By: Nic Talbott
The NBA has continued to become a superstar league with this offseason only solidifying the point. With powerhouses such as the Miami Heat and LA Lakers improving their already prominent, flashy rosters many novice basketball fans do not see the likelihood of teams other than the elite to compete. I disagree though because I am just too big of a fan of basketball. The fundamentals, the team play, the hard work. I am an obvious Hoosier at heart.
This leads me to my team summary of the Indiana Pacers, the definition of a balanced NBA team. What’s so intriguing about the Pacers is how efficient of a team they were this past season without a true “superstar”. With a 42-24 record over a shortened lockout season they had the 3rd best record in the East and the 5th best record overall. They took care in the first round of the playoffs, taking out the Dwight Howard-less Magic 4-1 in the first round. In the second round they fought hard in a slugfest series with the Miami Heat leading the series 2-1 before eventually falling 4-2. The progress made during the 2011-12 season leads for a promising season with higher expectations in Indy since the Carlisle era.
This Indiana team is a deep roster without a well-known star, but is one of the deepest teams in the league. The offseason did not start as well as the Pacers had hoped for, with Larry Bird stepping down as president and the loss of GM David Morway as well. But with adequate replacements, the Pacers quickly moved on in preparation for the draft.
The NBA draft was interesting for the Pacers with a questionable first round pick in Miles Plumlee and then trading with the Sacramento Kings for Orlando Johnson. Plumlee was quoted as being “a rich man’s Jeff Foster”, but with an already tall roster the pick did not seem necessary even with Plumlee’s deserving athleticism and unparalleled work ethic. Johnson was a true leader from the University of California Santa Barbra and the Pacers desperate attempt to find a true shooter and play maker off the bench.
After all of these early complications the Pacers got to work over the offseason. The first few weeks consisted of a lot of sitting around, making sure not to be too anxious to make any rash moves. Then they went with a conservative approach, yet an expensive one. They re-signed Roy Hibbert to a max contract for $58 million over 4 years and then re-signed George Hill for $40 million over a 5 year span. From there they made a few subtle splashes via free agency and a trade. The Pacers made a sign and trade deal with the Dallas Mavericks sending Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones for Ian Mahinmi. Then they picked up free agents Gerald Green and D.J. Augustine. With that, the roster was complete, and many future deals were dealt with.
PG George Hill: Although the new deal agreed upon seemed a little high for a combo guard that’s not a true pure point guard, it was something the Pacers needed to take care of. The Pacers goal was to keep the starters from last year, which, with their resigning’s, they were able to accomplish.
SG Paul George: The most potential of any Pacers player, George is a projected break out player in the NBA this season. He is a superior athlete complimented with shooting skills and crazy height for a shooting guard at 6’10”. He is the breakout superstar the Pacers are looking for and it’s a good possibility he could do so.
SF Danny Granger: Granger is the most well-known player on this work horse roster from his prior days as an All-Star. He is not quite up to the standards he used to be, but is still a long athletic player with a wide array of offensive skills.
PF David West: The leader and the enforcer on this young roster, David West proved that he is still the same caliber player he was before tearing his ACL just over a year and a half ago. His athleticism and height won’t blow you away but his fundamentals and leadership are unmatched.
C Roy Hibbert: If the Pacers had to officially tag one of its players as a superstar it would have to be Hibbert. The giant became an All-Star for the first time last year despite not having dominant stats. He is much better than his stats though and always has a major impact on the game. This showed during the playoffs where the point differential when he was in the game was in his favor in a major way. His work ethic and sheer height makes him a great center in a shrinking league.
Bench: The changes made this offseason by the Pacers definitely focused on changing the bench in hopes of improvement. The new additions of Mahinmi, Augustine, and Green were made to give the second unit an offensive punch, something they didn’t have this past postseason. Also on the bench is the captain of the goon squad himself, Tyler Hansbrough. Wrapping up the bench is the infamous Lance Stephenson who has a boatload of talent, but questionable character issues. The remaining bench players are Ben Hansbrough (Psycho B), Jeff Pendegraph, Sam Young, and the rookies who all have talent, but most likely won’t see the court.
Overall the Pacers are a scary team to face this next NBA season. Although not many flashy changes were made, they have another year to mesh with a young talented roster. Statistically speaking, the Pacers had the most efficient starting five in the league this past season. With improvements on the bench and lots of raw talent, the Pacers have a massive amount of potential.
An X-factor the Pacers have is their height. In a shrinking league the Pacers have the tallest roster in the NBA. Their starting 5 is insane with heights of 6’3”, 6’10”, 6’8”, 6’9”, and 7’2” all of which have longer wingspans than their heights. Also they have Psycho T, Pendegraph, Plumlee, and Mahinmi off the bench with Plumlee and Mahinmi being athletic reliable big men. What makes this such a dangerous skill is the fact that the Eastern Conference elite teams lack quality big men talent. The defending champs only have Chris Bosh as a reliable returner from last year and he plays more of a pick and pop game and is notoriously soft in the middle. The Celtics are similar too, recently going small this past season playing Garnett at center.
My bias tells me the Pacers will be an incredible team this year, but the numbers and talent speak for themselves. I think for the first time is a while many people are expecting big things for the Hoosiers
Prediction: 56-26 2nd place in the Eastern Conference
Lose in the Finals to the Lakers 1-4
Beat the Heat in the Playoffs, revenge
It’s a bold prediction to have them defeating the defending champs especially with the NBA and refs on their side but I wouldn’t be a true fan if I thought they couldn’t do it. The Pacers are coming, better brace yourself before they take the NBA by storm.