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Ace E.Anderson
09-14-2012, 11:02 AM
Could someone with ESPN Insider post this story please?

Mad-Mad-Mario
09-14-2012, 11:27 AM
Overview

The Pacers have always had a rep as sort of a bland team. They are without a headlining star who takes up residence in the nightly highlights. They are just as short on oohs as they are aahs to say nothing of the overall lack of drama.

But what they've proved is bland can play. The Pacers stepped into the category of contender last season with a stronger-than-expected regular season and took the eventual champion Heat to six games in the second round and even led 2-1.

Indiana finished with the sixth-best record in the league thanks to a roster full of emerging, coachable stars who get the most out of their ability and seem to be tailor-made to work together. Along with fluid ball movement and solid shooting, the Pacers have added a rugged aggressiveness as one of their calling cards, quietly becoming one of the most physical teams in the league. Nowhere was that more evident than the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Heat, as Danny Granger & Co. matched Miami's toughness and disrupted its game plan by bodying, pushing and clawing for every possession.

The Pacers had somewhat of a quiet summer -- outside of retaining the services of All-Star center Roy Hibbert -- and focused on beefing up their bench. Depending on the timetable for Derrick Rose's return, they could finish as high as the No. 2 seed in the East, meaning they wouldn't have to face presumed No. 1 Miami until the conference finals. If there's optimism coming out of Indy, it's with very good reason.
Additions

With Darren Collison shipped off to the Dallas Mavericks, Indiana brought in D.J. Augustin, who could compete with George Hill for the starting job but more likely will embrace a role as the first point guard off the bench. Augustin's benefit to the Pacers will be his ability to distribute the ball, particularly in transition, where he is adept at finding streakers and trailers.

His perimeter defense is suspect, which could limit his minutes in a heated, dragged-out playoff series. The onus will be on Augustin to make big strides in that department if he wants to see a significant role with the Pacers.

Gerald Green's comeback was one of the feel-good stories of last season. But what the Pacers want to get out of the Green signing isn't high-flying dunks but an all-around meaningful contribution. They are hoping he is an immediate impact from behind the arc. His 39 percent shooting from 3 last season would have been second best on the Pacers. Green will also need to use his athletic skills in a more substantial way by becoming the type of defender who can keep quick strong guards in front to him.

Key personnel

The additions Indiana made this summer were nice, but its most important move was matching the four-year, $58 million offer sheet for Hibbert. The big man has worn the label of second-best center in the Eastern Conference for several years now -- not a bad distinction considering the best center was Dwight Howard.

With Howard now basking in the sun with the Los Angeles Lakers and Andrew Bynum finding a new home with the Philadelphia 76ers, it's assumed that Hibbert will continue to wear that banner. Maybe. But the gap between Bynum and Hibbert is a lot smaller than Howard and Hibbert, and Hibbert has proved to be far more durable than Bynum. Hibbert is the biggest reason, figuratively and literally, that the Pacers are contenders.
[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony and Danny Granger
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesGranger has settled far too often for outside jumpers and needs to get to the rim.

Granger's production has tapered off in recent years (see below), so the Pacers are a team without a clear-cut go-to star. Granger has been their leading scorer since his second season, but he isn't the sort of star player who can put a team on his back. Last season, he was far too reliant on his outside shot. More than half of his attempts were deep jumpers. But Granger's temperament and ability blends well with those around him, which gives the Pacers' offense a natural balance and is arguably just as important as a go-to guy.

Paul George could be the most intriguing player on the roster thanks to his blend of terrific athleticism and defensive skills. Becoming a full-time starter last season, the versatile George saw jumps in nearly every major statistical category. He averaged an impressive 14.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and two steals per 36 minutes. He also displayed skills that could land him on league's All-Defense team sooner rather than later. George could be the X factor against the Heat as the Pacers' best bet to slow LeBron James. While David West's production dropped off in his first season back from a devastating knee injury, his workman-like toughness helps against elite power forwards.

Telling stat: 3

As in three years in a row. That's the number of seasons in which Granger's scoring average has dipped. In 2008-09, he averaged a gaudy 25.8 points per game, following that up with 24.1, 20.5 and 18.7 over the next three seasons.

