A combination of grit and grind, talent, and chemistry is any top seed’s nightmare for an opponent in the first round. The Indiana Pacers, per usual, have all three. Led by the underrated Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon – the Pacers got even scarier adding Caris LeVert for Victor Oladipo.
Starting with Domantas Sabonis, he is coming off his first ever All-Star berth, which many discredited. This year, he is averaging 21.9 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists on .556/.346/.688 shooting. The true workhorse of this Pacers team, Sabonis’ continued improvement on shooting advances his game every year. He is incredibly efficient due to his high basketball IQ. The high level of play through 12 games has Sabonis on track for another All-Star appearance.
The other key leader of this tough Pacers team is former Rookie of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon. Another insanely underrated NBA talent, Brogdon was slept on even during his Rookie of the Year campaign and has stayed underrated since. Part of that is credit to his sound and fundamental game, as you won’t see him making a whole lot of flashy plays or mistakes. The numbers speak for themselves though, posting a team best 22.8 points, 7.4 assists, and 1.8 steals. Brogdon is putting up those great numbers on .481/.457/.882 shooting.
Role players such as Myles Turner, Justin Holiday, and Doug McDermott have played valuable minutes and done well. Myles Turner is sitting at an insane 4.2 blocks per game, controlling the paint every second he’s in. McDermott and Holiday provide the critical shooting and defense needed on every team to win.
The most impressive part of their performance so far this year is their grit. When your leaders are the fundamentally sound Sabonis and Brogdon, every single play will be fought for like its game 7 of the Finals. The team’s hustle and fight for one another is something that will allow them to make a big first round upset.
Sitting at 8-4 so far this year, the scariest part of the Pacers team is their potential. The addition of Caris LeVert is an exciting one. LeVert showed us his scoring ability last year in the bubble and is capable of being a primary scorer. T.J. Warren also thrived in the bubble and will return later this year with a foot injury.
The potential lineup of Brogdon, LeVert, Warren, Sabonis, and Turner has spacing, defenders, playmakers, and size that can takeover games. The sound starting five removes the ability for the other team to hide a player on defense. Forcing teams’ worst defenders into bad situations will allow the Pacers to exploit him constantly.
In a conference loaded with talent on teams like Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Boston, and Philadelphia, the Pacers are one teams should look to avoid. Their combination of talent and grit is one that looks like the Zach Randolph Grizzlies team. Seeing that Grizzlies team push the Warriors to 6 games in the second round shows that the Pacers could make a first round upset. Their balance of defense, shooting, and smart decisions keep them in almost every game. Taking four out of seven from these Pacers is certainly possible, but it would be a nightmare getting through it.