On the eve of the tipoff for the 2013-14 NBA season we bring you our Indiana Pacers season preview.
Last season, the Pacers were 24 points away from defeating the Miami Heat and making it to the NBA Finals.
We broke down the Pacers schedule a few months ago.
The Pacers have a team that is among the best in the NBA. Indiana might not be the favorites to reach the Finals, but they do have a good shot. The deficiencies of this team appear to be shored up and the team is poised to make a deep run this season.
The starting lineup, at least for the time being, will be as follows:
George Hill, PG – Lance Stephenson, SG – Paul George, SF – David West, PF – Roy Hibbert, C
Top to bottom, its one of the best starting five’s in the NBA. This team was outstanding on both sides of the ball when the starters were in last season. They would build up a solid lead, only to see the bench come in and lose it.
A lot of the success of this team will depend on how George progresses as a player. He’s not going to regress, but will he take a moderate jump or make another huge leap? He is now the go-to guy on offense and needs to play like it. Signing him to an extension before the season began was huge, not just to lock him up for the long term but to eliminate the distraction.
“I’m not (expletive) dumb.” That was West’s response when asked if he would resign with the Pacers. West sets a tone for this team with his toughness. Resigning him was a must for this team in the off season. He’s become a fan favorite and
Hill is an exceptional fit for Vogel’s offense and was a huge bargain last season with his on court production. He does everything that is asked of him on defense and has improved every year in the league. Its nice to have a local guy on the team as well.
Stephenson is a tenacious defender and great at attacking the basket on offense. He needs a more consistent jumper (never seen a man airball so many three-point attempts before) and is getting better at creating on offense. He did a great job of getting in Dwayne Wade’s head during the playoffs last season as well.
Hibbert is the anchor on defense for this team, and is likely the best defensive center in the NBA. Ever since Jim O’Brien was fired, his offensive game has consistently improved. Resigning two years ago was huge for this team, and Hibbert’s presence as a rim defender is second to none.
The starting five is very diverse and talented. They completely buy into the system and are able to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the NBA.
Larry Bird did a complete rebuild on the Pacers bench. The front office blew up the bench in the off season and shored up all the deficiencies in order to make a proper title run.
Key Additions: CJ Watson, PG – Chris Copeland, F – Luis Scola, PF – Solomon Hill, SF – Danny Granger, SF
Each of these additions improves the scoring potential of the Pacers bench. Watson is a significant upgrade over DJ Augustine, both offensively and defensively. He is coming off his best season in the NBA and fits in well with what the Pacers scheme.
Copeland had an impressive rookie season coming off New York’s bench. He is strictly an offensive player, but one who shoots nearly 48-percent (and 42-percent from the arc). He isn’t going to play much defense, although if he wants consistent minutes, he’ll have to in Vogel’s system. He is a great floor spacer and the Pacers will likely run a lot of plays for him when he’s on the floor.
The Pacers traded away Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee (two players who gave Indiana nothing), and a future draft pick for Scola. He is a very solid backup for West. While Scola isn’t a great defender and his numbers have been down, he is still a valuable asset for the Pacers bench. Coming off the bench for a team that is significantly better than Phoenix will improve his numbers overall.
The Pacers selected Hill late in the first round of the draft. Many analysts saw that pick as a reach, but he played four productive years at Arizona. Its unlikely that he will see too many minutes and the Pacers are trying to win now. If Hill develops into a solid player early on, it would be a huge boost for the Pacers bench.
Getting Granger back from injury might be biggest thing to happen in the off season for the Pacers. He is a big scoring threat to bring off the bench, and also very solid trade bait. Its likely that he won’t be a factor until about mid-season, due to injuries and his typical slow starts. Once he gets his legs back, there is a good chance he’ll push Stephenson for the starting spot.
Today we learned that forward Granger will be sidelined for three weeks with a strained calf muscle. Granger only played in five games last season as he battled a knee injury that would eventually need surgery. While he was once the leader of the Pacers, both in the traditional sense and in scoring, this is no longer his team. Would having him healthy and productive put this team over the edge? Absolutely, but his return to form isn’t critical to the success of this team.
There are only a handful of coaches in the NBA who actually impact the game. Most of them are along for the ride and just manage the talent (looking at you Erik Spoelstra). Frank Vogel is one of the few coaches who has a tangible impact on his team. I’m not saying he’s a Phil Jackson, but this roster isn’t all that different from the one that Jim O’Brien nearly dropped into the gutter.
Through excellent coaching, and great moves by the front office, this team is in legitimate contention for a championship.
The Pacers should finish the season with around 50 wins, if not more. They should win the Central division, and at the very least will push the Bulls for first place.
Personally, I don’t buy teams like the Bulls and Nets leaping over the Pacers as contenders for the Eastern Conference. Derrick Rose has a lot to prove after taking an entire season off to recover from an ACL tear. Adding Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets roster, two former superstars, doesn’t put them over the top. The Pacers have to be the favorite to beat the Heat in the East.
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