[From the FanPosts, goodlucksaturday takes us on an interesting trip down memory lane.]
There's certainly no denying the impact Jarrett Jack had on the Pacers last season amongst fans who loved his hustle and heart and enjoyed his demeanor. But could he actually be the best single season Pacer ever? That's the goal as I look to break down the single year Pacers from Abernathy to Zeno, from Reggie to Miller, from Devin Durrant to Rick(y) Robey(o) (that is not a stretch...) to find out where Jarrett Jack falls, and if he is in fact the best single season Pacer ever.
There have been 139 players who have donned the Pacers blue and gold for one season and one season only, though I'll trim that number to 135 due to Brandon Rush, Roy Hibbert, Josh McRoberts, and T.J. Ford on slate to return.
It's worth mentioning before we begin, that only four one-year Pacers have played a full season. They are Tony Brown (1984-85), John Duren (1982-83), Jarrett Jack (2008-09), and Mickey Johnson (1979-80). Darrell Armstrong (2006-07) played 81 games, but was suspended one game for badmouthing a referee after being ejected.
So, They Weren't Great Pacers Anyway...
Before I break down the best, here are the best who simply weren't at their best in the blue and gold.
Kenny Anderson (2003-04) - This former All-Star best known as a New Jersey Net became a Pacer for a championship run in 03-04. Averaged 6 points in 44 games.
Darrell Armstrong (2006-07) - In filling out the PG position for the 06-07 team, the award winning (Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year) member of the Orlando Magic averaged 5.6 points in 17 minutes for the team.
Quinn Buckner (1985-86) - A bonafide winner, Bucker was on championship teams at Indiana University and for the Boston Celtics. He would spend his last season with the Pacers, averaging under four points. He remains with the franchise however, as the primary color commentator for the Pacers television broadcast.
Erick Dampier (1996-97) - Dampier was drafted by the Pacers and only played his rookie season with the team. He has found a niche as one of the league's premier offensive rebounders.
Tim Hardaway (2002-03) - One of the members of Golden State's exciting Run TMC trio, the 5-time All-Star signed with the Pacers a handful of games before the playoffs, playing ten games and four playoff games.
Rasho Nesterovic (2008-09) - Acquired in a trade for T.J. Ford, the former NBA Champion played out his year and left without much fanfare, a "thank you and so long", but was a valuable member of playoff teams in Minnesota and San Antonio.
John Williams (1994-95) - The big boy out of LSU played his final season with the Pacers, averaging career lows across the board, far from his success as a Washington Bullet.
Reggie Williams (1996-97) - Reggie Williams was a successful player with the Denver Nuggets before coming to Indiana as part of the Jalen Rose deal. Williams would play just two games with the Pacers, scoring five points.
The 10 Best Single Season Pacers
10. Ron Behagen (1977-1978)
Ron Behagen was drafted into the league by the Kansas City Kings in 1973 and had a quality rookie season that he was unable to build upon. After spending two years with the Kings he was traded to New Orleans where he played two years with the Jazz. The journeyman nature of Behagen's career would take him to seven teams over the next three years, his longest home in that time being with the Pacers. The Pacers were Behagen's third team in the 77-78 season, and was acquired from the Rockets for the rights to the Pacers second round pick Alonzo Bradley.
For the Pacers, Behagen played 51 games with the Pacers at about 22 minutes a game. He averaged 11.2 PPG and 6.5 RPG. He finished the season with Indiana and for whatever reason, they didn't like what they saw in him in camp the following year, and he was cut in September 1978.
9. Kareem Rush (2007-2008)
After being drafted by the Raptors in 2002, Rush was traded to the Lakers where he would play his first two seasons. Early in the 04-05 season, he was traded to the Bobcats, which would be come a career year for Rush, if not for all the back spasms. A similar fate befell Rush for the 05-06 season, showing solid ability as a quality role player when healthy, but simply not being healthy. He would sign with the Sonics that fall, but would be cut and spend the season in Lithuania, becoming one of the league's premier players, but also finding health.
Rush would return to the NBA with the Pacers in the 2007-08 season, boasting his first largely healthy year in four years, and became a single year Pacer record holder for most three pointers. Rush played reasonably well for the Pacers, but was lost in the free agent shuffle the following summer. Rush played 71 games with the Pacers, drilling 102 three pointers and averaging 8.3 PPG in 21 minutes of action. Rush's injury past would plague him again as a 76er in the 2008-09 season where his action was limited.
8. Warren Jabali (1970-1971)
Warren Jabali was one of the ABA's top players, coming in for the Oakland Oaks and winning the league's Rookie of the Year and Playoff MVP honors. Despite injuries, he would have another great season for the Capitols the following year. Eyeing a repeat to their 1969 ABA Championship, the Pacers acquired Jabali for a first round pick in the 1971 ABA Draft.
Jabali would go on to have his worst season with Indiana, averaging 11.0 PPG in 26 minutes per game. The Pacers would trade Jabali to the Floridians the following year, where he would go on to return to All-Star form and eventually become a first team All-ABA in 1973 for the Denver Rockets. The Pacers wouldn't lose much sleep over his loss, going on to win two more ABA Championships.