You can look at that in two ways. First, the Pacers have a much better roster and the scoring load is spread out more evenly. Gone are the days where Granger would simply try to shoot the Pacers to a win. On the other hand, Granger's field goal percentage has dipped each of the past three years and bottomed out at a career-low 41.6 percent last season. That has less to do with how the Pacers have beefed up their roster than Granger being exposed for being a bit one-dimensional, preferring to catch-and-shoot rather than create opportunities going toward the basket. His 3.2 attempts per game at the rim were his lowest in five years. That's not the most reassuring stat for Indy's best player who should be smack in the middle of his prime.

What needs to go right?

The Pacers have a solid collection of young players who mesh well together and are far from their individual ceilings. With quality players at each position and reasonable depth, they are a squad fairly well built for the playoffs and should offer a tough challenge for whoever they draw. Given that the Pacers match up well with Miami and have a clear advantage on the block with Hibbert, they'll force the Heat to play near-perfect basketball to get by them. That or engage them in an unwanted grudge match. Probably both. But much like last season, the Pacers are simply a class below the Heat.

On paper, the Knicks seem like the ideal team to challenge Miami's supremacy in the East, but despite bigger names and a much higher payroll, they simply haven't been able to put it together. The Pacers have and with far less fanfare. The answer lies in the fact that their collection of individual skills fit together better than the Knicks do. Call it chemistry, call it being on the same page, but regardless of how you classify it, that quality is an essential building block of a contender.

The Pacers are a quality team that can play with most anyone, but the reality is they're still a big trade and lots of development away from being able to knock off Miami.

billbradley
09-14-2012, 11:30 AM
I know there has been talk of a weak off season, but I think a real back up center and the combo of DJ/Green off the bench can potentially make a huge difference.

Mad-Mad-Mario
09-14-2012, 11:30 AM
Pretty much agree with this. We had the 5th best record IIRC. If George and Hibbert develop like we think they can, and Wade or Lebron gets hurt though the East very well could be ours

xIndyFan
09-14-2012, 11:41 AM
i don't expect miami to be the best team in the east this year. Expect a post-finals hangover and the annual Dwyane Wade injury. Indy has a chance to get the top seed.

Smits Happens
09-14-2012, 11:46 AM
I like the optimism, although I thought it was a bit of a stretch to say Roy has been considered the second-best center in the east for several years.

RLeWorm
09-14-2012, 01:03 PM
I like the optimism, although I thought it was a bit of a stretch to say Roy has been considered the second-best center in the east for several years.

the stretch was "for several years". He was the 2nd best center last year and is this year.

pathil275
09-14-2012, 01:37 PM
I heartly laughed about The T-Wolves being part of this contenders series.

Nothing that hasn't already been said about the Pacers in this article. Our best bet is to hope that Hibbert and Paul George take the next steps in their respective development. Otherwise our roster, as currently constructed, will have a hard time beating the Heat in a playoff series.

Naptown_Seth
09-19-2012, 01:36 PM
The T-Wolves were rolling along till the Rubio injury, why aren't they contenders this year? You have all-star talent at two positions.

edit - they were 21-20 coming off a loss to the Lakers when Rubio went out. They went 5-20 after that including 1-13 to end the season.


I can't agree with Bill, I don't think the change is HUGE from this to last. I think in raw total skill it's not much different. My hope is that there's a small amount of overall talent increase but with a big change in TYPE so that the overall fit is better.

I can't raise expectations much on that. I like the idea of continued increase from Roy and Paul, and perhaps more recovery from West. It's just several small increases that could maintain their status but which doesn't make them better than a full strength Chicago or Miami.

NJ, Boston, PHI, NY, and ATL all seem vulnerable but also could easily push a Pacers team that doesn't take a step forward.


By the way, VOGEL NEEDS TO IMPROVE TOO. Good attitude, good overall strategic philosophy, but not a great playbook as it was executed last year. More than anything, smart plays run well this year could be the make or break for the team.

Good talent balance but no one you just ride to the top, and that means you need 5-8 guys that play picture perfect teamwork. That wasn't true last year as they often struggled to integrate their games despite having good team attitudes.

Mad-Mad-Mario
09-19-2012, 01:47 PM
The Pacers improvements were never going to be from adding talent. Its about Growth. We need Hill, Hibbert, and George to improve like they should. With solid play from Green and Mahinmi. And if Hansborough could go back to how he played a few years ago that would be great.

