Since the ultimate goal is to eventually contend for a championship I thought we could discuss legitimate ways the Pacers could contend for a championship in the future, whether that is 3 years or up to 6 years from now.
We'll base this on the talent we have and what we could possibly get in the future.
Please let's try to keep this as rational as possible with no hyperbolic statements...
So just follow along with my thought process and tell me where I'm wrong.
I thought the best way to look at how we could possibly contend with the best teams in the NBA is look at the Celtics. They don't have one of top 10 most dynamic players in the NBA so if we could understand what they do to be a championship caliber team, than I think we would understand what the Pacers would need to be one as well.
The Celtics were able to win with an effective point guard, a great shooting two guard, and a borderline superstar small forward who could create on his own. This was all complimented with an all-world interior defense. They depended on great chemistry with each other which mean very unselfish play on the offensive side, and a fiercely competitive defense.
They key I don't think was in the over all talent really. I mean take Paul Pierce's play. The guy wasn't scoring a whole lot, he wasn't near the offensive threat he was in years prior but I think he managed to be a much more effective player than those he played against because of the over all package. For instance if we were to compare Pierce to someone like Joe Johnson we could see a clear difference in why Pierce's teams were competing with the best and Joe Johnson's weren't.
Pierce uses great shot selection and unselfish play to produce a net positive to his teams performance. He also hustles on defense, contesting every shot and while he may only produce 18 ppg, he is a highly efficient scorer.
Joe Johnson on the other hand doesn't get to the line a lot, and doesn't shoot a high fg% and while just out of physical talent alone Johnson is probably a more talented player, but Pierce ends up being a much more valuable teammate.
The other keys are Allen sticking to his game which means getting good open looks and on the defensive side he hustles contributing to a great team defense.
Kevin Garnett was and is the anchor to the team on defense, rebounding, and playing long, tall and big down low. He did all the good things that a big man needs to do to win a championship. I think it is key that every team that wants to compete has someone like Garnett- Someone who can defend most big men, contest layups, and rebound well. On paper someone like Chris Bosh may be a better player for instance than Garnett, but when it comes to actually winning, you have to have someone who can rebound and defend. With big Perkins down there and KG they were long and could contest every shot in the paint.
It is also worth noting that Rondo has now turned into a superstar but really he is just now showing he's that guy. For the most part Rondo has been a solid point guard with a sub-par jump shot that didn't make any mistakes.
The point I'm trying to get at is, the Celtics didn't need a big name superstar who could score 28 points per game. They didn't need a super star point guard who could average 13 assists and 20 points per game. What they had is a team that played great defense as a team, and they played solid offense. They had one player who could iso, they had an option in the post in KG, they had a great jump shooter, and they had a distributing point guard.
What the Pacers need is to wisely assemble a team of players who can full fill the necessary rolls. I think this much is obvious but sometime we all ignore in our some what short sited view of the teams potential. As an example, most of this board was quite upset when we didn't get OJ Mayo. I don't intend to beat a dead horse, but if we were looking at the future of this franchise- OJ is not a guy that could come in to play real good defense and score at a highly effective level.
So without further ado, let's look at the Pacers current starting lineup and see what each position needs in order to beat the best.
As was mentioned early I think we need to recognize that while there may be an immediate need for this position, that need is not a superstar. We need someone who can effectively run the fast break, one that can penetrate, and one that effectively run the PnR.
On the defensive side of the ball our point guard has to be able to play good perimeter defense which means contesting those 20 foot jump shots as well as three pointers. They also need to do a somewhat decent job making it tough on the many slashing point guards in the league right now.
With Darren Collison offensively I think he has shown every ability in the world to be our starting point of the future. Many have criticized his play making ability but I believe it is unfair. DC does an excellent job penetrating, he does well on the fast break, and as long as the team can play together setting good screens for eachother and moving well without the ball, you'll see DC play consistent on the offensive side. He'll never be a Rondo or Nash, but can produce like Tony Parker offensively? Absolutely.
The major problem with DC's game is his defense and consistency. He plays average defense at best, and as such an inexperienced player we see him making a lot of careless mistakes that really hurt our team. Careless turnovers such as lazy passes, and poor ball handling.
As it does traditionally take a point guard longer to reach their potential I think it would be appropriate for us to expect consistent play on the offensive side of the court in DC's third season, but I don't think he'll ever be the answer because I feel it is a tad bit optimistic to think he'll ever be able to defend the position at a high enough level.
However, I will say for the next couple of years, I think we can keep DC at the starting lineup running the offense until we think we can acquire the right PG for us. Really, so long as the other rolls are full filled on this team? I think DC would be good enough to help this team get a number 4 or three seed. The difference in winning a championship I think would depend on whether we could get the right man for the job. It is a lot easier said then done, and I don't think it is worth giving up someone like Danny Granger for instance in getting that guy. More on that later.