7. Ricky Pierce (1995-1996)
Acquired by the Pacers as a free agent, the team hoped to use Ricky Pierce in the same way Byron Scott was so useful. Pierce came to Indiana from a brief stint in Golden State that was hampered by his injuries. The former Buck and Sonics standout played his 14th season with the Pacers and averaged a solid 10 points in 19 minutes for the 95-96 squad. He would see more playing time in the playoffs, and would perform well in the team's first round loss to the Hawks.
Pierce would be traded to Denver as part of the Jalen Rose deal and played two more NBA seasons, retiring at age 38.
6. Peja Stojakovic (2005-2006)
As a Pacer, Peja Stojakovic's all too short tenure was bittersweet. Sweet in that he was one of the most productive single season Pacers ever, but bitter in that he never played with any kind of purpose as one. Stojakovic made his way over from the Kings as part of a trade that was made with Ron Artest. Artest did his fair share of sabotaging the trade deals, and half a season of Peja was about all that came out of it. Peja shot 40% from three point range and 90% from the charity stripe respectively, while averaging just shy of 20 points a night and six boards. Injuries would hurt the Pacers chances in the postseason as he didn't play well or play at all.
Peja was signed and traded away from the Pacers to New Orleans for Andrew Betts, who never made it out of Europe. Thus the hands were wiped clean of the Ron Artest era completely by losing Peja Stojakovic.
5. Earl Tatum (1977-1978)
When the Pacers traded away Adrian Dantley to the Los Angeles Lakers during the 1977-78 season, Earl Tatum came back in the return along with cash. Tatum would perform well for the up and down Pacers roster in 77-78, notching 14.4 points and 4 rebounds and assists in 57 contests.
After his time with the Pacers, Tatum was sent to the Boston Celtics of all teams, in return for a first round pick, and cash. Certainly as were the times, money was hard for the team and their moves certainly reflected it.
4. Adrian Dantley (1977-1978)
And speaking of reflecting moves with cash, if Earl Tatum had a serviceable performance for the Pacers, then Adrian Dantley performed like a man possessed, like the one of the greatest Pacers ever. While I didn't want to take into great consideration any player that had played less than half a season with the team, Dantley's performance well earned the placing on this list. The Rookie of the Year found his way over from the Buffalo Braves in a trade for then leading scorer Billy Knight. Dantley would play all of 23 games for the Pacers, but didn't miss a beat in terms of scoring or leading the team, putting up 26.5 PPG and 9.4 RPG before his trade to the Lakers in December of 1977.
Dantley would find his home with the Utah Jazz, becoming one of the era's most dominant scorers. There are many question marks in that era of Pacers basketball, none more than "if the team had been set financially, what would we look like now?" Certainly, the need for cash sent Dantley to the Lakers and sent away a Hall of Famer with it.
3. Wil Jones (1976-1977)
Wil Jones was an ever durable SF for the Pacer ABA border rivals the Kentucky Colonels in the final days of the ABA, even though he spent most of his ABA days playing in Memphis (the Tams, the Pros, you name it, that's what we'll call it). Jones was bought by the Pacers in the ABA Dispersal Draft, and played the first of his two NBA seasons with the Pacers. Jones's game didn't miss a beat, and was one of the great transitional players in showing the ABA was closer to standing with the NBA than the NBA would've wanted to admit. Jones averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds for the team in their NBA debuts.
Jones would go on to sign with the Buffalo Braves in free agency, and would have a lackluster final season in the league before being cut as the Braves moved to San Diego and became the Clippers.
2. Jarrett Jack (2008-2009)
Drafted by the Nuggets in the deceptively deep 2005 NBA Draft, Jack would be traded to the Blazers and play extremely well in his second year starting for the upstart Blazers. He would come off the bench the following year and would come to Indiana as part of a deal involving draft pick Jerryd Bayless. Jack had a career year in every category, from points, to FG%, to even blocks, where he more than doubled his career block total last year alone. Jack averaged 13.1 points and 4.1 assists in the 2008-09 season, finishing the year off as the Pacers starter at PG, becoming a fan favorite in that time.
Following the end of the regular season, the Pacers lost Jack to free agency, as they were unable to match the offer the Toronto Raptors placed on him.
1. Mickey Johnson (1979-1980)
An adage you can live by regarding best one year players is if that if they were only on your team for a year, they probably weren't worth keeping around, at least not at the price the player may have been going for in the free agency market or on the trade market. Mickey Johnson may have been the exception, as the Pacers became buyers in the free agent market, rare for the Pacers to go after a profile player of Johnson's stature, in that time, or as has become, any time. Johnson, however, would only have one season as a Pacers despite the signing, which would be his career year. Johnson averaged 19.1 PPG and 8.3 RPG and holds numerous records for one year Pacer players that will seem unlikely to be matched by a one year player.
Johnson was traded to the Bucks, for George Johnson and a second round pick. G. Johnson would go on to be a valuable role player in helping the Pacers over the edge to their first NBA Playoffs berth in 1981.
There we have the ten best single season Pacers ever. We can only hope that Jarrett Jack's name will resonate with Pacers fans for years to come, though history has a way of forgetting things like that. But, let's try our best not to forget.