The Indiana Pacers Offseason, the anatomy of rebirth

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Monta Ellis

Step 3. Improve obvious deficiencies

After finishing first, first, seventh and third in defensive rating from 2013 to 2016, Indy fell to 18th last year. It became more explicit in the postseason when the tandem of Monta Ellis and Jeff Teague were shredded by the Cavaliers backcourt. Both players saw their defensive rating plummet with Ellis’ falling 11 points, and Teague’s 10.

Enter Oladipo and Joseph. While the defensive stats the NBA has are far from perfect, they speak very highly of Oladipo. Among guards (minimum of 60 games played) he’s in the top 10 in defensive rating (102.1) and top five in defensive win shares (.051). Stephenson’s has always been a good defender, and Joseph brings a reputation of playing hard on defense.

With the perimeter improved, Indy turned toward the interior where a lack of size rendered the frontcourt porous. A surprising source of improvement will come from Sabonis. While Myles Turner’s defense is clearly impressive, Sabonis uses his agility to get the job done as well, albeit in a less dramatic way. Last year his defensive rating was 3.2 points better than Turner’s, while his defensive win shares was just six points behind Turner’s.

Speaking of Turner, if there are questions of a leadership void, the big 21-year-old appears to be stepping into it. He was everywhere this offseason. Guess who was at the draft to welcome Leaf and Anigbogu? Turner. Guess who was sitting on the bench in Orlando cheering on the Pacers during the Summer League? Turner. He’ll have to prove it on the court, but these are good signs nevertheless.