While this will largely be about Jeff Pendergraph, the late season rotation big for the Indiana Pacers, it's worth beginning the note on a few players who didn't get the playing time to warrant actually covering them on their own. The Pacers had their best season in nearly a decade, and while the roster featured guys whose time on the floor wasn't too valuable, there was a lot of chemistry value with this team, and it's worth paying homage to the locker room heroes for the Indiana Pacers. It's of course fitting to cover this for Pendergraph, who was the one who broke into the rotation while being notorious for being a locker room guy.
There's not a lot to look back on with Lil' Hans. It seemed his inclusion in the team was purely a chemistry addition to fire up Tyler Hansbrough when there was Ben would hit the floor, but he did get a crack at the rotation in December in an effort to also fire up D.J. Augustin. All it did was expose Hansbrough as a guy who wasn't really at the NBA talent level to compete. It would've been nice if Hansbrough could've offered the team the spark that launched Augustin's season, but that's not really on Hansbrough.
Dude started a game for this team.
Plumlee was Indiana's first round pick in 2012, got less playing time than the team's 2012 second rounder, but appeared in as many episodes of Parks & Recreation as the Indianapolis Colts' 2012 first round pick, who led the Colts to the playoffs. I'm not really afraid to admit I'm a bit of a Plumlee guy. I should preface I'm only buying into his future, not what he's shown because he sure didn't show anything on the floor this year. But I kind of feel he's a three year project. I may be wrong about Plumlee evolving into a Jeff Foster-type, but at least I won't have to eat crow for another season. At some point, Plumlee is going to have to show something, but I'm not really worried about him for the time being. He did have some fine performances in the D-League.
The sudden news just before the tip of the regular season that the team was going to be without Granger until about February was the equivalent of a lion throwing its cub off a cliff. The Pacers not only survived the fall, they thrived, making Granger's unfortunate injury something of a blessing in disguise. While the Pacers with Granger all season would've likely performed at the same level they did, they probably wouldn't have the future they have if he had.
What Paul George and Lance Stephenson each had to take on was well above what they were expecting and each came through the fire with a mountain of gold stickers. Granger in a sense helped create that. It's unfortunate because Granger is the guy more than anyone who deserved to be a part of this playoff run, and while he made a return just after the All-Star break for five games, he went out just as fast as he came in. With his exit, it was about what the Pacers missed without a bench threat like Granger instead of what he had offered the Pacers in his five games. Granger is also the guy who will swirl around in the middle of trade rumors all summer.
Whether the Pacers move him, well, it's hard to imagine there's a suitor who can provide Indiana a return they can build with, but whether Granger himself can move forward with the Pacers for his final contract year will be the difference between what the Pacers can be and what the Pacers will be.
Pendergraph came in during the 2011-12 season as a Kevin Pritchard guy, someone Pritchard had in Portland and pushed to have the Pacers pick up as a consultant with the team. While he didn't show much in 2011-12, he proved to be a valuable locker room piece as one of the most upbeat guys in the locker room. Good locker room presence paid off for Pendergraph, who averaged career bests in points and rebounds (3.9/2.8). Pendergraph was able to make himself into a valuable piece of the Indiana rotation late in the season, averaging 8.2 points and 5.5 boards in games where he played more than 10 minutes.
What was there to like?
Pendergraph evolved from a Penderwho to a Penderstar in his late season run (taking on forms such as Penderwhoa, Penderjams, and Penderthree), finding surprising consistency with his jumper. With Ian Mahinmi's jumper falling way way way by the wayside as the regular season progressed, having a big providing some semi-consistent jump shooting was invaluable to the Pacers, who searched for something, anything, from their bench unit.
What wasn't there to like?
Pendergraph entered the playoffs as arguably the bench's most consistent player, which wasn't necessarily a good sign. After a fairly dismal Game 1 against Atlanta, he had an okay Game 2, but something wasn't there and Pendergraph found himself one of the rotation casualties when his performances weren't making much of a positive impact. He found himself out of the playoff rotation, which, while not a bad thing, certainly can't be a good thing for a bench unit that desperately needed a Penderstar.
With Pendergraph being a free agent and looking at his postseason showing, it's hard to not think back to Josh McRoberts in 2011, who had a fairly solid year as Indiana's primary starting power forward, but was a complete no-show in the postseason. For a team that needs guys who can play in the postseason, bringing McRoberts back proved a move the team wasn't too eager to make. Whether Pendergraph could see a similar remains to be seen, but bringing him back as a locker room presence and in a similar third big/emergency energy capacity could still work. Upgrading the backup power forward position will be an immediate concern with the uncertainty regarding Tyler Hansbrough's return, but in that third string role, can the Pacers find an on and off the floor upgrade from Pendergraph?
What do you think? How did Jeff Pendergraph's season pan out? Bring him back or cut him loose?