[From the FanPosts, JohnnyPBlue shares his thoughts on the Pacers heading into next season.]
The Indiana Pacers are a team that has arrived. They are not yet at super star status, but are well on their way. Most people who pay more than casual attention to the NBA saw this one coming. Over the past couple of years the Pacers have shown, at times, what they are capable of. Flashes of dominant play showed itself just enough to let us see that there really was something there. It convinced us to wait through the bad and mediocre times patiently, because it would all pan out in the end. That time is just starting now. After giving the Miami Heat a dogfight during a 7-games series the Pacers have put the league on notice that they mean business on the court. Coming into this offseason they find themselves in a great position, but not without a tough choice or two.
So what does Indiana have to do to get their team to the next level and not just force a game 7, but actually come away with the series? It won't be easy, but the good news is more of the same. A big, but often overlooked asset, is the head coach. Fran Vogel knows how to get the most out of his players and with him in Indiana the team should continue to grow. A quick look at what he has done with the team reveals some interesting things. First, when he took over the team mid-season in 2011 his winning percentage was 14 points higher than was that of Jim O'Brien. Second, Roy Hibbert blossomed since Vogel has been the coach. Also, Paul George has grown and developed to the point that Danny Granger is likely going to be looking for work elsewhere. When you have a high quality starting five, and a coach that will actually teach in practice, you're going to do well in this league.
George had such huge gains in his game this season that it garnered him Most Improved Player of the YearHonors. Averaging 17.4 PPG during the regular season on 41.9% shooting, he found a way to step it up in the playoffs throwing in 19.2 PPG on 43% shooting. A young player, he's only 23, George will likely be on the Pacers for awhile. This gives the team the ability to part ways with Granger. He only played five games this past season because of patellar tendonitis. What makes him an iffy trade is the fact that no one is going to be sure on the real value he has. If he is able to return to form, there are a lot of teams out there that would be interested. However, that is not very likely. He is likely to come back and show flashes of dominance and explosiveness, but not for extended periods. Hopefully he'll go somewhere that can manage his minutes to an extent. Otherwise he may run the risk of wearing down entering the postseason. With George at the wing position, and whatever they get for Granger, the Pacers will be in a good position.
The NBA draft is right around the corner and the Pacers go into it with the 23rd overall pick. One theory, and a good one, is that the Pacers would like to go with Reggie Bullock. He is a tall player, who just happens to be a very good long range shooter. The Pacers lacked a good deep threat, they ranked just 22nd in 3 point percentage, and Bullock could immediately bolster those numbers. He also adds depth for them, and we all know that a team can't win the trophy without a decent bench. It can mean the difference between playing in June and going home early.