With another season in the books, Chris Reina sat down with Andrew Perna for a Pacers edition of 'Talking Points'.
CR: Will Danny Granger ever be good enough to be the best player on a team that gets out of the first round or is he in that third tier behind someone like Joe Johnson?
Granger can be the best player on a playoff contender, but heíd need a solid supporting cast that includes two or three players that are just a touch behind him. All and all, the example of Joe Johnson and the Hawks is as close to perfect as youíll get. Iíd take Johnson over Granger, but having players that resembled Josh Smith, Al Horford, Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford would do wonders for Grangerís stock.
If you look at Indianaís roster, youíd have to compare Johnsonís supporting cast to a group that includes Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert. Thatís not a fair comparison for either side at this point.
CR: Why have the Pacers dropped from 18th in offensive efficiency in 08-09 to 26th this season?
There are a few reasons for the drop, one being the play of Granger. His numbers dropped across the board, including his Offensive Rating (from 114 to 108) and his True Shooting % (from 51.8 to 49.8) and he missed 20 games.
Indiana started to play better when Granger got healthy down the stretch and the effectiveness trickled down, but overall the offense wasnít nearly as potent, which is unfortunate because they did get a touch better defensively. They resembled a stick in the mud over the last four seasons. They move a little bit here and there, but the current roster isnít going to free itself from the sludge.
The variance in their win total is just four over the last four seasons and theyíve finished ninth (three times) and tenth in the conference since making their last playoff appearance in 2006.
Itís also worth noting that coach Jim OíBrien, who is bulletproof for whatever reason, doesnít have a history of leading a young center like Roy Hibbert. Perhaps he isnít using the Georgetown big man effectively, which is hurting the teamís overall output. These are the centers OíBrien coached prior landing in Indiana: Tony Battie, Mark Blount, Vitaly Potapenko, Mark Bryant, Mikki Moore, Bruno Sundov, Raef LaFrentz, Chris Mihm, Kendrick Perkins, Samuel Dalembert and Marc Jackson.
Remember, both Perkins and Dalembert werenít established yet and they grew when OíBrien left.
CR: Which point guard that got away would you rather still have, Jerryd Bayless or Jarrett Jack?
This one is very tough, but Jerryd Bayless is the right answer. For one, I wanted them to take Bayless back in 2008 and wasnít thrilled when they dealt him to Portland on Draft Night. In addition, the Pacers are clearly focusing on the future and having a young point guard like Bayless is a greater asset than a veteran like Jack.
With that said, I think the Pacers would have easily won a handful more games with Jack this season. He isnít a long-term solution as a starter for any team, but heís a stable presence and youíre never going to dip too high or too low with him.
The Pacers havenít been stable at point guard since the first couple seasons of Jamaal Tinsleyís career, which means the position has been in flux for around six years.
CR: Are there any players in the upcoming draft that you specifically would not want the Pacers to target?
At this point in the process there isnít any one player that Iíd like the Pacers to target or not target, but I think they should focus on the paint and point guard and avoid taking a wing. They have Rush, Granger, Dahntay Jones and Dunleavy currently, which is an above-average quartet when everyone is healthy.
It might sound like beating a dead horse, but Iím glad Kyle Singler decided to return to Duke. He just seemed like a guy Larry Bird might target, whether or not thatís buying too much into unfounded stereotypes.
CR: What are the single biggest positive and negative takeaways from the 09-10 season?
Letís start with the biggest negative and work towards a brighter outlook.
The team has to be disappointed that no real growth was made as a team. Sometimes you have to take a few steps back to make a huge step forward and the Pacers remain marred in the same category. I am by no means saying the Indiana shouldnít have played out the schedule strongly (they won 10 of their final 14 games), but in todayís NBA you often need to be absolutely horrible for a season or two to complete the rebuilding process. Four consecutive seasons of 33 or so wins isnít good, but it isnít horrible either.
While Iím still not confident in OíBrienís abilities to maximize Hibbertís talents, the center made a pretty significant jump in his second professional season. He finished among the league leaders in total blocks, remained durable and showed flashes of improvement on both ends of the floor. Heís also gotten better at using both hands.
His footwork and overall agility need improvement, something thatís been said for several years, but heís going to be at the very least a valuable commodity in the NBA as the traditional center continues to inch closer to extinction.