Culture of Hoops

2013-14 NBA Season Preview: Indiana Pacers

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Most Important Player: Paul George, Paul George, Paul George
Say it three times, because that’s how important he is. Averaging nearly 20 points and over five assists, George is by far Indiana’s Most Important Player. As he goes, so will go the Pacers. His health is imperative to the success of this team because with him, the Pacers will contend for a title; without him, they are average.

X-Factor: Danny Granger
Having taken the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, and gaining the experience and character development that a series like that gives to a team, can Granger come in and be a part of its chemistry? Is he totally healed from injury? Will he be traded? Can Indiana stomach a shooter who has shown limited defensive ability? It’s all up to Granger.

Rotations: This isn’t as complicated than one might think, which is why it’s a preview of the next section. The depth chart is set, for all intents and purposes, with David West, Roy Hibbert, Granger, George and George Hill being the bread and butter. The team is stoked about Solomon Hill and Ian Mahinmi—two guys that will make a big impact off the bench, as well as on the starting line-up when/if given the chance. Lance Stephenson showed promise in spurts last year, especially in the playoffs, but with his irritating ability to channel Travis Best at time when he has the ball, the jury is still out.

What Needs To Go Right: The starting five need to play championship-caliber ball all season. They need to stay focused and realize home court advantage is won just as much in October as it is in March and April. Head coach Frank Vogel must continue to push them and understand exactly what he has—both in his starting five as well as in his, cough, substitutions (see Eastern Conference Finals, Game 6). These are the beasts that will get them where they want to go. This is what needs to go right.

It’s Really Bad If: Injuries and believing the expectations of others take over. The former, no one can control; the latter, everyone can control. The team is relatively young, and youngsters sometimes believe the hype. Believing they are the heir apparent to Miami and BEING the heir are two different things. LeBron James is still King. It’s easy to play with a sense of entitlement when you got as close as they did. Believing the hype would be really bad for Indiana and would tank the season. Injuries would do the same thing—to George or Hibbert. That would be catastrophic. Like, “Hello, welcome to Lotteryville, I am the Commissioner and I will be your tour guide this season” type bad.

Bold Prediction: Indiana finishes with its best year in franchise history: 65-17. They gain home court in the East, beating the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, and take the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games and win their first ever NBA championship.


Chris Copeland, SF
Strengths: Nose for ball in limited minutes, Good offense
Weaknesses: If Granger stays healthy, how happy will the second year player be? Scoped his knee in August and may miss start of camp.
Season Prediction: Iffy. Could show out Granger early while he comes back from his knee injury. Could be frustrated if not.

Paul George, SG/SF
Strengths: Well-rounded player, can create own stuff on isolation, speed, improved each season.
Weaknesses: Disappears sometimes on court, free agency year.
Season Prediction: Could be Pacer MVP, if not something more; will have great year. In top 10 of players.

Danny Granger, SG/SF
Strengths: Excellent scorer, defines “point-forward” well, good defense, positive attitude.
Weaknesses: Did he plateau in 2008-09? Patellar tendinosis, injury and trade rumors cloak him.
Season Prediction: Traded by midseason. Should have good numbers.

Roy Hibbert, C
Strengths: Understands team plan, height versus almost anyone at his position.
Weaknesses: Tentative down low at times, foul trouble, weight versus some others in position.
Season Prediction: Will bulk up in weight, put up in numbers, and become premiere “old-school” center in NBA. Best season of career.

George Hill, PG
Strengths: Hometown hero, solid scorer, quality defense.
Weaknesses: Injury history (including concussions), viewed as soft.
Season Prediction: Should be solid. 15-point scorer. Quality player all season.

Solomon Hill, SG/SF
Strengths: Defense, according to the Summer League guys, good size, speed.
Weaknesses: Seems to be “Bird’s guy,” which hasn’t worked out well in the past for some, rookie with expectations from others on him.
Season Prediction: Will fit in well; will fight for minutes, but can stand out in unseen ways.

Orlando Johnson, SG
Strengths: Ball handling, speed, floor presence—all qualities he was known for at UC-Santa Barbara.
Weaknesses: Can he compete with Stephenson for more playing time? Pacers deep at shooting guard.
Season Prediction: Will struggle with role, won’t find many minutes.

Ian Mahinmi, C
Strengths: Size, rebounding, defensive presence, attitude.
Weaknesses: Not used to huge minutes, not known for offense.
Season Prediction: Will have very good year. Solid player, fitting into Pacers scheme excellently.

Luis Scola, PF/C
Strengths: Sees floor well, quality shooter, positive attitude.
Weaknesses: Size drop-off is significant when in game for West, Euro-soft at times.
Season Prediction: Should play well in role behind West. Will be a good, productive member of quality bench.

Lance Stephenson, SG/SF
Strengths: Can funnel emotion into BIG games both on offense and defense, runs the floor excellently, team player.
Weaknesses: Studied at same school for dribbling as Travis Best, unpredictable and wild at times
Season Prediction: Says he has no problem behind Granger. If true, he will be excellent sixth man—unless Solomon Hill blooms or Orlando Johnson shows out.

C.J. Watson, PG
Strengths: Speed, good floor presence, veteran.
Weaknesses: Used to starting, how will it affect him mentally?
Season Prediction: Provide good minutes off the bench, should be quality breather for George Hill.

David West, PF
Strengths: Stability, leadership, strong defense, rebounding, plays good team concept ball.
Weaknesses: Can be too emotional at times.
Season Prediction: Will continue to provide leadership and quality play. Distinguishes himself as excellent veteran leader on team.

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