Indiana is ready for a new beginning, and in the process, they’re embracing the underdog title that comes with it.

Following the departures of Paul George and Jeff Teague over the offseason, the Pacers became a questionable team for the playoffs. However, the franchise did manage to make new solid additions in the off-season and build for the now and the future.

A New Pace for the Pacers

Acquiring guards Victor Oladipo and Cory Joseph was a sign of the direction that the Pacers hoped. Oladipo is a baller, but it just has not been enough.

“Orlando and OKC gave up. We accept that challenge of developing (Victor Oladipo) into that (All-Star),” said Pacers Head Coach Nate McMillan. “The time is right for him to take the next step in his career.”

As the second overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Victor Oladipo had high expectations coming out of Indiana University. It has always been unclear if Oladipo can become the franchise player he was expected to be. However, at the age of 25, the Pacers are hoping he breaks out as a leader for the team going forward.

“I think he’s ready to step up in a [leadership] role.” Al Jefferson stated.

With the acquisition of Oladipo, the Pacers offer him the best opportunity to become a leader and improve his game. Also, Oladipo is no longer a sidekick to the league MVP in a stacked western conference. In fact, Oladipo should take advantage of the opportunity he has being in the east.

The young Pacers are ready to get to work, and the playoffs are an optimistic goal.

“We’re a playoff team last year and obviously we don’t have the same pieces as we did last year,” Thaddeus Young said, reflecting on the Paul George trade. “You never know what could happen… [Miami Heat] had us on the ropes and we were supposed to be the better team, so we could be that Miami.”

After Jeff Teague left in free-agency, the Pacers made a move for Cory Joseph from Toronto. Joseph has progressed year after year and has become a solid guard. Certainly, Cory knows what it takes to be a winner, previously playing in the Spurs system, winning a championship with the team in 2014.

“I love the way Cory plays in the pick and Roll,” Myles Turner claimed, “He killed us in the playoffs my rookie season… (CJ Miles) is gonna be missed but we gotta move on and we gotta shooter in return as well.”
 (Streeter Lecka / GETTY IMAGES)  
“Cory’s a good guard who can push the ball, he can get into the paint as well. I can play off him, he can play off me. We kind understand each other because we played similar roles in the past,” said Darren Collison “He has a ring from San Antonio, he definitely knows what it takes to win, that’s a guy we’re all gonna be looking forward to playing with.”

Joseph has spent time as a backup and a starter and has proved efficient with the time he is given. Although the Pacers let go of a great three-point wing in CJ Miles, he was 30 years old and has shown signs of decline. At 26 years old, Joseph shows great potential and will benefit the young and developing team.

“I’m excited for a bigger role in Indiana.” Cory Joseph told Spark Sports. “Toronto is always going to be home, but I’m ready to take on this role and start a new chapter. If that means I start or I backup [Darren Collison] it doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to be here.”

 

Indiana young talent continues with a great pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, taking UCLA’s T.J. Leaf. The former UCLA power-forward was among the Pac-12’s most efficient bigs in the conference with an FG% of 61% and shooting 46% from three.

Did Lonzo Ball overshadow Leaf’s talent at UCLA? Maybe, but it does not phase him. T.J. is eager to let his game speak for itself when he begins his rookie season.

“He has a great face-up game, always able to face guys up and he’s gonna be able to shoot the ball,” said Myles Turner. “We’re gonna have to teach him as the season progresses just as any rookie should, but I like T.J.’s game. I was a fan of his in high school. I’ve watched him play AAU a little bit, I saw him at UCLA. I’m a fan of his game.”

Will a Playoff Push be Easy?

With all the All-Star moves happening in the Western Conference it’s easy to believe the Pacers will easily make playoffs. However, Myles Turner disagrees.

Lance Stephenson also agreed with Turner on the Eastern Conference grind. Although his former teammate Paul George has teamed up with Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook in the West, it makes the East more “open.”

 

The Pacers have plenty of young, developing talent that is ready for a breakout season at some point. Although they lost Paul George, they still have enough to make a push for the seventh or eighth seed in a crippled Eastern Conference.

“I feel like I can bring that positive and winning energy,” Lance Stephenson said. ” I feel like this is a new beginning, a new year, a new start. I feel like a rookie again.”

Indiana’s future is bright and there is no urgent need to tank if the young talent can prove themselves this year.

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