Losing their best player to a season ending injury and perhaps their second most important offensive player to free agency could mean the Indiana Pacers are headed towards a season that will be about tanking in order to ensure a better future, although it’s hard to believe that’s going to happen considering the men running this team.
Larry Bird & Frank Vogel know that they’re pretty much screwed. The offseason wasn’t going to land them anyone big or exceptionally good because of their cap situation. It was all hinging on keeping the core together, but it seemed that Lance Stephenson wasn’t happy making $8.8 million a season, and the low-ball offer in his mind burned that bridge.
Finding someone to replace Stephenson was difficult, but doable, at least to a certain degree. But seeing Paul George go down with a season ending injury after every decent free agent has already been taken wasn’t something the Pacers were planning for. The injury cap exception can’t do much to help them without proper players to sign.
There have been rumors of the Pacers thinking of moving Roy Hibbert, George Hill or David West. Without both George and Stephenson, the offense looks like it’s going to be in big trouble. Not that the Pacers were an offensive juggernaut with them, but the two players who could create points off the dribble and without any help are now gone. Vogel, not exactly an offensive genius from what we’ve seen, isn’t equipped to handle that kind of absence. No NBA team is.
In a league that is often about all or nothing, tanking suddenly seems like a reasonable idea. But after building the Pacers back up from the rubble of the Malice in the Palace, sending them back down into the abyss doesn’t seem right. It might mean the Pacers will miss the playoffs this season, but they won’t be embarrassing by doing it, like the Philadelphia 76ers or the Milwaukee Bucks were last season.
Some general managers would be taking the team apart until nothing was left at this point, relying on Paul George coming back and at least one or two lottery picks in the next draft. But the Pacers believe they have a solid team to build around regardless of the situation, and won’t be breaking it apart despite the slim chances of even small success this season. On the other hand, since when are head coaches and team executives known for always being truthful?