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Season Preview

2012-2013 Indiana Pacers Season Preview

By HOOPSWORLD
Basketball News & NBA Rumors
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Last year, the Indiana Pacers won a playoff series for the first time since 2005, and had they not bumped up against the Miami HEAT in the second round they may have ended up going even deeper into the postseason. Despite that particular misfortune, Indiana made great strides in 2011-12, and even bigger things are expected out of them this coming year.

HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the 2012-13 Indiana Pacers:

Five Guys Think…

The Indiana Pacers had an interesting offseason. A couple of their moves seemed questionable on the surface, but they all had logic behind them. What matters the most, though, is that they haven’t taken a step back. In fact, it’s not out of the question that they’re going to be even better than last year. Is that going to be enough to truly break into contention in the East? We won’t know until the playoffs come along. As far as the Central Division goes, it belongs to them since the Chicago Bulls will be without Derrick Rose for the better part of the season.

1st Place – Central Division

– Yannis Koutroupis

The Pacers continued their slow, steady climb to the top of the Eastern Conference last season, nearly eliminating the Miami HEAT as the highlight of an impressive postseason showing. They brought back Roy Hibbert, gained an energetic backup centers in Ian Mahinmi and Miles Plumlee, added scoring with Gerald Green, and acquired D.J. Augustin to back up George Hill, meaning they will be even deeper and tougher than last season. If Paul George and Hibbert takes the next step in their respective games, the Pacers could be the dark horse to come out of the East. With Derrick Rose out to start the season, they should be able to at least capture the Central Division crown, though that isn’t a given.

1st Place – Central Division

– Bill Ingram

The Chicago Bulls have been the team to beat in the Central Division in recent years, but Derrick Rose’s injury opens up the door for the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers surprised everyone last season, winning 42 games and giving the Miami HEAT a hard-fought playoff series. Indiana should be able to take the next step this season and make some more noise in the postseason. They’re bringing back the same core and have added veterans such as D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green and Ian Mahinmi. Indiana enters this season with a lot of confidence and, for the second straight season, they should be able to finish as one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference.

1st Place – Central Division

– Alex Kennedy

The Pacers have made steady progress for a couple of years now, but this is the season in which they’re really expected to make the leap to the Eastern Conference’s elite. Roy Hibbert is a max-contract guy now, and the rest of this team has proven they’re good enough to win a playoff series. With the young core one year older, and with additions like Gerald Green, D.J. Augustin and Sam Young, they’re an ever deeper team than a season ago. The Miami HEAT are the best team in the East this year, obviously, but the Pacers look as good as anybody for #2, especially with Derrick Rose primed to miss most of the season for the Chicago Bulls. Little should stand in Indy’s way of winning the Central this year, and a trip to the Conference Finals could be in the not-too-distant future, as well.

1st Place – Central Division

– Joel Brigham

The Indiana Pacers are on the cusp of entering the league’s elite, but the ascension to the next level isn’t about adding more external help it is more about their current core needing to take their games to the next level. Roy Hibbert, Paul George, D.J. Augustin, George Hill, Gerald Green and Lance Stephenson need to show growth this season in their respective roles if the Pacers want to build on last season’s success.

1st Place – Central Division

– Lang Greene

Top Of The List

Top Offensive Player: Despite a slow start last season, Danny Granger really is the most gifted offensive player the Pacers have. Too often he has the four-point night on 2-for-12 shooting, but more often than not he’s good for 20+ points a game. It takes a high volume of shots to get those points, but so far the rest of the Pacers have been happy to give him priority with the basketball. Look for this to be a more balanced offensive attack this year, with Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert, and Paul George probably combining for something like 60 ppg between the four of them. Granger, however, is likely to lead the team again in 2012-13.

Top Defensive Player: Roy Hibbert finished last season fifth in the league in blocked shots per game and fourth in total blocks, so there’s no questioning that he’s the best this team’s got as far as defense is concerned. The really scary thing is that he can be even better defensively, but his ability to alter teams’ plans for attacking the rim is extremely valuable. Having the second-tallest player in the league (the tallest if we don’t count Hasheem Thabeet, and let’s be honest, nobody really does) is quite a luxury for the Pacers. To be tall and talented is even rarer.

Top Playmaker: Once upon a time, the idea was that Darren Collison would be the young point guard to help facilitate this Indiana offense moving forward, but by the end of last season that role was passed onto George Hill. Collison was traded to Dallas in the offseason, essentially handing over the reins to Hill, who received a fat extension as the team’s new go-to point guard. He is, of course, more of a combo guard than a true point, but he’ll be the guy Indiana relies on to spark the offense this year.

Top Clutch Player: He might not shoot a high percentage, but Granger is still the guy who’s going to get the ball when a game is close. With Jeff Foster no longer with the team, Granger is the longest-tenured Pacer, and as the veteran leader of the team he probably should be taking the big shots. There are a lot of good players on this team, but none that are undeniably great. Granger is the closest they’ve got, which is why he’ll be taking the majority of important shots this season.

The Unheralded Player: While he only plays about 24 minutes a night, Tyler Hansbrough is the kind of hard-nosed Indiana ruffian that drives opposing frontcourts insane. He’s annoying and pesky in the best way possible, and the Pacers are hoping that tenacity rubs off on rookie Miles Plumlee, who could end up being a very similar kind of player. Hansbrough, though, is more talented, and his combination of tenacity and occasional statistical outbursts is extremely valuable to this team, even without huge minutes.

