Measuring The Progress Of The Indiana Pacers

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Paul George #24 of the Indiana Pacers looses control of the ball under pressure from Carlos Boozer #5 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 20, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Preseason expectation are always inflated for any promising NBA team like the Indiana Pacers. Then there is the reality check upon first glance that, for the most part, these are the same players we saw last year.

Hearing stories from offseason workouts about players getting bigger and stronger, improving their handles or working on shooting have a tendency to gin up expectations for a player's development that can't be met. And evidence of any physical development in a player's game may be so incremental it is hard to even detect. That doesn't mean progress isn't being made by said player.

Measuring up to expectations gets compounded when you consider applying the above standard to ten separate players. Wow! If ten different players return to the team as improved players then together they will make the team exponentially better. Oy.

Any individual improvement is great, but the goal is for the team to improve and the Pacers, more so than other playoff teams, have to rely on the individual parts coming together as team to succeed. That requires some sacrifices from individuals, giving up minutes or a spot on the floor to make the whole unit function better.

For instance, Paul George has looked great in the first two games, playing more assertive and finding various ways to contribute at both ends of the floor. He's shooting the ball with more confidence which is also an improvement from last year. But his efforts to improve his handles while taking the ball into the lane remains a work in progress. While he may feel better about that part of his game and want to show it off whenever he can, it would be better for the Pacers if he was more judicious in trying to create his scoring opportunities. He's shown if there's an opening he can take it and finish, but forcing the action when the lane is closed usually leads to a turnover.

Tyler Hansbrough is going to continue drawing attention from defenses, especially with his tendency to think shot first ( second, third...). He's been tough for one defender to handle so help will be on the way. Meanwhile, Roy Hibbert seems to shut down and watch Hansbrough go to work when the two play together. If Hans could draw attention and then get Hibbert involved to get his game and confidence going, the team as a whole would benefit and Hansbrough would end up with more room to work, as well.

The long-winded point being that individual offseason work is critical for player development but now it is about developing together as a unit which is a different beast. New faces and different roles take time to work through, but in the end the only meaningful stat to measure the progress of the Pacers this year is the number of wins at the end of the season.

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