Now that the Paul George trade is in the rearview mirror, where do the Indiana Pacers stand?Eight weeks ago, Kevin Pritchard was shown to the Indiana Pacers’ center stage. A legend had just flapped his wings and fluttered away, the spotlight was Pritchard’s alone. His task was clear, build a roster so compelling that Indiana’s All-sStar, Paul George, would want to stay and finish his career in blue and gold. Two weeks ago, George snuck up behind Pritchard- like Jeff Daniels in cheap nba jerseys Dumb and Dumber but switch Daniel’s powder blue suit for one of gold and purple- and cracked him in the back of his knees with a walking cane. George then trotted away aiming west. Pritchard was alone now, felled before Indiana and the entire league, starless at center stage needing to pull the type of magic trick that can prevent a franchise from spending a decade in irrelevancy. Then, with the lights bright, two hours before the start of free agency, Pritchard doffed his top hat, reached in, rummaged around and pulled out a couple rabbits. Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis are Pacers. Paul George gets his wish and goes west…to Oklahoma City. Sure it’s not Hollywood, but Pritchard doesn’t care. The haul is impressive, a virtuoso performance by Pritchard. For a star who had no intention of staying, Pritchard netted two starter-quality players that are both young (Oladipo is 25, Sabonis is 21) and under team control until 2021. The average age of the Pacers’ young core (Oladipo, Sabonis, Myles Turner, Glenn Robinson III, Lance Stephenson, and rookies T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu) is an even 22. To say Oladipo is well-known in Indiana is an understatement. He was beloved in the Hoosier state during his time at IU. He’s become a consistent starter in the NBA, starting 80 percent of his career games, including all 67 last year for OKC. As a two-guard he’s cut more from the Dwyane Wade mold than the Klay Thompson one. Oladipo’s 3-point shot is average, but that’s not where he excels. He’s tremendous at attacking and getting to the rim off drives and back-cuts. It’s reasonable to assume that his scoring numbers will go up in Indy. Keep in mind that Oladipo’s stats from last season were deflated just by playing on the same team as the ball-dominant Russell Westbrook. No NBA player had the ball in his hand more than Westbrook did last year. Sabonis, the lesser known player, looked every ounce as much of the rookie he was last season, which is fair since he was 20. It takes a while for big men to develop, Jermaine O’Neal began coming into his own at 23, Roy Hibbert’s first All-Star game was at 25 and Rik Smits became a regular starter at 26. Sabonis got a jump on those three by playing in 81 games last year and starting 66 of them for the Thunder as a rookie. His stats were low (5.9 pts, 3.6 rbs) but his offensive game is somewhat similar to Myles Turner’s: he’s lithe enough to make cuts to the basket off pick-and-rolls, and he’s efficient enough (55 percent) to score when he gets to the rim. He also, like Turner, has a decent 3-point shot (Sabonis: 32.1 percent, Turner: 34.8 percent). Another random factoid, Sabonis’ dad was one of the greatest centers of all time. Arvydas Sabonis was a legend internationally and would’ve been so in America if the Soviet’s had let him. Spoiler: they didn’t. Arvydas was the star on the Soviet team that knocked out the Americans in the 1988 Olympics. Graceful and powerful, Domantas’ dad could do it all. That, of course, doesn’t mean Domantas will play as well, but it’s worth noting. Back to center stage, and there’s still work for Pritchard to do. Indiana still needs a point guard, especially with Jeff Teague headed to Minnesota. Indiana also still needs more 3-point shooting, but this is a start. While the roster is currently full (the George trade set it at 15), there’s still room to tinker. Al Jefferson is basically on an expiring contract. Joe Young, Georges Niang and Rakeem Christmas are all tertiary players that do not have guaranteed contracts. Maybe Indy could package a few and ship them to San Antonio for Danny Green, especially if the Spurs are looking to create added cap space.
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