After a fantastic season in 2017-2018, the Indiana Pacers formally announced a contract extension for head coach Nate McMillan on Tuesday and the news came as no surprise. Aside from word of the deal leaking a few weeks earlier, the Pacers seemingly overachieved on the way to 48 wins a season ago and, in many cases, the credit for that type of breakout is given, at least in large part, to the head coach.
“I’m really proud of what Nate and our coaching staff have done,” said Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard in an official release. “Nate is very deserving of this extension. We have a wonderful culture and he has been a big part of implementing that culture. He’s dedicated leader, a very good coach and we’re lucky to have him here with the Pacers.”
There is no question that McMillan did yeoman’s work during the 2017-18 campaign, maximizing the talent on a roster that did not project anywhere close to the 48-win performance that came to be. Still, things are now different in Indiana, with the Pacers set to enter a season in which they won’t be sneaking up on anyone as real expectations arrive.
While there was some good fortune in the Pacers compiling 48 victories (with a point differential more indicative of a 45-win team), the biggest reason for Indiana’s uptick was the play of Victor Oladipo. The 26-year-old guard made the rare leap from a player cast as overpaid and underperforming in Oklahoma City to someone with legitimate star power in his new home. Oladipo averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists over the course of 75 games and, in short, there is no reason to suggest that his performance won’t represent a “new normal” as a legitimate star in the NBA.