After back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Indiana Pacers are looking to move past their mediocre 2014-2015 season, in which they finished 38-44. This year also marked their first year without playoff action in the Frank Vogel era. However, the tough and physical playing style that the Pacers have hung their identity on for the better part of the past four season has changed completely in favor of a more perimeter-oriented game that values spacing.
The most important thing Pacer fans can be excited about is the return of Paul George. The two-time all-star is back and looking better than ever after suffering a gruesome leg injury. George has recently stated that he believes he is still a candidate to take home both MVP and all-defense honors and after the basketball world saw him in action this preseason, it’s hard to against those claims. While Paul George looks back to full strength already, it remains to be seen how he will fare against the league’s best. He will get his shot when the Pacers take a trip to Ohio to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on November 8th. It goes without saying that the LeBron James – Paul George match-up will be the most intriguing match-up of the night, which we’re now two seasons removed from their last playoff bout.
A question for the new-look Indiana Pacers entering the 2015-2016 season will be regarding their ability to rebound the basketball. Under the guidance of Frank Vogel, the Pacers have always been one of the top teams and dominated the glass on a nightly basis. Last season they finished with a rebound rate of 51.2, which was good for the 6th best in the league. This should prove to be difficult for the Pacers as a team to maintain, as they lost their three leading rebounders in Roy Hibbert, David West and Luis Scola. To make up for this deficit in productivity, the Pacers will rely heavily on rookie Myles Turner, free agent acquisition Jordan Hill and Paul George, who will be seeing a ton of playing time at the power forward position.
The Indiana Pacers may not look like the elite contender they were just two years ago, but they are certainly on the correct track. With 16 games through October/November, the newly assembled Pacers may see a month filled with growing pains and chemistry issues. A large portion of their success will rely on the chemistry of Monta Ellis and Paul George. The duo will get its first test on October 28th when they take a trip north of the border to take on the Toronto Raptors.