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2015-16 Los Angeles Lakers Season Preview

Basketball Insiders previews the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2015-16 season.

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The Los Angeles Lakers have been pretty bad for the last few years. And last season, with their top draft pick Julius Randle sustaining a season-ending leg injury in the first game and their cornerstone Kobe Bryant missing a bunch of time, their games weren’t even that exciting. To make matters worse, many of their contests were on national television.

Coming into this 2015-16 season, the script is totally flipped. Bryant and Randle are healthy, they have a slew of veteran contributors joining the team such as Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass, and this summer they drafted dynamic point guard D’Angelo Russell second overall.

There are real, legitimate reasons for Laker Nation to be excited for the first time in quite awhile, despite the unlikeliness of this squad solidifying a playoff berth in the competitive Western Conference (even though it is admittedly less deep than in recent seasons).

Basketball Insiders previews the 2015-16 Los Angeles Lakers.

Five Thoughts

The only thing I find myself wondering as the Lakers get set to tip off their 2015-16 season is whether we have already seen the last of Kobe Bryant. Bryant has missed 123 games over the past two seasons and just recently celebrated his 37th birthday. He has played 1,280 career games and another 220 playoff games, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the end is near. Fortunately for the Lakers, with the ping pong balls landing in their favor, they walked away from the 2015 NBA Draft with D’Angelo Russell—a surefire talent who general manager Mitch Kupchak believes will carry the torch for the franchise after Bryant is officially gone. Russell will join Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson as the pieces that the team will attempt to secure for the long haul, while Lou Williams, Brandon Bass, Nick Young and Roy Hibbert simply hope to give Byron Scott’s team a chance to qualify for the playoffs. In the end, without the acquisition of any game-changing free agent, the Lakers will end up as just another team in the Western Conference attempting to escape the doldrums. And unfortunately, they won’t be successful, at least not this season. Due to some recent trades, the Lakers will have to send out two first round picks over the next few years, but their 2016 first round pick is protected so long as it lands in the top three. I think it is fairly likely that the Lakers end up clocking in as one of the worst teams in the Western Conference this season, though they should have an opportunity to edge out the Sacramento Kings out in the Pacific Division.

5th Place – Pacific Division

– Moke Hamilton

I’m not sure what the Lakers are doing, to be honest. On one hand, they’re assembling an impressive young core that features talented prospects like D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. among others. Then, on the other hand, they’re bringing in veterans like Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass who will take playing time away from those young guys. It seems to me that the Lakers aren’t sure if they should embrace a rebuild or continue to add quick-fix veterans. It seems like after missing on marquee free agents this summer, they just added those veterans to save face, act like they’re competing this year and appease Kobe Bryant. I think their best course of action would be embracing the youth movement, since there’s no way that this Lakers team can make the playoffs as currently constructed in the brutal Western Conference. By adding those veterans this offseason, L.A. may have taken minutes away from their young players and hurt their chances of getting a better pick in the 2016 NBA Draft since those veterans will provide marginal improvement (but not enough to actually matter). The worst place to be as an NBA franchise is in the middle of the pack. If you aren’t a contender, it’s better to be a bottom feeder because then at least you can potentially land a star with a top draft pick and develop your young players. Right now, the Lakers find themselves in the middle of the pack and I don’t understand their long-term plan.

5th Place – Pacific Division

– Alex Kennedy

Los Angeles Lakers fans have been in the unusual position of salivating over the potential of their drafted lottery picks the last two years. Now the team’s faithful wants to get back to their winning ways of yesteryear, however, this may require a bit more patience. Sure there were solid pieces added over the summer such as D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams and Roy Hibbert. The team will also benefit from the healthy return of Julius Randle, who missed all but one game last season. But ultimately the health and effectiveness of future Hall of Fame guard Kobe Bryant will be the determining factor of this team’s ceiling. Optimists believe Bryant is ready to go out with a loud bang. Skeptics point to the fact Bryant has been unable to finish the last three seasons due to injury and the fact that his body can no longer shoulder the load solo. We’ll side with the latter.

