In the past, the Indiana Pacers front office has exhibited the creativity of a Thomas Kinkade painting. This year's roster is more like a Magic Eye puzzle. You squint, you strain, but it's hard to see anything tangible. On the eve of the 2015-16 season, only Larry Bird can see the schooner in the visual chaos.
There isn't a single honest-to-goodness starting big man on the roster. Ian Mahinmi? Jordan Hill? They are bridesmaids on the bench, not bridezillas in the starting five. There aren't any traditional point guards either. George Hill is an excellent (and underrated) basketball player, but he would be the first to tell you that his game resembles John Stockton's Floor General mastery like a chainsaw resembles a dog sweater. The two players projected to play shooting guard can't actually, you know, shoot. That might be an issue.
At the beginning of the season, most NBA rosters look like chessboards. Each piece has a highly specific purpose and a highly specific place. The 2015-16 Indiana Pacers more closely resemble a Boggle tray. The dice have been shaken and randomly dispersed, and it's up to Frank Vogel to find the words.
Does that sound pessimistic? It isn't! The chaos of the roster brings uncertainty, and uncertainty is fun! What are the lineups going to be? What kind of wacky plays will they run? Will these small lineups scramble around like Keystone Avenue Cops, or will they be a fine-tuned fast break machine?
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Here are a few more burning questions:
• Will rookie Myles Turner be some kind of funky Sam Perkins/Roy Hibbert love child? A center who can shoot threes AND serve as an elite rim protector is a combination of skills we've never quite witnessed in the NBA to this point. Will that be too weird to work on an NBA court, much like the indefensible "sleeved jerseys" Adidas tried to make happen? Or will he be a revelation, like a mascot jumping on a trampling to execute comically exaggerated dunks at halftime?
• Paul George will apparently be Indiana's starting power forward. Will he be a billionaire's version of Draymond Green, or will old-school bruisers like Zach Randolph reduce him to a thinly-pounded breaded tenderloin patty by the All-Star break?
• New Pacer Monta Ellis was brilliant as a young player, attacking the rim with the frenzy of a Hoosier scraping the ice off of a frozen car windshield via a credit card. These days Monta is much more likely to pull up for a lazy jumper, evoking the image of an old-timer on a porch barely mustering enough energy in the humid heat to wave a flyswatter at a passing stranger. Young Monta can help Indiana win in the playoffs. Old Monta might shoot the Pacers into the lottery.
The Pacers of old — slow, uncreative, traditional — are gone. What kind of team will emerge in the new season? No one is quite sure, but it's going to be fun watching them navigate the madness.
(Dave Searle is half of the voices on the Miller Time Podcast, available during the NBA season on nuvo.net. He's also an account exec with our lovely publication.)