Indiana Pacers All-Star guard Oladipo has revealed his belief they can improve after an encouraging showing in 2018/19, especially once fully recovered from the torn quadriceps tendon he suffered in January with new faces as part of the roster.
As the countdown to this season’s 2019/20 NBA season continues, Oladipo has revealed his belief the Pacers have an opportunity to “be really special” and achieve promising things with new additions over the offseason.
Nate McMillan’s men finished with a 48-34 record, but were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. Oladipo had to bide his time watching from the sidelines, having ruptured a quad tendon in his right knee months earlier.
He’s expected to return to NBA action by December this year but refused to be specific with his recovery time, instead hopeful he can surprise with a swift return. However, he revealed he’ll join teammates on their training camp next month.
Despite some encouraging displays without their All-Star on court, the offseason proved a step too far for the Pacers. They lost a number of key pieces within that crop, including Thaddeus Young (Chicago Bulls), Darren Collison (retirement) and Bojan Bogdanovic (Utah Jazz).
However, they have since replaced them with the likes of Jeremy Lamb, T.J. Warren, T.J. McConnell, Justin Holiday and JaKarr Sampson. Given their quality, making the playoffs is a dead certainty but with Oladipo as determined as he is, the 27-year-old is already planning ahead and sees more than another postseason trip next term.
As quoted by the Indianapolis Star, he said: “I feel like we got some great additions. We have a chance to be really special, I feel the league is wide open.
Indiana’s biggest summer acquisition was that of Malcolm Brogdon, who joined in a sign-and-trade deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. Brogdon averaged 15.6 points and shot 42.6% from three-point range last season before signing a four-year $85m deal with the Pacers. Oladipo is understandably eager in anticipation of what’s to come:
“I was excited for the opportunity to play [with Brogdon], I know what type of player he is, the level he plays on and has been for the last couple of years from Milwaukee. To have him as an addition is pretty big for us.”
One important thing to factor in too, is that the Pacers core is increasingly younger and things appear to be falling into place as part of a competitive Eastern Conference. 2018/19 NBA champions Toronto Raptors will be significantly impacted by Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard’s decision to depart for Los Angeles while the Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Celtics are all bullish about their title chances.
But aside from that, there is a golden opportunity arising for the Pacers to make some noise and surprise many – building on the foundations of last year. It’s something their president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard told reporters early last month.
“We added a lot of firepower offensively, but always wanted a team on a good timeline. We have a young, very vibrant up-and-coming team willing to get better. We like guys who love the game, you can always tell when [they do], they have these incremental improvements every year.”
Time will tell, though things are certainly on the up in Indiana.