The Best New Addition: Once again, the Pacers had some money to throw around this summer, and they did some nice things by digging around the bargain bin. D.J. Augustin will play a significant role on this team as the backup point guard, but other acquisitions like Sam Young, Ian Mahinmi, and Sundiata Gaines should also prove to be nice additions, as well. But it’s Gerald Green, who broke out in New Jersey last season after a significant hiatus from the league, that could have the biggest impact. Indiana needed depth at the two, and Green should provide that, although a repeat of last season’s 12.9 ppg might be hard to accomplish on a team with so many other offensive options.

– Joel Brigham

Who We Like

1. Paul George: George saw his minutes boost up to 30 a game last year, which led to seriously improved numbers across the board for him. Not only is he an early favorite to win the dunk contest this year (should he choose to participate, and hopefully not in glow-in-the-dark neon yellow), but he’s also an early favorite to be a breakout star. Danny Granger is still the man in Indiana, but George is creeping up the ranks, too.

2. David West: While West put up his worst numbers in several years his first season as a Pacer, he proved to be a stabilizing veteran presence on a team that was otherwise pretty young and inexperienced. What Indiana needs out of him is toughness on the block, a little bit of rebounding, and 10-15 points a night. He’s more than capable of doing that, as he proved last season (and for several seasons preceding that one). He might not be an All-Star anymore, but he’s still a very important part of this team.

3. George Hill: You can make a strong argument that Hill isn’t worth the $40 million he got this past summer, and can also argue that that’s a lot of money to invest in a point guard who technically isn’t even really a true point guard, but what you can’t argue with is that the Pacers played their best basketball last year with Hill running the team. He needs to do a better job getting his teammates the rock in order to have any hope as the long-term starter here, but he’s a good enough ball player to get that done. Plenty to get excited about with Hill moving forward.

4. Roy Hibbert: Indiana deserved an All-Star last season, and Hibbert was the likely candidate. He’s anything but a shoe-in to do that again, but he should be top three in blocks again this year, and if he can have his big games with consistency he’s got a reasonable shot at being the best center in the Eastern Conference now that Dwight Howard is out in L.A. Yes, better than Andrew Bynum, and yes, better than Greg Monroe, Brook Lopez, or Joakim Noah. The talent is there, but it’s got to show up every night. Hopefully this is the year he finally is able to do that.

5. Frank Vogel: Almost as soon as the Pacers fired Jim O’Brien nearly two years ago, the Pacers looked like a team destined for greatness, and Vogel has not disappointed since getting his interim tag removed last offseason. Despite the fact that this is the third season in which he’s run the team in some capacity, it will be his first time actually being given the opportunity to run a full training camp his way, and considering the aptitude he’s shown early on as an NBA head coach, that should be a good thing for the way his team looks heading into the 2012-2013 season.

– Joel Brigham

Strengths

Despite being so young, the Pacers finished in the top ten in several key team statistical categories last year, and considering they’re bringing back essentially the same core as a year ago, they should only get better with age. On defense, in particular, this is a really tough group. The Pacers finished 10th in the league last year in opponents’ points per game, and 6th in opponents’ field goal percentage. They were also fourth in team rebounding, another reason to love them as a defensive unit.

Offensively they’ve got some work to do, as they were extremely average shooting the ball from the field, but from behind the arc they were exceptional, shooting 36.8 percent, good for 6th best in the NBA. They also finished third in free-throw percentage and tied for fifth in the fewest turnovers per game.

– Joel Brigham

Weaknesses

Danny Granger, the team’s leading scorer last year, took almost the first third of last season to get his shooting percentage out of the 20’s, and that personifies what proved to be a really poor shooting team last season. In fact, they finished 24th in the league in team field goal percentage (.438), which puts into numbers how inconsistent this team proved to be on that end of the floor. The fact that they were second-to-last in team assists, too, further shows this group’s limitations. Perhaps having a true point in D.J. Augustin will help with that, but it’s doubtful. This is just a team that struggles to move and score the ball offensively, but hopefully age and maturity help the Pacers improve on that this upcoming season.

– Joel Brigham

What Needs To Be Said On Opening Day….

It’s time to continue to build on last season. We have our same core group back and are ready to take the next step. To do that, we need to keep our focus on playing inside-out. We know Roy will be a beast to stop inside. But Roy – Can you be more willing to make that pass out when the double teams come? If so, we know there will always be players around you, like Danny, Paul and George, that will knock down shots. We have too many good offensive pieces to not be one of the best teams in the league. With a focus on execution and making the extra pass, we can get there. Let’s let our offense be our driving force and see where it takes us.

- Anthony Macri and Brett Koremenos

The Burning Question

Can Donnie Walsh and Kevin Pritchard continue the positive momentum built by departing team president and general manager Larry Bird and David Morway?

It’s not often a guy wins Executive of the Year and then calls it quits, but Larry Bird was an exhausted and aching guy who simply couldn’t stand up to the rigors of running an NBA team anymore. Before he left, however, Bird and his GM David Morway put together one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, mostly by drafting gems with picks in the teens and purging the roster of burdensome salaries. Walsh and Pritchard have both proven over time that they’re capable of putting together winners, too, but how will they handle this group moving forward?



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