The NBA Draft is just weeks away, which means NBA Draftmas is back. Each day, The Game Haus will review a team’s past season, their team needs and targets. Draftmas continues today with the Indiana Pacers 2018 NBA Draft profile.
Before the season Paul George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo. While at the time most people thought that the Pacers were getting fleeced by the Thunder, when the season played out, Indiana was highly satisfied with their trade.
With their new-look squad, the Pacers finished 48-34, which was good enough for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. After making the playoffs, they were able to take the Cavaliers to seven games before being eliminated. They gave LeBron James and co. all they could handle, yet still have room for improvement for next season, which has to be encouraging.
Oladipo was the leader of this team and in the playoffs was atop the team leaderboard in points, assists, rebounds and steals. It’s safe to say he took his year in Oklahoma City and learned about some of the good qualities Russell Westbrook had to offer. For the regular season, he averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
He also has a solid supporting cast, which includes Myles Turner. Turner took a dip in scoring to 12.7 points per game but also had fewer opportunities with Oladipo on the team. The second leading scorer on the team was Bojan Bogdonavic at 14.3 points per game. Sabonis was no slouch from the OKC trade either, besting the team in rebounds at 7.7 per game. Darren Collison, Lance Stephenson, Thaddeus Young and Cory Joseph all helped fill key roles off the bench this season.
All these key players could return next season, as Young has a player option, while Stephenson and Sabonis have team options for next season. If they choose to not bring back Young, they could lure a pretty good free agent but that is easier said than done.
Picks and Needs
The Pacers have two picks in the 2018 NBA Draft.
First round: No. 23
Second round: No. 50
Indiana had strong points in their defense (9th in points allowed per game) and their 3-point shooting (eighth in the NBA) but were average among many other categories. They were 17th in points per game, 22nd in rebounds per game and 23rd in assists per game.
There isn’t a position that desperately needs to be upgraded so there is a little wiggle room with their draft picks. Oladipo and Turner are the young cornerstones and the Pacers just need to find complimentary players to put around them.
Targets and Thoughts
Pick No. 23: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA
Holiday would be a player that could play with Oladipo very well. He can spread the floor with his shooting ability, allowing Oladipo to handle the ball more. When Oladipo needs to play off-ball or needs a breather on the bench, Holiday can take over as the team’s primary ball handler.
At UCLA last season Holiday averaged 20.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists. His shooting ability will pique the interest of NBA teams, as he shot 48.6% from inside the arc and 42.9% from deep. He can create for teammates and excels at pick and rolls.
With the good also comes some bad. Holiday is only 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds and may have trouble defending and finishing at the rim in the NBA. He also turned the ball over entirely too much at 3.8 times a game. He did handle the ball a lot in college and the spacing in the NBA may help, but he will also be playing better athletes.
If the name sounds familiar, Holiday’s older brothers Jrue and Justin already play in the NBA.
Pick No. 50: Jared Vanderbilt, F, Kentucky
Vanderbilt did not get to showcase all of his skills at Kentucky because he was injured for most of the season. When he did come into the fold, he was an excellent rebounder and energy player, something that is often needed on an NBA bench. He was specifically good at rebounding on the offensive end of the floor, relying on his good athleticism and timing to average 3.3 per game (7.9 total rebounds per game).
He wasn’t able to attempt many threes at Kentucky so he will have to prove he can do that to play the forward spot in the NBA. If he can’t knock down shots consistently it will severely limit his potential.
The Pacers have to love the position they are in for the future. Yes, they may not be set up like the Celtics, but they have good young players that have already made the playoffs and just need a little additional help to become contenders.
Come back tomorrow for the Portland Trail Blazers draft profile!