BillS
09-19-2012, 01:57 PM
By the way, VOGEL NEEDS TO IMPROVE TOO. Good attitude, good overall strategic philosophy, but not a great playbook as it was executed last year. More than anything, smart plays run well this year could be the make or break for the team.

This. We need plays that have multiple options depending on what the defense does, then we need to practice them until we can't get them wrong.

Mad-Mad-Mario
09-19-2012, 01:59 PM
This. We need plays that have multiple options depending on what the defense does, then we need to practice them until we can't get them wrong.

Give Vogel a bit of a break. He never had a real training camp with his team. His first year was spent just trying to undo the O'Brien mess. And then he had to deal with the lockout. And then a condensed season. Mark Cuban even pointed out how the Pacers weren't able to work on as many things in training camp as they needed. He pointed out how the year they beat the heat they had spent an entire preseason game working on the type of things they would eventually go on to use against Lebron.

xtacy
09-19-2012, 02:06 PM
By the way, VOGEL NEEDS TO IMPROVE TOO. Good attitude, good overall strategic philosophy, but not a great playbook as it was executed last year. More than anything, smart plays run well this year could be the make or break for the team.

%100 agreed. if he is coaches like last season he should be gone.

Ransom
09-19-2012, 02:14 PM
I agree that I'd like to see Vogel have a full training camp and season at least before we judge him too harshly.

Thanks for the article, great read.

BillS
09-19-2012, 02:16 PM
Give Vogel a bit of a break. He never had a real training camp with his team. His first year was spent just trying to undo the O'Brien mess. And then he had to deal with the lockout. And then a condensed season.

Which is why he needs to improve this year.

No one is saying he CAN'T do it, just that there are no excuses this year.

billbradley
09-19-2012, 02:18 PM
I can't agree with Bill, I don't think the change is HUGE from this to last. I think in raw total skill it's not much different. My hope is that there's a small amount of overall talent increase but with a big change in TYPE so that the overall fit is better.

Without even thinking about talent, the size of Mahini is a big upgrade alone. The Tyler Lou combo was devastating on both ends.

Collison was okay, but I think we needed something slightly better in different areas (like play making and consistent mentally) in comes Augustin. I warmed up to Jones last year, but for 20 minutes I would rather have Green for wing scoring.

Maybe the talent level is the same, maybe we did just shuffle skill sets, but I think that will make a big difference.

Mad-Mad-Mario
09-19-2012, 02:25 PM
Which is why he needs to improve this year.

No one is saying he CAN'T do it, just that there are no excuses this year.

So after taking this team to the postseason twice, he gets one season to prove himself. Thats kind of harsh and totally unfair.

BillS
09-19-2012, 03:17 PM
So after taking this team to the postseason twice, he gets one season to prove himself. Thats kind of harsh and totally unfair.

Why? If in a full season with a full training camp he can't put together a decent offense, what's he doing as a head coach?

Not saying it has to be perfect or that it has to lead us to a championship, but it has to be better than one-guy-with-the-ball-one-or-two-guys-move-repeat. We're beyond the point of needing to simplify due to JOB/no camp. He hasn't lost the team in any way, shape, or form. We're now at the point where the offense needs to be something that opens up opportunities for the existing skillset.

I just want him to have some better Xs and Os - why is that so out of line?

Mad-Mad-Mario
09-19-2012, 04:02 PM
Why? If in a full season with a full training camp he can't put together a decent offense, what's he doing as a head coach?

Not saying it has to be perfect or that it has to lead us to a championship, but it has to be better than one-guy-with-the-ball-one-or-two-guys-move-repeat. We're beyond the point of needing to simplify due to JOB/no camp. He hasn't lost the team in any way, shape, or form. We're now at the point where the offense needs to be something that opens up opportunities for the existing skillset.

I just want him to have some better Xs and Os - why is that so out of line?

What hes not allowed to have an off year. This is going to be a whole new situation for him. A full training camp, and time between games to work on things. Hes going to have to walk a fine line between working the guys, and resting them so they aren't too tired for the games. If he has an off year, its not the end all be all. And it would be foolish to start the fire Vogel talk if this team struggles this year

BillS
09-19-2012, 04:08 PM
What hes not allowed to have an off year.