5th Place – Pacific Division

– Lang Greene

The Lakers did what they could to salvage an offseason where they unfortunately did not land them any of the tastier fish. While adding Roy Hibbert and Lou Williams for most teams would be a reasonable haul, those guys ended up just feeling like sad consolation prizes in a truly disappointing summer. Getting the second overall pick and using it on D’Angelo Russell was a good deal, though he might not be as immediately dominant as Lakers fans hope. Having Julius Randle and Kobe Bryant back healthy are good things, as well. Good enough to make the playoffs, though? That might be asking a lot. Bryant is golfing his final hole, Hibbert is painfully inconsistent and both Randle and Russell are completely unproven. In an increasingly tough Pacific Division, it’s still tough to see them squeezing into the playoff picture, marginally improved though they may be.

4th Place – Pacific Division

– Joel Brigham

Between the returns of Kobe Bryant and Julius Randle, along with the debut of D’Angelo Russell, there will be no shortage of buzz on the Lakers this season. How it all comes together on the court remains to be seen. The Lakers should be better than their 21-win struggle last season. The additions of Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass bolsters their veteran experience and gives them players that can contribute immediately. As always, the potential of the team depends on health.

4th Place – Pacific Division

– Jessica Camerato

Top Of The List

Top Offensive Player: Kobe Bryant

Barring a near impossible addition of a select number of NBA stars, Kobe will be the best player on the Lakers until he retires. With his jumper, array of post moves and ball fakes that juke his defenders out of their shoes and make up for his waning athleticism, along with his veteran savvy and killer instinct, Kobe is the quintessential, prototypical offensive superstar. A healthy Kobe is the best offensive player on the team. Any game, anywhere, he can drop 50 points.

Top Defensive Player: Roy Hibbert

While he isn’t in his All-Star form from his early days in Indiana, Hibbert and his 7’2 frame instantly becomes the best defensive big man in a Lakers’ uniform. The “King of Verticality” will patrol the paint for Los Angeles and would hypothetically close the book on the Lakers’ reputation as basically five Spanish Matadors that invite the opposing team to drive to the hoop. No more “Olé!”

Top Playmaker: Jordan Clarkson

Obviously Kobe could fill up most of these categories, but we’ll put a young, emerging player here. The youthful Clarkson can fill it up himself, but also can get his teammates involved. His long wingspan and hops help him get deflections and initiate the fast-break for the rest of his team. It is going to be really interesting to see how the 23-year-old Clarkson will build off of his strong rookie year. He has more experience, but the point guard battle between Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell will be quite intriguing. Who is going to start between the two of them? Will they play significant minutes together? Which one will finish games beside Kobe in the backcourt?

Top Clutch Player: Kobe Bryant

How could the most clutch player on the Lakers not be Kobe? With the game on the line, who else on their team would you want shooting the ball? The Black Mamba, and it’s not even really close. Kobe is a transcendent talent that we are lucky to have been able to watch. All NBA fans should just want him to be healthy all year and have some flashes of his prime years over the course of the season. We don’t know how many years of Kobe we have left, so we have to relish and cherish him while he is still playing.

Top Unheralded Player: Julius Randle

There was a significant amount of hype for Julius Randle before last year. Then he broke his leg in his NBA debut, which sure tempered the crazy expectations. Now all the hype is on second overall draft pick D’Angelo Russell, Clarkson and the incoming veterans. Randle shouldn’t be left out of the conversation. The Lakers now have a talented guard rotation and as a big man, a healthy Randle will be able to show off his tremendous skills and make an impact in the post this season.

Top New Addition: D’Angelo Russell

Russell is going to be electric for the Lakers. They haven’t had this talented of a point guard since… maybe Derek Fisher in his prime (we can’t count Steve Nash since he was never really healthy). Russell seems to have embraced what it means to be a Laker and looks primed to have a great rookie season (as he recently told our Alex Kennedy). He beats out the veteran acquisitions (Hibbert, Williams and Bass) mostly based on his superstar potential. Russell is the future of the Lakers. Once Kobe retires (and not until then), Russell will be the face of the franchise. He is dynamic and will certainly contribute to the uptick in the number of Lakers wins this upcoming season.

– Eric Saar

Who We Like:

1. Lou Williams: Williams is a better version of Nick “Swaggy P” Young. He can be that awesome spark off the bench and gives the Lakers some long-range shooting, which they lacked last year (if Coach Byron Scott lets him shoot from deep with enough volume to make a difference).

