As the NBA season fast approaches, Right Down Euclid will be previewing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each franchise. This preview will focusing on the Indiana Pacers, who last year had a record of 49-32 and made make the playoffs.
Team: Indiana Pacers
Coach: Frank Vogel
2012-2013 Record: 49-32
Place in Division: 1st
Place in Conference: 3rd
Leading Scorer: Paul George, 17.4 PPG
Key Additions: C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland, Luis Scola, Donald Sloan & a returning Danny Granger
Key Loses: Tyler Hansbrough, D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee & Associate Head coach Brian Shaw
The Indiana Pacers, on paper, don’t exactly scream “contender”. For starters, they won 49 games last years and didn’t have a scorer average 20 points or more. But, in the playoffs last season, they put it all together as a team, running on all cylinders making them one of the realest threats to the Heat’s dominance in the East and over the NBA. They got even more dangerous this offseason to top it off, adding three nice role players – point guard C.J. Watson, small forward Chris Copeland and power forward Luis Scola – to an already deep squad. And to ice the cake, the Pacers will be getting Danny Granger – once their best player – back from injury. All things considered, it’s shaping up to be an interesting season in the Hoosier state.
The best way to describe this team is that they are complete and very deep across the board, arguably making them the most complete team in the NBA heading into the season. Go down a checklist of desirable traits and they have a crazy high number of them. Shot blocking? Check. Post scoring? Check. Stout defense? Check. And the ones they didn’t have or weren’t as strong in, they fixed. Former New York Knick Chris Copeland will provide shooting off the bench and C.J. Watson is a real improvement over D.J. Augustin behind starting point guard George Hill. I also believe that Luis Scola, formerly of the Phoenix Suns, will benefit from a change in scenery and be an improvement over Tyler Hansbrough behind David West and Roy Hibbert.
They also have the advantage that several key players are still improving as players. Paul George, the breakout star of last year’s playoffs, is only going to get better as he gets more experience. Hibbert still has room to grow in his game, as does Lance Stephenson. This team also rebounds well – averaging 45.9 per game last season – while also playing great defense, only giving up 90.7 points per contest last season. That, coupled with a methodical style and slow tempo, makes them a tough matchup for anyone.
I’m curious to see how this team adapts to the departure of Brian Shaw, who took the Denver Nuggets head-coaching job this offseason. While Frank Vogel is still around (and deserves credit for how good the Pacers are) Shaw had a big say in the offensive strategy and they’ll need to adjust to a different voice coaching the offensive. This also comes at a time where new and retuning weapons – namely Granger and Copeland – who are going to need touches.
And when you look at the Pacers shot charts, one interesting thing stands out: around the rim, the Pacers shot 7.8 percent in the playoffs than they did in the regular season. They shot higher from behind the arc and the middle. With stout inside presences like Hibbert, Scola and West the Pacers will need that playoff production to the best team they can be.
2012-13 Regular Season
Lastly, the Pacers have some other areas to improve on offensive. Despite all of their success, they were 19th in the league last season in offensive efficiency at 101.6. They also committed a dreadful 16.4 turnovers per game last year. And George – now firmly in a go-to role – lead the team with 3.9 turnovers per game. For comparisons sake, let’s look Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks star whom some think George has surpassed as a player. Last season, playing roughly the same minutes, George average 1.3 more turnovers than Anthony.
2013-2014 Season Predictions
The Pacers, by my estimation, are realest threat to the Heat this season. With West, Hibbert and Scola on the inside, they will have a sizeable advantage over the Heat on the inside. How far they go depends on two factors: how much George continues to grow and how well Granger returns from his length layoff due to patellar tendinitis. But unfortunately for Indiana, this season will play out eerily similar to last season. They’ll eclipse the 50 win mark this season and beat out the Bulls in the Central, but fall short again in the playoffs to Miami. The MVP will be George, who proves that he is worth the max extension the Pacers gave him this offseason.