In my mind, the Pacers have a few pieces in place that will still be around once we're a very good team again.
I think that Rush, Granger, and Hibbert can all start for a good team. I think that Dunleavy and Jack can be primary bench players on a good team.
As we look forward, the two big holes are PG and PF. What kinds of players do we need to look for to play in those positions? That's the question that interests me. I'll take a stab at it.
PG: This is the easier of the two. It's the exact type of PG that most people on this board want: A pass-first PG who plays solid defense and doesn't turn the ball over. A guy like Jose Calderon would be a great fit. Unfortunately, very few of these PG's exist. The most important aspects are defense and low TO's. I think that Danny will continue to get better at creating for others. This is also something that seems to come pretty naturally to Rush when he's playing well. We don't need the future PG to be an extremely creative player. A mistake-free good defender with an outside shot would be sufficient. In other words, a PG version of Bruce Bowen or Shane Battier.
PF: This is a much harder question to answer. Many people on this board point to Dale Davis as the ideal PF, but is he really the right guy to play next to Roy? The PF & C relationship is important, because when it doesn't work out, it can really derail a team. Davis and Smits worked well together because Smits was very good offensively and Davis was a great rebounder and defender. Brad Miller and JO was also a tandem that worked well together.
Hibbert is an interesting player to think about pairing with someone. He does a number of things pretty well. He can operate offensively both in the low and high post. He's got a pretty decent jump shot. He does fairly well on the pick and roll. Defensively he does well against bigger, more physical offensive players, but struggles against smaller, quicker guys. It looks like he'll develop into a good shot-blocker, especially from the weak side. I don't think he'll ever be a great rebounder, and I don't see him making a lot of hustle plays. According to 82games.com, he's been more effective this year paired with Murphy than with Foster.
In thinking about a player, I think we need to get a more talented guy at PF than we do at PG. First and foremost, our PF of the future needs to be able to do two things: rebound and guard perimeter-oriented PF's. Even though Rush and Granger both rebound well for their positions, Hibbert's sub-standard rebounding will always be a problem unless we have a stud rebounder at PF. Our PF is also going to have to be able to guard guys like Rashard Lewis and Antawn Jamison. Murphy's killing us this year with his inability to guard those guys. It's forcing us to go small.
If we can find a guy who can get 10+ rebounds and guard small PF's, what else should they be able to do? I'm stumped on this a bit. I'd like this guy to be an above-average athlete who can make up for Roy's slowness. A guy who's active on the offensive boards and a good finisher would be more important than a guy having a particular offensive skill set (3-pt shooter, low-post scorer, etc.). A Dennis Rodman type would be nice.
I'd love to hear others thoughts on this. Also, if there's any players available via trade or draft that people think would fit-in nicely.