The Indiana Pacers came into the offseason hoping to keep their core together from last season, but losing Lance Stephenson to the Charlotte Hornets ended that hope quickly. They still have George Hill running the point, but they don’t have the playmaking shooting guard that helped that situation out in a big way last season. Larry Bird was very vocal that they would look for an upgrade at the point guard position, but there simply isn’t much left to make a move with after all the moves that have already been made.
All that being said, could the biggest difference maker for the Pacers already be on the roster from last season? C.J. Watson was a very underrated part of last seasons team, and was easily the most consistent performer off of the bench for the entire year. The Pacers began going into a nasty spiral when Watson went down with injury, and they certainly were able to make a nice run in the playoffs when Watson came back.
Watson is one of the better backup point guards in the NBA, and he could find himself sliding into a starting role this year depending on how Hill opens the season. Both players are more than capable shooters, but Watson is a much better passer and he understands how to run an offense much better than Hill does. Perhaps the most intriguing possibility would be moving Hill to the shooting guard position and having Watson start at point guard.
Bird mentioned just a couple of weeks ago that the Pacers would be fine with Hill and Watson at the point, and it is worth noting that he specifically mentioned Watson. There has been quite a bit of speculation since late last season that Frank Vogel could give Watson a chance to start, and that could end up being the case now that Stephenson is gone. The Pacers signed both C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey this offseason, but those moves could simply be to bring depth off of the bench.
Could the Pacers actually start a back-court of Hill and Watson? Would Hill’s lack of size at the shooting guard position hurt the Pacers’ defensive first stance? It certainly is an interesting situation to think about, but there is no denying that Hill is a shooting guard by heart and would be much more dangerous offensively playing off of the ball.
Overall, the Pacers are going to be looking for players to step in a major way with Stephenson heading to Charlotte. Watson is one of the players that proved himself last season, and is more than ready should the head coach put him into the starting lineup. He is a deadly shooter, can get to the rim, and is more than capable of running an offense. Those three things could make him a legitimate starting point guard for the Pacers this season.