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Sports Illustrated Recognizes Pacers Frontcourt Trio

Sabonis, Turner, Young All Ranked in First Half of SI's Top 100 NBA Players
by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

As the 2018-19 NBA season approaches, prominent sites across the internet are beginning to release their annual rankings of the best players in the NBA.

Sports Illustrated's The Crossover was the first outlet to take on this yearly exercise, unveiling the first half of its rankings of the top 100 players in the league. Three Pacers players were slotted between 100th and 51st in their rankings.

The rankings, which authors Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney write are "based on a fluid combination of subjective assessment and objective data", slotted third-year big man Domantas Sabonis at 79th, veteran power forward Thaddeus Young at 76th, and fourth-year center Myles Turner at 67th.

STORY: Oladipo Jumps to 20th in SI Player Rankings »

Sabonis is a newcomer to the list. After a rookie season in Oklahoma City where the Thunder used him in a way that did not play to his strengths, Sabonis found a home as the sixth man for the Pacers last season, averaging 11.6 points on 51.4 percent shooting and 7.7 rebounds while racking up a team-high 15 double-doubles.

Mahoney wrote that "the entire demeanor of Sabonis's game changed" in Indiana and "gone was the petrified rookie, replaced instead by an intuitive scorer and playmaker."

Young also appeared on this year's list after being omitted a year ago. Young's stats — 11.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game — might not be eye-popping, but he does a little bit of everything for the Blue & Gold and holds an important leadership role in the locker room.

Mahoney put it well, saying that Young "works in the background, which seems to suit him just fine." He also observed that "the Pacers may have been the best story of last season and Young, impressively, their second-best player."

Turner was the highest-ranked Pacers player on the list a year ago at 68th, but he only moved up one spot in this year's rankings. That comes after a somewhat frustrating season where injuries forced him to miss 17 games and his numbers dipped slightly from 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game in 2016-17 to 12.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per contest.

Still, Turner's All-Star potential and age (he's still only 22 years old) indicate that he could be poised for a breakthrough season. As Mahoney wrote, "Turner has the profile of a player who could take a big step this season but still faces a burden of proof in pulling it all together."

The Pacers figure to have one more player on the list, as guard Victor Oladipo will assuredly rank comfortably inside the top 50. Oladipo was slotted at 77th a year ago, but should surge up the rankings after a stellar first year in Indiana that saw him be named to his first All-Star team and win the NBA's Most Improved Player award.

Update: Victor Oladipo landed at 20th on Sports Illustrated's player rankings.