Pondering the Pacers: Looking at the Bright Side After the Oladipo Injury

Heads up! This article was imported from a previous version of The Campus Citizen. If you notice any issues, please let us know.

It didn’t even look that bad.

There he was, Victor Oladipo, about to get up after going for a steal against Pascal Siakam. Then, out comes the Grim Reaper (disguised as a trainer), who immediately throws a towel over Vic’s leg, and another entry into the book of “Indiana Getting Screwed” was written.

See, it’s easy to look at this hand that the Pacers have been dealt and say, “well, on to next year.” If you know this team, though, you know that that’s not an option. Ever since Paul George was dealt away, the Pacers have had, quite literally, a “gold swagger.” As a fan, it’s awesome-- the Pacers always have a chance to win.

If not for guys like Thad Young, Domantas Sabonis, Bojan Bogdanovic, and the rejuvenated Myles Turner, it’d be easy for me to count the Pacers out. But, even in a dark time like this, there are a few things  that can reassure even the most skeptical among basketball fans.

Let’s run down the list.

1.) The Pacers have experience without Vic

Think back to December, when Vic first went down with a knee injury. The Pacers managed to go 7-4 during that stretch, including two victories over the Jazz while igniting the start of a 7-game win streak.

During that span, Bogdanovic averaged 19.4 points per game and dropped 20 or more 6 times. Thad put up 9 games in double figure scoring, and free agent acquisition Tyreke Evans finally started showing signs of life with a stat line of 18 points and 6 boards against the Wizards.

2.) The Pacers won’t finish lower than 5th in the East

Before the basketball gods decided to pull a fast one, I was pretty confident that the Pacers could make it to the Conference Finals. They were gradually creeping up on the Bucks and Raptors at the top of the East standings. I’m not saying that the Pacers would’ve made a Finals run, but they could have been right on the cusp.

Now, it seems pretty clear that nobody’s coming out of the East except Toronto or Boston. Wait, what about Philly, you ask? Well, when guys like Mike Muscala and TJ McConnell might be called upon in crunch time, I don’t like your chances. And the Bucks? Giannis is going to need more than Khris Middleton to get past the depth of the Celtics and the Raptors.

The bottom of the East’s playoff picture is ugly. . There’s the Hornets (23-24)--Kemba’s having a career year, but his only help is coming from Miles Bridges, Malik Monk, Tony Parker’s walking carcass and Cody Zeller’s hairline. Then there’s the Wizards (20-27), whose best remaining big man is Ian Mahinmi (not a good spot to be in, believe me).

Sitting at 32-15 right now, the Pacers are six games up on the Nets, who are currently looking at the sixth seed. I’d be shocked if the blue and gold dropped below the fifth spot.

3.) More minutes for Aaron Holiday

The stats might not show it, but every time Aaron Holiday checks into the game, I get hyped. I mean, let’s be honest. Darren Collison probably isn’t coming back next year and unless Kevin Pritchard re-signs Cory Joseph, Holiday is going to be the man. He’s been good in his few appearances this season.

Tyreke is almost certainly going to take Victor’s starting spot and his minutes, but Holiday will also benefit here. If he can play well enough and get a good share of court time, don’t be shocked if he lands on an All-Rookie team.

4.) Nate McMillan knows what he’s doing

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a fan of the McMillan hiring when it happened. I was a big Frank Vogel guy, mostly because the defense came to play every night. When Vogel was let go, everything went a little downhill during the 2016-17 season. Probably the most forgettable season this decade, everything about that Pacers team frustrated me, and I put a lot of the blame on Nate.

Then, I saw the culture that Nate built last year. It had that Spurs feeling to it, a team-first mentality that led to a 48-win year. That’s when McMillan won me over. Don’t get me wrong, the coach has a tall task ahead of him without his franchise player, but if he’s able to get to 45 wins or even match last season’s total, look for McMillan to be a dark horse Coach of the Year candidate.

Pacers fans don’t need to worry about the regular season. It’s the playoffs. The East has been dominated by the same five teams up to this point, and I don’t see that changing. Do I wish Vic hadn’t been hurt? Of course. All I’m saying is, don’t lose hope just yet.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Campus Citizen, IUPUI