2. Brandon Bass: Bass will really help the Lakers as a free agent addition. He is a blue-collar guy who works hard, sets screens, rebounds well and defends his position. He’s a little better than just that, but those characteristics in a player who also has some offensive ability and versatility, along with his experience, will be an asset to Los Angeles.

3. Nick Young: Swaggy P isn’t a bad NBA player, but the problem is he has been forced into a bigger role than he should really fill on a team. With the addition of Lou Williams, the drafting of Russell, along with Bryant and Randle’s improved health, the Lakers won’t have to rely so much on Young and he should flourish this upcoming season as a result. He does have some playmaking ability, he can certainly shoot and is definitely a great “bad shot” maker.

4. Ryan Kelly: Sort of in the same vein as Nick Young, Kelly has been thrust into a larger role than he’s suited for. The 24-year-old stretch-four is perfectly suited to be one of the last bigs off the bench, not a starter or key contributor. With the addition of Hibbert and Bass, as well as a healthy Randle, Kelly gets moved down the depth chart and can pick his spots, flourishing in a suitable role. His shooting will certainly help, as he is by far the best shooter in the Lakers’ frontcourt.

5. Larry Nance Jr: Nance Jr. will be another youthful addition to this diverse Lakers squad. Since being drafted, he has worked on his shot. Nance Jr. impressed during the Las Vegas Summer League with his athletic blocks and dunks, so he should be exciting to watch in the paint. For more on Nance Jr., check out Alex Kennedy’s wide-ranging interview with him from earlier this year.

– Eric Saar

Strengths

Los Angeles finally has some shooting and playmaking ability on its roster. The Lakers need it, as they were 26th in the NBA in effective field goal percentage last season.

The Lakers actually have some solid guards now. With Bryant, Russell, Clarkson, Williams and even Young, it’s a pretty decent rotation. They’ve improved their shooting by adding Williams and Russell over last year, and of course a healthy Kobe helps in that area as well. All these playmakers mean one of them should “go off” every game, giving the Lakers an offensive boost.

– Eric Saar

Weaknesses

Even with the addition of Hibbert, this defense is still going to be pretty bad. Last year they ranked second to last in the NBA in opponents’ effective field goal percentage. Just adding Hibbert and a handful of negative to average defenders won’t sway that too much.

While good near the basket, Hibbert is still really slow. Bass is around league-average and Robert Sacre, Randle, Kelly and Tarik Black are young and unproven defensively. With Hibbert and Bass, their rebounding should improve, but it still won’t be great.

– Eric Saar

The Burning Question

Will the Lakers surprise everyone and make the playoffs?

Doubtful. Even though there are a couple spots open in the West with Dallas and Portland getting significantly worse, the Lakers would still have to leapfrog teams like the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings, which is unlikely. However, there is finally (a realistic) reason for optimism and excitement in Lakerland again – a reason to watch all those nationally televised games: all of the young talent and a bright future.

There are no guarantees, but in a year or two there is a solid chance that the men in purple and gold can make the playoffs. The Grizzlies will likely be worse (Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol aren’t getting younger). The Thunder may be broken up (who knows where Kevin Durant decides to go, although he may decide to stay in Oklahoma City). It remains to be seen what will happen to the Rockets too, as some key players (including Dwight Howard) approach free agency.

The Lakers are probably still a few seasons away from meaningful contention, but with a growing core of young players, the future is brighter than it has been in recent years.

– Eric Saar

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NBA Daily: Examining Michael Porter Jr.’s Ascension

Since Jamal Murray’s season-ending knee injury, Michael Porter Jr. is averaging over 25 points per game and looks like a future All-NBA player. Bobby Krivitsky examines Porter’s ascent and the questions that come with it.

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Since Jamal Murray’s season-ending knee injury, Michael Porter Jr. has taken his game to new heights.

In the wake of Murray’s ACL tear in mid-April, Porter’s playing time has gone from 30.6 minutes per contest to 35.7, while his shots per game have risen from 12.6 per game to 16.5. The increased responsibility has fueled his ascent. He’s knocking down 56.3 percent of those attempts. He’s taking 8.2 threes per game and making a blistering 50 percent of them. As a result, Porter’s gone from averaging 17.5 points per game to 25.1. He’s also grabbing 6.1 rebounds and blocking almost one shot per contest.