Now it is worth mentioning that it might be a possibility to deal both Rush and DC in a package deal to get a much more solid point guard over the summer. I cannot think of a decent prospect, but I would completely support that effort. But in conclusion, I think DC is the short term answer at point guard, and he certainly won't hurt the teams growth in the next couple of seasons.
I think this is our biggest question because I believe the Pacers are depending on Paul George to be a solid scorer on offense. One that can put up his 20 a game but most importantly he needs to do it at efficient level buy penetrating, getting to the line and hitting that 20 foot jumper. There are a plethora of guards that can throw up 20 in the league, but very few who can do it buy shooting a high TS%. Since we have no one that can score when the offense breaks down, Paul needs to be able to score at will. Essentially, he needs to be our Paul Pierce.
Defensively I have no question that he may in the following years be considered one of the best players in the league. I don't even think it is remotely outlandish. He's quick, he's long, and he's extremely aggressive.
I think there is little question that Granger is the answer at SF. There has been a lot of criticism of Granger all season and maybe for good reason, but a lot of it is miss placed. We have to realize that Granger is full filling a roll that he is not equipped for. He's not a superstar, he's not the best at creating his own shot, and I think it really helps him when the rest of the team is playing well.
More importantly, the advantages of having Granger are his many positives. He doesn't cost very much. He's at I think 10 million a year right now and he's among the best at his position. I think once we focus the ball away from Granger and play to his strengths you'll see a much more effective and more efficient play. He needs to play off the ball. When you have a great shot such as his, he'll be better utilized looking for open spots on the floor and spreading the D.
It is also worth noting that despite what people "think" they can see, Granger plays hard, he wants to be here, and he wants to win. That's what he cares about. He's not egotistical as some of the more dramatic on this board contend. He doesn't care about taking the most shots as most will say when the team plays a bad game, I think he is someone you can win with. He does play good defense, although it lacks sometimes when things are falling a part, for the most part I can point to some absolutely great games defensively that Granger has had this season.
This I believe will be our biggest weakness. And let me be clear- I love Tyler. I think he is going to be a contributing Pacer for a long time but I think the flaws he has in his game would keep the Pacers from ever actually contending for a title.
He is undersized and doesn't play good enough D. He plays average at best on the ball defense, and he can in no way help the Pacer protect the basket in the paint. He's just not that guy. I also think it is overly optimistic to think he could ever grow into that guy.
The nice thing is, I believe he'll be a very effective 6th man for years to come and help the Pacers have much needed depth. But if we are to ever win a championship, we need a legitimate defensive presence down low.
Tyler doesn't rebound well either. This is another problem for the Pacers. We need someone who can box out well, and help us control the boards. Until that happens, the Pacers will continue to give up offensive rebounds late in the game to superior opponents such as the Bulls and Celtics.
This is where if we are honest we recognize things are a little bleak for the Pacers. There isn't a lot out there for us in the free agent market this summer. If we were somehow able to snatch Tyson Chandler I think he would be an excellent addition. He'd full fill our needs nicely. In fact, with the addition of Chandler, the Pacers could actually run sort of an odd rotation that got Tyler in the game more often for offensive touches, while Chandler could play less minutes too keep him healthy and ready for playoff runs.
With Tyson the Pacers would be an absolute force in the paint defensively. I don't think Tyson is a legitimate option as Cuban will ensure they sign him.
Roy has had a roller coaster ride all season long. A couple good games followed by several turrible games has been the theme. However, when he has played well, he shows us how effective he can be. He rebounds well, blocks shots, and scores efficiently.
Roy has been improving each season so I see no reason why he won't improve this off season.
What will really decide if the Pacers front court can help this team compete for a championship is if in Roy's 4th season, he can play at a consistent level every night. He needs to be a solid 15/10 (per 36) every night without fail. I don't think it is too much to expect that next season. He needs to bulk up next season so he's not pushed around so easy on defense. He also needs to be able to finish strong every time.
If Roy cannot be a solid presence on a nightly basis I believe that is when we start questioning if we can win with Roy in the starting lineup, and start looking for someone who can full fill that role.
What will really help Roy play the same on any given night is if we are able to get someone to rebound and defend well at power forward. This would change the entire dynamic of the Pacers as a team.
With the talent the Pacers have on the roster right now I don't think they are two far off from competing but there are some big if's.
Can Roy play consistent next season? Can we sign the answer at power forward? We certainly have the cap space. And will Paul George develop into our number one scoring threat? If the answer to all of those questions is yes, I believe the Pacers will win anywhere from 45-50 games with in two years. Add in the fact that if we are able to find a solid point guard sometime in the next 4 years or so, the Pacers would have the talent to beat any team in the NBA.
The reason for this thread is put a positive spin on things... Right now it seems everyone goes from loving the team one night to hating them the next. I don't understand it, and think it is rather counter productive! We love watching them, they're young, they aren't quite at the talent level to compete... and as we all know just a few pieces here and there can completely change whether a team is hovering at .500 or competing for a trip to the NBA finals!