So if we have struggles this year because we still can't get the ball in to Roy or because we have to settle for outside jumpers due to the lack of pick and rolls you're going to give Vogel a pass and do what - scrap the starters?

Come on, now, a head coach has to do his job, and an "off year" the first time he has a chance to shine is not going to bode well. Like I said, he doesn't have to reach a peak but he needs to make some improvement. No one is calling for him to be fired.

Ace E.Anderson
09-19-2012, 04:10 PM
Why? If in a full season with a full training camp he can't put together a decent offense, what's he doing as a head coach?

Not saying it has to be perfect or that it has to lead us to a championship, but it has to be better than one-guy-with-the-ball-one-or-two-guys-move-repeat. We're beyond the point of needing to simplify due to JOB/no camp. He hasn't lost the team in any way, shape, or form. We're now at the point where the offense needs to be something that opens up opportunities for the existing skillset.

I just want him to have some better Xs and Os - why is that so out of line?

I agree, and am hopeful that Vogel can continue to work on creating a few more offensive sets that places our players in a position to succeed a little more. We were in the top 10 in the NBA in offensive efficiency (as well as defensive efficiency), so it's not as if we are THAT far off.

I think that this is the year that Vogel can really put his STAMP on the team and the league. With our lack of top heavy star power, our cohesiveness and strategy become twice as important.

But with all that said; unless we have a horrendous start, I don't think it should be "get it together this year--or else" just yet.

Mad-Mad-Mario
09-19-2012, 04:15 PM
So if we have struggles this year because we still can't get the ball in to Roy or because we have to settle for outside jumpers due to the lack of pick and rolls you're going to give Vogel a pass and do what - scrap the starters?

Come on, now, a head coach has to do his job, and an "off year" the first time he has a chance to shine is not going to bode well. Like I said, he doesn't have to reach a peak but he needs to make some improvement. No one is calling for him to be fired.

Contrary to popular belief, just because a team has an off year. Doesn't mean you scrap the coach or the starters. It means you look at the cause of the problem, in this case it could be that Vogel was for the first time getting to be a head coach and as it turns out there is a learning curve.

BillS
09-19-2012, 04:40 PM
Contrary to popular belief, just because a team has an off year. Doesn't mean you scrap the coach or the starters. It means you look at the cause of the problem, in this case it could be that Vogel was for the first time getting to be a head coach and as it turns out there is a learning curve.

So what was he the last year and a half :shrug:

Mad-Mad-Mario
09-19-2012, 04:43 PM
So what was he the last year and a half :shrug:

Well one year he was an interim head coach with nothing to lose

And the other he was a head coach during a lockout shortened season which required completely different player and team management because of the condensed schedule.

daschysta
09-19-2012, 05:23 PM
It absolutely is not unfair to expect Vogel to diversify the offense a bit next season. It is inexcusable that an NBA team has significant problems feeding the post like we did at times last year. Roy has one of the better low post games in the league, and is typically our biggest advantage night in and night out, he's capable of scoring against any center in the NBA, if Vogel can't figure out a way to get him the ball whenever we want to then some serious questions will have to be asked. That said I think we will, because it really isn't that hard to do, but that really isn't much to ask out of an NBA head coach, with a staff as good as the one we have backing him up. Roy should see a significant bump in USG next year if Vogel is doing his job well and we'll be better off for it. We have good talent well distributed on our team, but Roy having the opportunity to take the next step is going to determine how well the Pacers can perform in the playoffs for example. He's the one guy that sets us apart potentially, and something most teams in the NBA don't have an answer for in this era of diluted Center production.

It isn't like we're demanding a championship or his head, but the offense absolutely has to be more diverse, have contingencies and be able to get the ball to Hibbert, whose interior passing ability is woefully underutilized in an offense that has one speed only.

Mad-Mad-Mario
09-19-2012, 05:37 PM
Its perfectly fine to expect it. But its not time to start saying "**** or else"

Johanvil
09-20-2012, 06:35 PM
I would say it's a rather complimentary article for us and especially Roy.I love Roy but he presents him like he is the finished article and dominant.Well he's not either of those things and i expect further development from him this year.Especially at being dominant since it's a real shame to have such a height and not fully take advantage of it.Finally,Granger and his 3.2 attempts per game at the rim last year is quite shocking for a small forward.Need better than that.