predictions are just so fun, especially when your team is already winning.
Going into the 2011-2012 season, Pacer Nations had high expectation of their team, and for good reasons. Majority of theIC community had the team settling somewhere between the 35-40 win range mark. Now exactly half way through the season and conveniently the all star break, the Pacers are sitting very very pretty as the thrid seed in the East at 21-12. Now be honest, how many of you guys really thought the Pacers would be the third seed at the midseason mark? How many of us thought Roy Hibbert would be playing at an all star caliber level and playing along side the elites of the game come sunday?
First, let's quickly run through the team for their first half performances.
Danny Granger: I don't really know how to judge him as of right now. Though his defensive efforts have been much better than years past, and he's more willing to allow teammates to get involved in the game, his shooting touch has been completely missing. I don't think I've ever seen Danny Granger miss so many wide open shots in his career than this year, yeah his leadership and defense is better this year but I really expect Granger to work on his shot over the break as it is still one of the key elements in the current Pacer offense.
David West: I like that David West is a huge factor in Hibbert's developemnt and love the fact that David West is a go to player during winning time as he's already shown couple of times already. However, David west still has a lot of area that he can improve upon, namely defense and rebounding. But overall he's been a really positive addition to the team.
Roy Hibbert: To be honest, I think Roy Hibbert is eventually going to be a 18pt/12reb/2ast/2blk STAT monster somewhere down the line in his career. As much muscle as he put on this summer, he looks like he can still add a lot more bulk and lean muscle, and I have no doubt that he will continue to improve his weight conditioning even more over the summer. What we've got to see in the first half is Roy Hibbert basically perfecting his hook shot and getting to where he wants to go on most nights. However, Roy's weaknesses were exposed against Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol and the loss to the Hawks. During all of those three loses, Hibbert was behind on many of the defensive plays and spent most of his night watching his counter parts rolling and dunking their way in the paint, especially the game against the Grizzlies who just pick him apart on many high screen and rolls where Marc Gasol really is an expert at. Even though Danny is still the leading scorer and a vital part of the team success, the biggest determining factor to any Pacer victory lies heavily on the performance of Roy Hibbert, the teams goes as he goes, and when he struggles the team struggles, evident by the five game losing streak. Roy Hibbert is a two way player, and how ever he performs on one end really effects him on the other end as well, for better or for worst.
Paul George: Paul has been pretty much what most of us thought he was going to be, playing the passing lanes, scoring around 12-14pts and getting a bigger a bigger role than he did last season. And as expected, Paul is still going through many growing pains in his second year, but fortunately he is playing in a starting lineup full of all-stars or former all-stars and veterans that he's able to hide a lot of his flaws. After the second half, it would really be nice to see a defensive minded Paul George who takes on himself to lock down the opposition.
Darren Collison: the suppose weakest link of the starting five. Yes, his numbers are not very impressive and has not improve since last season and probably will never reach the numbers he had in New Orleans. However, even with all that said, Darren Collison has done a very good job running the team and should deserve some credit for the team's nice record during the break. Yes, even though A.J. and Hill have some very nice games, they still have not shown nearly enough consistency to unseat Darren for his starting spot just yet.
bench: a mix bag of disappointment and success.
First, Dahntay Jones deserves a lot of credit, he been the best and most consistent bench player for Frank by far. D. Jones brings his energy, his bravado, his swagger, his defense on a nightly basis. D Jones has even improved his jump shot noticeably this season, and right now, I really would not want them to trade their best bench player unless it's for a can't miss deal. Dahntay is really an extension of Vogel out there, and he's really starting to grow on me with his lieutenant-esque persona.
George Hill was anointed the verstile sixth man coming into the season, though he started slow like many others, his effect on the game was most clear during the five game losing streak where the team reallly needed someone who would be there in the scramble for the 50/50 balls. That is essentially the key to George Hill, he is a extremely smart and heady player who is almost always always at the right place at the right time, showing everyone exactly how much experience means to winning.
A.J. has been playing great as of late, and has shown good defense against opposing guards than Collison at times, I hope Vogel finds a way to manage the four headed tandem of Darren, Hill, Price and Lance's minutes as to get as much winning and development out of the four as possible if it's possible at all.
The bench post play has been mostly disappointing, with Tyler struggling to find any rhythm, with Jeff Foster out for most of the season and Lou Amundson being very inconsistent, there really hasn't been as much production from the goon squad as we would have like to see. And hopefully these guys can step up in the second half.
Now, let us look ahead into the immediate future. The Pacers come out of the all star break and immediate face some elite opponents, hopefull they will be rested and ready for the challenge. As good as the Pacers record has been in the first half, I really wish they had played more games than they have because once the calender reached the midddle of March and all the way the end of the season, it's pretty much a non-stop basketball marathon all the way to the playoffs. We will pretty much be watching the Pacers on a nightly basis very soon, and I hope they can last til the end of the regular season, as there will be more days off in the playoffs than the regular season.
I think I will go back on my preseason prediction of 38-28 and say we finish 42-24. Is that good enough for a third seed? well a lot of it will depend on Injuries on our team and on the other teams in the playoff race. But given the down right brutal schedule and the tough string of opponents, I will gladly take a 42-24 record.
So what does everyone else think? Are we good enough to finish top 4 til the end of the regular season, injuries and trades not withstanding?