Starting Miles is an option, and the Pacersí four-year, $18 million deal for him is a big bet on his becoming a more well-rounded player. Heíd certainly provide more spacing for the starters, and the Pacers could slot Stuckey in as co-point guard with C.J. Watson on second units ó a role that Stephenson played last season. But starting Miles would place an enormous burden on George to create damn near everything from the perimeter, and as great a two-way player as George is at his peak, he hasnít proven up to that kind of responsibility.
Scoring will be a major challenge for Frank Vogel and his staff. Vogel has done well in Indiana, but the teamís offense has stagnated as the defense developed into a juggernaut. The defense should remain stout next season, though Miles and Stuckey mark a step down from Stephenson on that end. Stuckey canít slide over to small forwards like Stephenson can, and Miles, though rangy, has occasional lapses in alertness that have frustrated prior coaches. George is going to be exhausted by the end of next season.
Still: The system will work as long as George and Hibbert are around. Indy was a borderline top-five defense even as the team fell apart after the All-Star break. Joke about Hibbertís bricky shooting and lack of rebounding, but recognize he was still scaring the crap out of John Wall and Bradley Beal in the conference semifinals.
The offense needs more care. Really, it needs a total revamp, a task that gets harder without Stephenson. Vogel has to make better use of his bench, including the duo of stretch power forwards he now has in Copeland and Rudez. There just needs to be more continuity ó more movement, more cohesion, no more dudes mucking up the teamís spacing by standing in random spots inside the 3-point line. A one-way team can get only so far. The Pacers stand as the best current evidence of that.