At the time of Murray’s injury, the Denver Nuggets were in fourth place in the Western Conference. They remain there now, 9-4 in his absence, and they boast the eighth-highest net rating in the NBA.

The only way for the Nuggets to fall from fourth would be if they lost their four remaining games and the Dallas Mavericks won their final five contests because the Mavericks have the tiebreaker since they won the season series. On the more realistic end of the spectrum, Denver sits just 1.5 games back of the Los Angeles Clippers, who occupy the third seed in the West. The Nuggets won their season series against the Clippers, meaning they’d finish in third if the two teams ended the regular season with the same record.

There’s a bevy of questions surrounding Porter’s recent play that need to be asked but cannot get answered at the moment. That starts with whether this is anything more than a hot streak. While it’s impossible to say definitively, it’s reasonable to believe Porter can consistently and efficiently produce about 25 points per game. He was the second-ranked high school prospect in 2017 and entered his freshman year at Missouri firmly in the mix for the top pick in the 2018 NBA draft. That was thanks in large part to his offensive prowess as a 6-10 wing with a smooth shot that’s nearly impossible to block because of the elevation he gets when he shoots. 

A back injury cost him all but 53 minutes of his collegiate career and caused him to fall to the 14th pick in the draft. He ended up in an ideal landing spot, going to a well-run organization that’s also well aware of its barren track record luring star players looking to change teams, making it vital for the Nuggets to hit on their draft picks. 

Porter’s first year in the NBA was exclusively dedicated to the rehab process and doing everything possible to ensure he can have a long, healthy and productive career. Last season, finally getting a chance to play, he showed off the tantalizing talent that made him a top prospect but only took seven shots per game while trying to fit in alongside Nikola Jokic, Murray, Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant.

More experience, including battling against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, an offseason, albeit a truncated one, to prepare for a more substantial role with Grant joining the Detroit Pistons and Millsap turning 36 this year, helped propel Porter. 

But for the Nuggets, before Murray’s injury, the perception was that even though they weren’t the favorites to come out of the Western Conference, they were a legitimate title contender. How far can they go if Porter’s consistently contributing about 25 points and over six rebounds per game while effectively playing the role of a second star alongside Jokic? 

It seems fair to cross Denver off the list of title contenders. But, if Porter continues to capably play the role of a second star alongside Jokic when doing so becomes more challenging in the postseason, the Nuggets can advance past a team like the Mavericks or Portland Trail Blazers. And at a minimum, they’d have the ability to make life difficult for whoever they had to face in the second round of the playoffs.

Unfortunately, the timing of Murray’s ACL tear, which happened in mid-April, means there’s a legitimate possibility he misses all of next season. Denver’s increased reliance on Porter is already allowing a young player with All-NBA potential to take on a role that’s closer to the one he’s assumed his whole life before making it to the sport’s highest level. If the Nuggets are counting on him to be the second-best player on a highly competitive team in the Western Conference next season, it’ll be fascinating to see what heights he reaches and how far they’re able to go as a team.

Theoretically, Porter’s growth could make it difficult for Denver to reacclimate Murray. But given Jokic’s unselfish style of play, there’s room for both of them to be satisfied by the volume of shots they’re getting. Unfortunately, the Nuggets have to wait, potentially another season, but Jokic is 26-years-old, Murray 24, Porter 22. When Denver has their Big Three back together, they could be far more potent while still being able to enjoy a lengthy run as legitimate title contenders.

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NBA Daily: D’Angelo Russell Back on Track

D’Angelo Russell lost much of the 2020-21 season to injury. Drew Maresca explains why his return will surprise people around the league.

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D’Angelo Russell was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves last February, just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the entire season. But we’ve yet to see what Russell can really do in Minnesota.

The Timberwolves acquired Russell in late February in exchange for a future first-round pick – which transitions this season if they pick later than third – a 2021 second-round pick and Andrew Wiggins.

Sidenote: For those keeping score at home, the Timberwolves currently have the third-worst record in the league with five games remaining. It would behoove Minnesota to lose as many of their remaining games as possible to keep their 2021 pick. If the pick does not transition this season, it becomes unrestricted in 2020.

Trying to turn an owed pick into an unprotected future first is usually the wrong move; but in this instance, it’s better to keep the high first-rounder this year with an understanding that your 2022 pick will probably fall in or around the middle of the lottery.

