The Indiana Pacers are in the running for some of the NBA’s awards but do any of them have a real chance of taking home hardware?
When the NBA announces their awards on June 26, will any of the Indiana Pacers hear their names called? According to ESPN’s projections, the answer is no, but Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, and coach Nate McMillan are in the running nonetheless.
The fact that they are in the running is a good sign for the Pacers’ future, but we’re worried about the now, and whether they should win any of those awards.
We’ll look at ESPN’s voting for who should win and for who they believe will win, and whether the particular Pacers in question deserve to be higher or lower within those parameters.
Nate McMillan for Coach of the Year
ESPN’s panel has McMillan in third place as far as who they think should win the award while grabbing 10 percent of their first-place votes. However, when it who they think will win the award, McMillan only got 5 percent of the votes.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer has the strongest case for winning the award thanks to the fact they have the best record in the NBA. With Giannis Antetokounmpo likely winning the most valuable player award, it’s hard to make much of a case against Budenholzer.
McMillan’s case for winning the award comes down to Indiana overachieving both before and after Victor Oladipo’s injury. Before Oladipo went down for good, Indiana had a 68.1 winning percentage, which put them on track for a 56-26 record. Before the season began, they were expected to win 47.5 games, according to Vegas, but Indiana looked like they would beat that.
Once Oladipo was cruelly taken from the Pacers, Indiana managed to stay in the home-court advantage part of the playoff picture until the last few games of the season. Even though it looks like they won’t have that now, the Pacers were expected to fall like a rock in the standings. But even with their rough second half schedule, Indiana had remained one of the East’s top four teams.
However, with that narrative starting to look false as the Pacers look stuck in 5th now, it makes the case for McMillan a slightly harder sell.
Still, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix reminds us that even if McMillan doesn’t win the award, he is worthy of consideration if for no other reason than making teams grind against their All-Starless roster.
But McMillan has been terrific this season. Sure, Indiana remains the team everyone wants to see in the first round. A 4-10 March, highlighted by a ten-game road losing streak, made playing the Pacers that much more appealing. Boston, I’m sure, is thrilled that after a trying season they will get the Oladipo-less Indiana in the first round. But McMillan has made sure that the Pacers are a tough out every night, and they will be a tough out in the playoffs, too.
Maybe McMillan doesn’t deserve to win, but he better get a few votes.
Domantas Sabonis for Sixth Man of the Year
Let’s just get this out of the way: This is Lou Williams award, and the NBA should just go ahead and renamed in the Lou Williams Sixth Man of the Year Award. Dude managed to put together one of the most impactful seasons of his career while the Los Angeles Clippers unbuild a team around him. Congratulations Lou on your third 6MOY award.
While Lou got 90 percent of the ESPN panel’s votes, Sabonis came in second with 8 percent.
Sabonis’ 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds a game make him a double-double threat every night off the bench. He shoots 58.8 percent from the field, making him overly efficient in his time on the floor.
Sabonis is the reason why the Pacers bench, despite all of the ups and downs of the season, are in second place as far as +/- is concerned. One of the more used bench lineups that Sabonis is in is one of the best five-man units in the NBA, period.
If Lou Williams, the perennial Sixth Man of the Year, wasn’t having one of his best seasons, Sabonis might win this award. But when Lou is even more Lou than usual, Sabonis will have to wait for next year to make his case once again.
Sabonis is tied for 5th as far as ESPN was concerned for who should win the Most Improved Player award, but Sabonis was too good last year to make a real run at that award.
Myles Turner for Defensive Player of the Year
That contract extension looks pretty good now, doesn’t it?
Turner got 7.5 percent of the first place for who should win the award according to ESPN’s panel, putting him behind several other centers as well as Paul George and the positionless Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Turner’s case isn’t just based on his NBA leading 2.7 blocks a game, ahead of the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert’s 2.3, but the simple fact he is the most important part of Indiana’s defense.
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Opponents shoot 44.7 percent when Turner’s on the floor thanks to him closing down the paint. Myles’ footwork and defensive IQ improved considerably this season as he knows both when to stay put and when to pop out as a help defender.
Turner camps out in the paint and ignores anything that isn’t a concern. If his man is in the corner but not a real shooting threat, Myles isn’t more than mildly concerned. When opponents try driving the paint he can pop out to help defend the pick and roll before falling back to the rim to defend.
But with Gobert and Joel Embiid posting higher rebounding numbers (and Antetokounmpo more likely to win the MVP), they have a slight edge among the voters who don’t make a concerted effort to watch the whole NBA and only look at the numbers.
Gobert should really be Turner’s only competition among centers, but with Paul George falling out of the MVP running, it likely is going to one of the players out in the Western Conference.
Turner won’t win the award this season, but he’ll be in the running for the foreseeable future.