Indiana Pacers Season Preview

Indiana Pacers
Last Years Record: 35-47
Key Losses: Darrell Armstrong, Rawle Marshall, Maceo Baston
Key Additions: Kareem Rush, Travis Diener, Stephen Graham

What significant moves were made during the offseason?
Two major moves during the offseason will significantly alter the Pacers upcoming year. The most significant offseason move was deciding not to move Jermaine O'Neal. Much of the summer was spent trying to determine which collection of Lakers would be tolerable in a swap for J.O. In the end, neither side was comfortable with the other's demands, leaving J.O. in Pacer blue and gold for at least one more year. O'Neal reported to camp in a good mood thanks to the other significant move, hiring Jim O'Brien to replace Rick Carlisle as head coach.  O'Brien has started from scratch, working to implement a culture change that includes an entertaining product on the court and professional, accountable conduct off the court.  No easy task, but so far through camp, the players appear to appreciate O'B's intense, straightforward methods.

A couple of other minor moves to bring in Travis Diener and Andre Owens could prove significant. Both play point guard and will provide depth behind Jamaal Tinsley. Should Tinsley spend any time nursing injuries again this year, Diener and Owens will be a good combo capable of handling the job. Diener brings tons of effort and a solid 3-ball stroke, while Owens earns his nickname `Pit Bull' by playing hard on both ends of the floor.

What are the Pacers' biggest strengths?
The Pacers biggest strength going into this season is the large collection of low expectations from anyone associated with the NBA. The players won't have any pressure placed on them and can play in full chip-on-the-shoulder mode which seems to fit right in O'B's coaching wheelhouse. The Pacers strength on the court seems to be their depth of versatile players. Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy, Shawne Williams, Kareem Rush, and Stephen Graham can all play the 2 or 3, if need be. Travis Diener and Andre Owens both bring different positives at point guard that make for a nice compliment backing up Jamaal Tinsley. O'B's style of play relies on running the court and pushing the ball at every chance and backing it all up with a hard-nosed defensive effort. They will need to go deeper down the bench this year to keep fresh bodies on the court to push the pace.

What are the Pacers' biggest weaknesses?
The Pacers biggest weakness is inconsistency. Inconsistent shooting from all over the floor including the free throw line has contributed to most of the Pacer L's over the past couple of years. They brought in shooters Kareem Rush and Travis Diener but their roles are yet to be defined. Inconsistent defensive effort has also been maddening. A healthy Jermaine O'Neal has been solid defending the paint but when he's less than 100 percent there has been no last line of defense behind a front line defense that was often a step slow. Assistant Coach Dick Harter is back at the Fieldhouse to help implement his team defensive philosophy which can only help at this point.

What are the goals for the Pacers?
The goals for this team are to make the playoffs. Seems pitiful but looking toward a championship just isn't realistic. It is hard enough to find a slot in the playoffs when looking at the current competition in the Eastern Conference. But, the Pacers are at least as good as last year when they were running in the 5-6 seed slot much of the year before injuries and turmoil mounted and the team imploded. A run to the playoffs would surprise the rest of the league, but that should be a minimum goal for this team, otherwise they should sell off all of their valuable parts and start over.

Is this the year the Pacers move in a positive direction?
The Brawlcalypse hit the Pacers in Detroit three years ago as they were completing a thorough drubbing of the then defending champion Pistons on their home court. The game never officially ended, but any championship hopes for the Pacers were toast. The downward spiral of the franchise from that moment left them at the end of last year in a barren, post-brawlcalyptic wasteland void of life or hope. But, with a new coach, a few role player upgrades, and healthy key players (knock, knock), there appears to be some sprigs of life sprouting from the ground. This could be the year that turns the franchise around and begins the long climb back toward earning respect around the league. Wins and losses may not be the right measure of progress this year. The Pacers will find themselves in a talent deficit against several opponents.  That doesn't mean their style of play and level of effort can't be worth watching regardless of the final outcome. But if these positive developments take place,  the continued emphasis on effort and outworking opponents will end up leading to more wins than expected.

Predicted Record: 40-42

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