The generally positive showcase put together by the Indiana Pacers gave a clearer picture in regards to expectations for the 2010-11 season. Obviously, the goods are the starter performances, the bad is well in line with what Jim O’Brien spoke of. The goods are that the team is better than the Timberwolves, the bad is well…they’re not that much better.
With Dunleavy starting, I think this team is resigning themselves to a 2009-10 Memphis Grizzlies type of season, where games are won and loss by the starters and contributions from the bench are only seen as benefits. You can win a number of games with this; after all, the Grizzlies were a near .500 team. I remain skeptical about the talent level matching up, but if what was showcased offensively for the Pacers is a fair indication (Granger in high volume scoring, Collison near 20, and Hibbert 15-17), it may not be too far off.
As I stressed in my piece on the starting guard, I think Mike Dunleavy is a bad fit for this lineup, and he showed it to me last night. He’s good for more than 7-10 points a night, and his contributions off the bench are a necessity, especially on nights like tonight, where A.J. Price is unable to get it going. All in all, it will be an interesting, but some player positives and negatives after the jump:
- Every bit of Danny Granger’s 30-11 performance was nice to see and should set some souls to rest. Granger lived off smart ball movement and solid shot selection, in addition to his own smart decision making. He led the team by example.
- Darren Collison doesn’t have the assists to show it, but he played a fine distributor. His focus wasn’t landing an assist, but starting the offense with good passes and movement. I always like to see assist numbers from PGs, but it’s not like rebounding; there are a lot of factors that go into that statistic. Collison is nothing but an asset to this team.
- Roy Hibbert’s 16-14-6 performance was uplifting. In a particular series towards the end, the ball flies around everywhere, Hibbert does everything in his power to kill the play before points happen, and with a thundering block, he does just that. I’m remaining a little unsure about how to take the rebounding positives given the Timberwolves complete lack of ability to do that, but seeing Roy use his size was nothing but a positive. His shooting was touch and go, but he worked around the basket, shot when it was called upon him to do so. Great work, big fella!
- Josh McRoberts’s health could be the most important factor in this team’s success. This guy is the absolute glue to the starting lineup. He’s an optimized version of what we praise Tyler Hansbrough for being. If he plays in 82 games this year, this team will be better. Any games he misses, they’re going to be tough to win, I think. He’s a banger with a sublime offensive game. His decision making was great, passing up numerous open threes for easy drives to the lane.
- To avoid being a broken record on the SG spot, I’ll just sum up that Duns was what I thought he’d be in the starting lineup. He’s a threat, but is kind of like an idle threat so long as guys stay honest to him. I think that does create problems when you start looking to the bench.
- Paul George was the lone offensive contributor off the bench, and following his back-to-back threes, every shot that went up, I was glad to see out of his hands. Really, I wanted him to shoot more. I was disappointed when I saw he only took ten shots. But he actually looked good. You get the feeling he has a place in the league. I’d start thinking he might be the best option to start sooner rather than later.
- A.J. Price was off offensively, but didn’t completely disappear from the game. He showed good work with the ball to show me that he’s a PG after all, it’s just becoming clear assists aren’t important in a Jim O’Brien offense.
- James Posey threw up some clanks and showed questionable decision making to make me wonder whether this is the same guy who was the most valuable free agent when New Orleans picked up him. I can see his worth to the team, I just don’t know if as much of it should be on the floor. I hope he can show me up.
- From there, it was a rough-and-go type of game without a lot of merit in mention. I’m finding I’m not terribly impressed with a whole lot Magnum Rolle is offering, but at the same time, it’s not like Solomon Jones is going to get much better, so that position is seriously washing out right now for me, though I’d still rather take a flier on the younger guy.
- Allow a second of praise to Area 55. It's impossible to know the value they can have on the crowd in a preseason atmosphere, but a loud, motivated group of fans cheering on the Pacers is going to be a great addition to the already great Conseco Fieldhouse.
All in all, take this performance with a dash of caution. Obviously, the positives should hold, but the Timberwolves don’t appear to have any go-to options when it comes to scoring points, they’re poor rebounding, and they’re not going to win a whole lot of games this year. Defense will need to improve, but defense can always improve. You can’t pitch a perfect game in basketball. It’s impossible. Bench reliability will also be a concern, especially on nights when the bench struggles like they did from their more capable scorers (Price, Hansbrough).