The thinking around the deal was that Minnesota could qualify for the playoffs as soon as this season by swapping Wiggins’ contract for a young, talented lead guard in Russell. It has not played out as planned.

COVID resulted in a play stoppage shortly after the deal, robbing Russell of the opportunity to ramp up with his new team. When the NBA returned to finish the 2019-20 season, the Timberwolves failed to qualify for bubble play – and considering the US was still battling a global pandemic, Russell couldn’t easily practice with his new teammates and/or coaches.

The 2020-21 season began weirdly, too. The NBA proceeded with an abbreviated training camp and preseason. And while this impacted all teams, Russell was additionally hindered by the decision.

Ready or not, the season began. In 2020-21, Russell is averaging a near-career low in minutes per game (28.2) across just 36 games. He’s tallying 19.1 points per game on 43.6% shooting and a career-best 38.8% on three-point attempts. He’s also he’s posting a near career-best assist-to-turnover ratio (5.7 to 2.8).

Despite Russell’s contributions, the Timberwolves have failed to meet expectations. Far from the playoff squad they hoped to be, Minnesota is in contention for the top pick in this year’s draft. So what has gone wrong in Minneapolis?

Russell’s setbacks are fairly obvious. In addition to the lack of preparation with his teammates and coaches, Russell was diagnosed with a “loose body” in his knee, requiring arthroscopic knee surgery in February. As a result, he missed 27 consecutive games. Russell returned on April 5, but head coach Chris Finch revealed that he’d been on a minutes restriction until just recently.

Minnesota is clearly being cautious with Russell. Upon closer review, Russell has been restricted to under 30 minutes per game in all of his first 10 games back. Since then, Russell is averaging 31 minutes per game including an encouraging 37 minutes on May 5 in a four-point loss to Memphis.

Since returning from knee surgery, Russell is averaging 27 minutes per game across 16 games. Despite starting 19 of the team’s first 20 games, he hadn’t started in any game since returning – until Wednesday.

On the whole, Russell’s impact is about the same as it was prior to the injury, which should be encouraging to Timberwolves’ fans. He’s scoring slightly less (18.8 points since returning vs. 19.3 prior), shooting better from the field (44.9% since returning vs 42.6%% prior) and has been just slightly worse from three-point range (37.4% since vs. 39.9 prior). He’s dishing out more assists per game (6.5 since vs. 5.1 prior), too, and he posted three double-digit assist games in his last five contents – a feat achieved only once all season prior to his last five games.

Despite playing more and dropping more dimes, there’s still room to improve. Looking back to his career-bests, Russell averaged 23.1 points per game in 2019-20 in 33 games with Golden State (23.6) and 12 games with Minnesota (21.7).

But his most impactful season came in 2018-19 with the Brooklyn Nets. That season, Russell averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists per game, leading the Nets to the playoffs and earning his first trip to the All-Star game. He looked incredibly comfortable, playing with supreme confidence and flashing the ability to lead a playoff team.

At his best, Russell is a dynamic playmaker. The beauty of Russell is that he can also play off the ball. He has a quick release on his jumper and impressive range. His game is not predicated on athleticism, meaning he should stay at his peak for longer than guys like De’Aaron Fox and Ja Morant.

And while he’s been in the league for what feels like ever (six seasons), Russell just turned 25 approximately two months ago. Granted, comparing anyone to Steph Curry is unwise, but Curry wasn’t Steph Curry yet at 25. Former MVP Steve Nash hadn’t yet averaged double-digits (points) at 25. Twenty-five is also an inflection point for Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. And the list goes on.

To be fair, Russell was drafted at 19 so he’s more acclimated to the league at this age than most, but his game will continue expanding nonetheless. He’ll develop trickier moves, become stronger and grow his shooting range. And a good deal of that growth should be evident as soon as next season since he’ll be fully healed from knee surgery and have a full offseason and training camp to finally work with teammates and coaches.

So while Minnesota’s 2020-21 season was incredibly bleak, their future is quite bright – and much of it has to do with the presence of Russell.

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NBA AM: Is This It for Indiana?

Following their major drop-off, Matt John explains why the Pacers trying to get back to where they were may not be the best decision.

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Remember when, following the maligned trade of Paul George, the sky was the limit for the Indiana Pacers? The 2017-18 Pacers were one of the best stories in the NBA that season because they made their opponents work for their victories, and they put on a spectacle every night.

