We’re inaugurating our NBA player projection system, CARMELO, with 2015-16 season previews for every team in the league. Check out the teams we’ve already previewed here. Learn more about CARMELO here.
The Indiana Pacers have been pushed to change by last season’s injury-riddled campaign, which left the team out of the playoffs for the first time in five years. Gone are Roy Hibbert and David West. Gone is the focus on size, strength and grinding interior defense. The new plan is to worship at the altar of pace and space with versatile small-ball lineups that get up and down the floor and stretch the defense in the half-court. Additions like Monta Ellis, Chase Budinger and rookie center Myles Turner should help with the change in style. But this is a massive departure from the way this team has played the past few seasons, and changes this fundamental often take time to work out. There is also the complicating factor of Paul George’s move to power forward and his apparent displeasure about it. Even if the stylistic change is ultimately a good thing, it could take a while for everyone to get comfortable.
FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO expects mixed results, projecting the Pacers to go 39-43.
And here’s what’s in store for the key Pacers in the 2015-16 season:
The broken leg that caused Paul George to miss all but six games last season has put a major kink in his development curve. CARMELO sees him returning to productivity, but nowhere near his pre-injury levels. That said, the range of likely outcomes for George is unusually wide, a precaution built into CARMELO to account for the uncertainty inherent when a player returns from injury. He’ll also be trying his hand at a new position, which isn’t going to make things any easier.
Indiana’s offense desperately needed an off-the-dribble creator. Enter Monta Ellis. But high usage with a below-average true shooting percentage is not usually a recipe for efficiency. Ellis is on the wrong side of 30, and CARMELO sees his production headed for a rapid decline toward replacement level. The Pacers are hoping he still has it all, at least for a little while longer.
George Hill is coming off the best per-minute offensive season of his career, and his reward will be sharing ball-handling duties with Ellis. Hill is a versatile player who can score, distribute and defend, but it remains to be seen how the Pacers will use him this season.
Comparables like Voshon Lenard and Dell Curry make it obvious what C.J. Miles does best: shoot from the outside. The more Indiana can limit his role to catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, the better off everyone will be.
Rodney Stuckey had a career year last season, in large part because he made 39.0 percent of his 3-pointers. If you believe he can repeat that performance then I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.