The 2018-19 Indiana Pacers best and worst case scenario

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 29: Cory Joseph #6, Victor Oladipo #4, Domantas Sabonis #11 and Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Indiana Pacers huddle up during the game against the Sacramento Kings on March 29, 2018 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 29: Cory Joseph #6, Victor Oladipo #4, Domantas Sabonis #11 and Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Indiana Pacers huddle up during the game against the Sacramento Kings on March 29, 2018 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Indiana Pacers regular season tips off in about a month. Let’s take a look at the best and worst case scenario for the team this coming season.

The Indiana Pacers were easily the biggest surprise team in the NBA last year. After being predicted to win in the low 30’s by most prognosticators, they rallied to 48 wins, finishing 5th in the East. They pushed the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers to deep into game 7 and outscored the Cavs for the series.

Many teams might’ve been complacent after such a surprise success, but the Pacers went right to work this summer. Victor Oladipo continued his brutal training regimen in an effort to improve his body even more (and hopefully avoid the late season shooting struggles he encountered last year). Oladipo also gathered the team in Miami for bonding. Myles Turner took up yoga to improve his core strength and balance. T.J. Leaf put on 18 pounds to help him hold his own on defense. The front office retained the entire core, outside of Lance Stephenson, and added Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, and Kyle O’Quinn. All three should be significant upgrades in the role they’ll be undertaking. 

More from Pacers News

Given all that, the Pacers expectations are far higher this season. Their Las Vegas win prediction stands at 48, matching last year’s win total. While 48 seems reasonable, there’s always variance from year to year. We’re going to look at the best and worst case scenario facing the Pacers, and what would need to happen for those to realistically happen. 

Best Case: 53 wins, two seed. 

The Indiana Pacers don’t quite have the premium talent to get into the high 50’s in wins unless they’ve turned into an institution like the Spurs over the course of the summer. For the Pacers to get into the low to mid 50’s, they’d need a whole lot to go right. For starters, they’ll need both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis to improve incrementally, or for one of the 2 to take a big leap forward. They’ll need to stay healthy across the board. Last year was a relatively healthy year, and they’ll need Darren Collison (69 games), Victor Oladipo (75), Thad Young (81), Cory Joseph (82), and Domas Sabonis (74) all to come through again this year. Tyreke Evans has a long injury history but was relatively healthy last year – that will have to continue. 

On the court, the Pacers need to take (and make) more 3’s. They shot a reasonable 36.9% from deep last year, but need to turn some of those long midrange 2’s into 3’s. Turner can migrate some of his shots that way, and Sabonis might be able to do a little bit more in that regard. The additions of Evans (39.9% on 286 attempts) and McDermott (42.6% on 216 attempts) should be big to help move that needle as well. 

Lastly, the Pacers need to resist any age-related decline. All of Bojan Bogdanovic (29), Thad Young (30), and Darren Collison (31) are likely at the end of (or slightly beyond) their prime. All 3 had strong years, and will likely make up 60% of the starting lineup again. In order to sniff that mid 50’s win mark, the Pacers will need all 3 to be as good (or better) than they were last year. 

Worst Case: 40 wins, out of the playoffs. 

The bottom could definitely fall out of this season for the Indiana Pacers. Oladipo has been historically reliable, but if he misses any real time, this team is in trouble. Last season, Oladipo played 75 games; the Pacers went 0-7 in the games he missed, losing by more than 14 points per contest. Tyreke Evans should help with that, assuming he can stay on the court, but the team is definitely reliant on Vic. 

More from 8 Points, 9 Seconds

If the Pacers do see some age-related regression from their older starters, they’ll need to see improvements from the younger guys like Myles Turner, Domas Sabonis, T.J. Leaf, and Doug McDermott. If they don’t, the blue and gold will wind up with a team full of just-okay guys alongside Victor Oladipo. Having a group of solid veterans will be enough to beat up on the dregs of the league, but will often fall short against middle and top tier playoff teams. That type of team is is usually a lock for the “Detroit Pistons award of meh-cellence” and a low 40’s win total. 

Last, the Pacers need contributions from their free agent signings. Indiana is hardly a premier market, but they did manage to snag a high tier creator in Tyreke Evans, a young 3 point bombing wing in Doug McDermott, and a solid backup big in Kyle O’Quinn. All will be needed this season. If Evans regresses or gets hurt, McDermott fails to develop, or O’Quinn turns back into an end of the bench 5th big, the Pacers could wind up being very thin. Thin teams are always balanced on the razor’s edge, and even average injury luck could doom them in this scenario. 

Next. Should Pacers try to acquire Jimmy Butler?. dark

My prediction: 49 wins, fourth in the East. 

This team got better this offseason. They returned their top seven guys and added Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans to the 2nd unit. Lance Stephenson was always a blast to watch, but he was only a mildly effective player on the whole. Dougie Buckets and Reke should both be an upgrade on what Lance was providing in terms of pure production, and Tyreke would not be the first player to kick a bad injury bug once they got out of New Orleans.

Neither Thad Young nor Bojan Bogdanovic is over-reliant on crazy athleticism, and Darren Collison’s shooting should keep him relevant, even if Cory Joseph overtakes him as the 5th starter. They were unsustainably good in close games last year, but the regression shouldn’t be too bad as long as Oladipo remains at the same level. I think the Pacers will ever so slightly eclipse last year’s mark, and see the second round of the playoffs.