It’s hard to believe that all transpired three whole years ago. When Cleveland eliminated Indiana in a very tight first-round series, I asked if having the exciting season that they did – when many thought it would turn out the opposite – was going to benefit them in the long run. Three years later, this happens.

We were getting plenty of smoke about the Pacers’ drama behind-the-scenes beforehand, and now, we have seen the fire firsthand. More and more reports indicate that the crap has hit the fan. Indiana has seemingly already had enough of Nate Bjorkgren in only his first year as his coach. When you see the results they’ve had this season compared to the last three, it’s not hard to see why.

The Pacers have routinely found themselves in the 4-5 playoff matchup for the last three years. Sadly, despite their fight – and, to be fair, they had pretty awful injury luck the past two postseasons – they haven’t been able to get over the hump in the first round. They may not have been in the elite tier, but they weren’t slouches either. So, seeing them not only fail to take the next step but look more and more likely for the play-in is as discouraging as it gets. Especially after they started the season 6-2.

If these reports about the tensions between the players and Bjorkgren are real, then this has already become a lost season for the Pacers. It’s too late in the season to make any major personnel changes. At this point, their best route is just to cut their losses and wait until this summer to think over what the next move is.

In that case, let’s take a deep breath. This has been a weird season for everyone. Every aspect minus the playoffs has been shorter than usual since last October. Everything was shortened from the offseason to the regular season. Oh, and COVID-19 has played a role as the season has turned out, although COVID-19 has probably been the least of Indy’s problems. Let’s think about what next season would look like for Indiana.

TJ Warren comes back with a clean bill of health. Caris Levert gets more acquainted with the team and how they run. Who knows? Maybe they finally resolve the Myles Turner-Domantas Sabonis situation once and for all. A new coach can come aboard to steady the ship, and it already looks like they have an idea for who that’s going to be

Should they run it back, there’s a solid chance they can get back to where they were before. But that’s sort of the problem to begin with. Even if this recent Pacers’ season turns out to be just a negative outlier, their ceiling isn’t all too high anyway. A team that consists of Warren, Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and Caris Levert as their core four is a solid playoff team. Having Turner, Doug McDermott, TJ McConnell, Jeremy Lamb, and the Holiday brothers rounds out a solid playoff team. Anyone who takes a good look at this roster knows that this roster is a good one. It’s not great though.

Just to be clear, Indiana has plenty of ingredients for a championship team. They just don’t have the main one: The franchise player. Once upon a time, it looked like that may have been Oladipo, but a cruel twist of fate took that all away. This isn’t a shot at any of the quality players they have on their roster, but think of it this way.

For the next couple of years, they’re going to go up against Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. All of whom are on the same team. For potentially even longer, they’ll be going up against the likes of Giannis Antetoukounmpo, Joel Embiid, and Jayson Tatum. With the roster they have, they could make a series interesting against any one of those teams. However, it’s a rule of thumb in the NBA that the team with the best player usually wins the series. Not to mention, they’d have to beat most of the teams those players play for to go on a substantial playoff run. That’s a pretty tall order.

There’s no joy in talking about the Pacers like this because they have built this overachieving underdog from nothing more than shrewd executive work. They turned a disgruntled and expiring Paul George into Oladipo and Sabonis. Both of whom have since become two-time all-stars (and counting). They then managed to turn an expiring and hobbled Oladipo – who had no plans to return to Indiana – into the electric Levert. They also pretty much stole Brogdon and Warren away while paying very little for either of them.

That is fantastic work. The only hangup is that, as of now, it just doesn’t seem like it will be enough. But, doubt and skepticism are things Indiana’s had thrown their way consistently since 2017. Many thought their approach to trading Paul George would blow up in their face, and since then, they’ve done everything in their power to make everyone eat their words.

Kevin Pritchard’s got his work cut out for him this summer. This season will hopefully turn out to be nothing more than performance ruined by both the wrong coaching hire and an unusual season that produced negatively skewed results. But at this point, Pritchard’s upcoming course of action this summer shouldn’t be about getting his team back to where they were, but deciding whether he can get them a step or two further than that by adding more to what they have or starting over completely.

Indiana’s had a rough go of it in this COVID-shortened season, but their disappointing play may have little to no bearing on where they go from here.

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