Now that Paul George has been shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Eastern Conference appears up for grabs. Can the Philadelphia 76ers capitalize?
As we look ahead to next season, the battlefield has morphed. Teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics look to remain on top. However, things just got a little more interesting. Specifically, the middle of the Eastern Conference may have opened up a bit. The Indiana Pacers traded their All-Star wing in Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
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Initially, the deal was made because of the fear of losing PG13 in free agency. He had no intentions of staying in Indy, so the front office had to act. As a result, George will play for the Thunder next season. Whether he stays or goes, the move itself sent shockwaves throughout the NBA.
Now, while we can discuss who won and lost the trade, let’s look at the big picture. In particular, how this affects the Eastern Conference. The Pacers gave up a borderline number one option player for two third or forth option players. This trade signals a new direction for the Pacers, whether good or bad.
As Pacers look to move on from Paul George, the team may start a rebuild around bigman Myles Turner. This move makes sense, as Turner has put up solid numbers at the young age of 21. Last season, he averaged 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. But, as previously mentioned, he’s only 21, and will take time to truly hit his stride the way Paul George did.
Now, the return for PG13 seems underwhelming at first. But, looking at it a little more closely, the deal helps the Pacers initiate their rebuild They acquire two young, up and coming prospects in Oladipo and Sabonis. Obviously, Oladpido has established himself as a starter in the NBA. He’s a solid two way player who can slash well and hit the outside shot on occassion. His quick hands make him a threat to steal the ball from the opposition.
The real issue with Dipo is that he was taken 2nd overall in the 2013 NBA Draft and hasn’t been the star that that selection would dictate. While he’s been solid, going second overall brings with it some high expectations. Hopefully, this change of scenery, and an expanded role, can help Victor Oladipo going forward.
Now, let’s look at Domantas Sabonis. After a solid rookie campaign, the real test comes for Sabonis as a part of this Pacers frontcourt. Specifically, if he can gel with Myles Turner. In terms of fit, I believe this pairing could work. Turner does most of his damage in the paint, but can hit the outside shot if need be. Sabonis has the tools to become a prototypical stretch four, but needs to start hitting that shot more consistently. He shot a weak 32.4 percent from three point range last season.
On defense, Turner’s mosterous ability may help shadow some of Sabonis’ flaws. He comes off as soft on that end of the floor, and does not do particularly well given his 6-foot-11, 240 pound frame. For now, he may end up sitting behind former Sixer- Thad Young. With time, he may begin to flourish there. Hopefully, he can excel with the aid of one Myles Turner.
Philly: Primed and Ready
With that said, the Eastern Conference is now wide open. The Philadelphia 76ers can now make a run for a playoff spot next season. As Indiana looks to rebuild, the Sixers have a solid core around them and can start to make some noise.
Remember, the moving of Paul George to OKC weakened the Pacers. They’re now down a major star and now have a core of budding prospects. While the Sixers may appear to not be in much better shape, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. If anything, this is the time for the Sixers to fight for a playoff spot.
The Pacers, after dealing George, have essentially made it clear that they want to build a new image in Indy. This could take a few weeks or a few years. Regardless, they most likely won’t make the playoffs with their current roster. Going forward, the Pacers will need to acquire young talent in order to regain its stature in the East.
Door Left Open
An consistent playoff contender has gotten significantly weaker. With the loss of Paul George, now is the time, Philly. The Sixers have a plethora of young pieces who are chomping at the bit to make some playoff noise. Remember, the 76ers haven’t made the playoffs since 2012. This five-year absence from the playoffs has the fans and the organization as a whole anxious for some winning basketball.
This young core wants to prove itself, and can do just that with a weaker Eastern Conference. Indy squeaked into the seventh seed last season at 42-40. The eighth seed Chicago Bulls went 41-41. If that tells me anything, it’s that a playoff spot is up for grabs. With a weaker Eastern Conference a stronger team, the Philadelphia 76ers could very well shock the NBA and make the playoffs. This core is ready. Hopefully, they take advantage.