Pacers schedule breakdown: Things don’t look great

Indiana Pacers (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Indiana Pacers (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Indiana Pacers schedule has been released, and the season outlook looks bleak.

The NBA released the league schedule yesterday, and fans of every team, including the Pacers, rushed online to see when their favorite team was playing in each city. Indiana lost their superstar this summer, and many fans wondered what date Paul George would return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to play his old team (Dec. 13).

The Pacers play 81 other games, though, and while none of them have quite as much league-wide intrigue as Paul George’s return, they are all equally important. A faux contender, the Pacers will be looking to transition into a new era of Indiana basketball, and they will certainly be pushing for the playoffs this season.

Using ESPNs RPM projections for each team, I mapped out the Pacers schedule from game 1 to 82, seeing how many games I thought they would win both at home and on the road. I also determined their record at key dates throughout the season, including the halfway point, the trade deadline, and mid March.

The Results: Not great

More from 8 Points, 9 Seconds

The Pacers finished the simulation with a record of 28-54. This is not too far off of the ESPN projected total of 32 wins, so I was happy with the result. The discrepancy is largely due to 14 back-to-backs and Indiana having the 8th hardest record in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers went 19-22 at home – a solid record the team can be proud of – but a lackluster 9-32 out of Indiana, and that really sunk the final record.

After 41 games, the projection had the Pacers at 14-27, meaning that they had the same projected record in both the first and second half of the season. Note that in the month leading right up to the halfway point, the Pacers play the Bulls twice, the Nets twice, the Hawks, and the Suns, so they may hit the halfway point on a hot streak and attempt to ride their success to the All-Star break.

Make some trades?

The NBA moved the trade deadline forward a week, and now it is Feb. 8, 2018. The Pacers projected record up to that point is 19-37, essentially winning one of every three games to that point. The Eastern Conference will be bad, but it is unlikely that 19-37 will be even close to contending for the playoffs, so if this is the Pacers record come the trade deadline, it may be smart for them to be sellers and trade away some of their contributors for young players or draft picks. Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, Thaddeus Young, and Cory Joseph are candidates to be shipped off in this scenario.

If the Pacers worsen their roster at the trade deadline, then you can expect them to be worse from that point on. If they decide to push for the playoffs, however, they will be faced with a tough challenge. At the end of March and into early April, the Pacers play, in order; the Clippers, the Heat, at Golden State, at Sacramento, at Lakers, at Denver, Golden State, at Toronto, at Charlotte. That is a tough stretch to end the season, and if the Pacers want to make the playoffs, they will need to have a good record going into that stretch.

Should they tank?

After 70 games, the Pacers project to be 26-44. This will probably have them eliminated from playoff contention, so the team may make the decision to “tank” (shut down their veterans for the season) in order to improve their draft position. This would cause their record to be worse the rest of the way, and the would like finish with around the 26 wins they have before firing up the tank.

Some other interesting notes:

  • The longest winning streak was five games, from Feb. 11 to Feb. 28.
  • February was the team’s best month, going 6-4. It was also the only month with a winning record
  • The longest losing streak was nine games, from March 23 to April 8
  • The Pacers open the season against a very young Brooklyn team and could easily start 1-0. They then have a challenging run of Portalnd, at Miami, at Minnesota, at Oklahoma City, San Antonio. The start of the season could be rough.

These are all projections and could be terribly wrong. Players could take large steps forward and the team could be far better than anyone anticipates, and the opposite is possible as well.

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Regardless of the projections, I am excited for the Pacers season to start up. Only two more months of waiting, Pacers fans.