Pacers Tabbed As Likely 4th Seed

Teague averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 assists, and 2.7 rebounds per game last season.

Teague averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 assists, and 2.7 rebounds per game last season.

We recently wrote about the NBA GMs’ apparent approval of the Pacers’ offseason moves. This was evidenced by the fact that the same GMs picked the Pacers to finish fourth in a survey about the upcoming season. That reflected a general mood from within the league, but a recent write-up from a respected NBA analyst from ESPN reinforced the idea of a top-four finish.

Taking an in-depth look at the newly constructed roster, Zach Lowe stated that the Pacers could be as high as a four seed and have the talent to make some legitimate noise in the playoffs. That’s fairly high praise in an increasingly competitive Eastern Conference, and comes with Lowe citing a mix of talent and experience on the Indiana roster.

Some of that talent and experience was already present last season. Paul George may still be improving, Myles Turner was outstanding as a rookie, and both Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey are very capable, if somewhat streaky guards. But a lot of the strength leading to top-four projections is coming from the Pacers’ newcomers.

Headlining that group is Jeff Teague, who will take over point guard duties from the departed George Hill. Teague is a more traditional point guard and in particular ought to function as a more capable distributor for a Pacers team that will have plenty of offensive options. Interestingly enough, one statistical analysis of NBA finalists indicated that an Eastern Conference contender’s top assist man ought to average about 6.7 assists per game. Hill was closer to 3.5, whereas Teague has averaged 5.2 for his career, and over 6.5 between 2012 and 2015. That’s not everything but it’s one way to put in writing why some are feeling bullish on the Pacers’ point guard change.

Another headliner is Al Jefferson, who, if anything, is being a little bit overlooked heading into 2016-17. Last season he was ranked among the top-15 centers in the league, and he may be coming off the bench in Indiana. Should Myles Turner break out the way many expect him to, Jefferson will become an unusually strong complement off the bench. And should Turner struggle, the Pacers have a unique ability to insert a starting quality center in his place. Jefferson’s presence speaks to both the talent and experience noted by Lowe in picking the Pacers as a top-four team.

[PODCAST: Rick Bonnell on Al Jefferson]

And then there’s Thaddeus Young, who could be among the league’s most underrated veterans. Having spent the last 10 seasons in Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Brooklyn, he’s largely avoided contention, and thus the spotlight. But having averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds last season, Young is a strong, experienced inside presence who some view as a nice frontcourt partner for Turner (or potentially Jefferson).

Jeremy Evans, Aaron Brooks, and rookie Georges Niang will be on board too for a Pacers team that ought to look quite different from the 2015-16 version. Whether or not a four-seed is a fair projection remains to be seen, but for those who have been surprised to see such predictions, this brief look at the strength of the team’s new additions ought to explain things a little bit.

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