Memphis hosts the Pacers Saturday night, hoping to avenge the season-opening loss in Indiana. The Pacers, one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, were just dealt a major blow when it was announced that their star guard Victor Oladipo would miss the rest of the year with a ruptured quad suffered against the Raptors Wednesday.
Memphis is looking to snap a season-high eight game losing streak. Indiana is looking to prove they can still win without their best player. Regardless of what happens with the trade Mike/Marc storylines, there is enough happening in this game to make it an interesting affair.
Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows took some time out of his busy schedule to answer all the important questions about the upcoming game.
Let’s take a look.
1) Do you think the Pacers will be “buyers” at the deadline? And if so, who/where should they be looking?
Considering their standing in the East and availability of enticing contracts, the Pacers were set to stand pat or be buyers at the deadline. But then Victor Oladipo ruptured his quad tendon, bringing sudden chaos to the season. After a day to digest the bad news, I don’t see the Pacers panicking and trying to throw away the season. They still have fiive key players in their playing rotation in contract years, along with a valuable vet in Kyle O’Quinn.
With all of those deals expiring, the Pacers could have around $50 million cap space this summer which makes taking on salary in a reasonable trade (KD is probably looking elsewhere). They also have a couple of intriguing young players lighting up the G-League in Edmond Sumner, Alize Johnson and Ike Anigbogu.
An intriguing argument for entertaining Mike Conley trade options remains. The local legend won three state titles at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and would solidify a need, bolstering the team’s backcourt. Only now it would be to get through this year then look ahead to next season.
That salary, though. Absorbing that number for two years would be tough. The team could likely spend that money more wisely on younger wing/point talent that could help...but it always goes back to who? Other than backcourt help, the Pacers could use a three-point shooting big...like the rest of the league.
2) Tyreke Evans was arguably the best player on Memphis last season, how would you rate his performance with the Pacers thus far? Has he been what you were hoping for? Or has he not quite lived up to expectations?
Tyreke has been a general disappointment to this point of the season, however there are promising signs of late, and now he will have to take on a bigger role with Victor Oladipo out. Reke initially struggled adjusting to the team culture, earning a rare suspension from Nate McMillan for being late to practice. He has adjusted, though and fits well with the current locker room. His play early in the season was inconsistent at best. His minutes weren’t real steady and there were many nights where the ball stuck with him and then he missed shots or turned it over too frequently.
But in mid-December he missed a couple of games to have a PRP treatment for his knee and in the games since has looked more like the player the Pacers and their fans were expecting. His points, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage are all up in the 13 games since having his knee treated. Now his minutes will increase as he moves to the starting lineup, so hopefully his knee holds up the rest of the way.
3) The Pacers are currently sitting 3rd in the East, behind only the Bucks and Raptors. How far do you think they can go? Can they make a deep playoff run?
Welp, until Oladipo went down, this team was in good shape for a playoff run.
Winning a second series would have been a struggle but depending on the matchup would have been a possibility and the Pacers would certainly have had a chance to win, as they did last year against LeBron and the Cavs. They are a tough and experienced group who have to be beaten.
4) Who on the Pacers has been the most impressive in your opinion so far?
The answer to this question has varied throughout the year. Domas Sabonis has been outstanding from opening day, but really surprised with his strong production off the bench for the first couple of month. He is strong and smart and so much fun to watch. He’s a solid defender on the ground but struggles protecting the rim as a center. That leads me to the latest impressive player -- Myles Turner. The Pacers big signed a contract extension before the season and seemed to struggle with the pressure early on and his scoring and rebounding numbers were lower than expected. Things started to click in early December though and Turner has logged several double-doubles since while leading the NBA in blocks. He and Sabonis continue figuring out how to share the floor for a few minutes each game and that has even started to look better.
5) Are there any concerns you might have with this team? If so what are they?
The concerns for the Pacers now are all centered around Victor Oladipo recovering from a rare knee/quad injury. Will he be able to return with the same burst and athleticism for his prime NBA years? How will this impact the future makeup of the team? It may make it more difficult to go forward with both Sabonis and Turner since one of those two bigs could fetch a talented player at a position of need and while playing alongside Oladipo was attractive to certain free agents, it will now be harder to coerce quality help to Indy with so much uncertainty despite all of the cap space.
A big thanks to Tom Lewis for answering these questions. Make sure you check out Indy Cornrows for all the latest Pacers news.