Math isn’t my strong suit, but it is Nate Silver’s thing.
According to his numbers over at Five Thirty Eight, Paul George’s injury is going to cost the Indiana Pacers … like 10 wins or something?
Look, I’m not good at math. So I’ll just suggest you read the article to actually understand what Silver is saying, but here is the heart of it.
We can consider what the Pacers might look like next season assuming that George doesn’t play but they otherwise don’t make changes to their roster. I’ll do that by running a projection based on the technique described here, which evaluates players based on their age and performance over the past three regular seasons. In contrast to the previous article, which used a metric called statistical-plus minus, I used ESPN’s NBA Real Plus Minus, which better accounts for a player’s defense — a key consideration whenever you’re talking about the Pacers. (The projection for Croatian Damjan Rudez, the recent Pacers pick up who has not played in the NBA, assumes that he’ll be halfway between league-average and replacement level.)
This method projects the Pacers to a 44-38 record, which last year would have translated into a No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. It assumes the Pacers will stand pat with their current roster, but they may have the opportunity to sign another rotation player by using a disabled player exception to the salary cap.
The point of 538’s math is that with the current roster the Pacers are looking to be an above .500 team by six games. For perspective, last year the Pacers were 56-26.
Just looking at some of the Pacers wins above replacement numbers (the estimated number of team wins attributable to each player, based on RPM) from last year, Paul George’s play alone was responsible for 8.9 wins (26th highest in the NBA). The Pacers also are looking to replace the efforts of Lance Stephenson’s 5.71 WAR (71st) as well.
Here is his full chart.
While Silver’s calculations aren’t something to bet against, and he’ll say a million times you can only do so much with data, it is obvious this we’ll be a much different year in Indiana even if they still have a playoff-level team.