting.
Levert is close to returning to the team as rumors have stated sometime in late March or early April. Before he was sidelined, Levert was averaging 18.0 points per game and 6.0 assists on 43.5% shooting in Brooklyn off the bench.
Upon his return to Indiana, he will slot into the starting line up next to Brogdon. His ability to explode on any given night as well as create for others will be a huge part for this team going forward.
Are the Pacers playoff bound or headed to the lottery?
There are still a lot of lingering questions as stated above and with the way this roster is structured this team still has some nice players and yes, they should be playoff bound. No one within the organization is questioning Bjorkgren’s ability to coach and the job he has done with the players he has had available.
The trade deadline is coming up, and Kevin Pritchard has shown he will pull the trigger on deals if it can better the roster. Unless Myles Turner is moved I wouldn’t expect any big moves, but some smaller acquisitions to bolster up holes on the wings and added depth is a real expectation.