1. There's such a thing as the "Pacers' Way" - You often hear the moniker "Patriots' Way" or "Steelers' Way" when describing each franchise's thriving culture of winning. There's something different about them. They evaluate differently, draft differently, spend differently, and all the while exude a frothy confidence. The closest you get to that in the NBA is the San Antonio Spurs, and they've got a frumpy coach and four rings to prove it, but maybe the Pacers aren't that far behind. Solomon Hill is the latest "what the...?" first-round draft pick to come through those BLF doors, and, understandably, the one-round-too-early selection put many Pacer fans on Travis Best overdribbling alert. Amid all of the Solo Hill backlash, the Pacers front office remained remarkably steeled. Why? Because like any other established program, they're confident. And they don't care. They don't care what you or I think. They don't care what Bill Simmons thinks. They don't care that prognosticators deemed it a D- grade. They only care about adding the piece that fits into the winning culture being cultivated in the Hoosier state. Enter Solomon Hill. The beauty of the Pacers' approach is that it isn't inflexible. Sure, when adding new pieces they're usually looking for something specific: winners, experience, tireless workers, character gold, etc.. But they're also willing to take that occasional Jonathan-Bender chance on potential. Just ask Paul George, Lance Stephenson, and Gerald Green. Like the Patriots, Steelers, and Spurs, the Pacers are developing a distinct Blue-and-Gold stamp when it comes to roster building. And they might just have a ring soon enough to legitimize their method.
2. The uh-oh Central Division - Don't look now, but in a year or two the NBA Central Division will no longer be a two-team sparring match between the Bulls and Pacers. Gone will be the days of Derrick Rose's "I won't forget what they did" proclamations. No more "they celebrate too loud" mutterings from Joakim Noah while simultaneously unholstering his "guns" upon banking in a Quasimodo jumpshot. Nope, NBA Central drama is about to get a little more diversified courtesy of Detroit and Cleveland. For the Pistons and Cavaliers are coming. Josh Smith may not be a perfect fit, but similar to David West in Indy, he may be the productive vet a young team like the Pistons need to start churning upward. Anthony Bennett was a shocker of a No. 1 pick, but watching the tape, it's hard to argue the Cavs could have gotten someone with more talent in a downer of a draft. Put him alongside Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller, and now Jarrett Jack and voila! you've got a playoff contender in the works. Excluded from this monologue are the Milwaukee Bucks whose offseason additions thus far appear to have only intensified their unique ability to Milwaukeebuckify themselves into another season of 35-41 wins.
3. Blue-and-Gold mix and match - Chris Copeland is not a PF. Chris Copeland is not a SF. Chris Copeland is a tweener. And you know what? That's a good thing. As fun as it was to watch the Pacers mash in the playoffs with a more traditional lineup, one couldn't help but notice how rigid things felt at times. Especially when it came to the second unit. The Pacers had no wildcards to throw at teams. No small-ball lineups. No stretch fours. No microwaves off the bench. Nope, instead we got the pingponginess of Tyler Hansbrough, the lumbering of Ian Mahimni, and the Hobbit-inassertive hybrid of D.J. Augustin. While no one knows how next season's second unit will fare, you can at least say it's got the potential to be extremely versatile. C.J. Watson is a combo guard. Solomon Hill can play multiple positions, Chris Copeland can play multiple positions, Danny Granger can play multiple positions, Lance Stephenson can play multiple positions. You get my point? Teams are going to have to account for a myriad of potential lineups, which one can only pray to the basketball Gods will help improve an oftentimes woeful Pacers' offense.
4. Pacers trust in Miles Plumlee a lot more than you do - Indisputable Pacer Truths: Reggie Miller is the greatest Pacer of all time, and the Pacers needed upgrades at backup PF and PG this offseason. At PG, they got C.J. Watson, a solid vet who can do something very few Pacers could do last season: hit threes and take care of the ball. At PF, they got a finesse scorer in Copeland who can stretch the floor, but appears to be a hopeless rebounder and defender. Doesn't sound very Pacer-like, does he? I think the Copeland experiment will work, but if it doesn't you do realize who becomes the next option at backup PF, right? That's right, the draft-defying, hacks-his-hair-with-a-spoon Miles Plumlee. Of course, the Pacers could still make a move at PF before free agency ends, but as it stands, Plumlee is likely to get some meaningful burn this season. And if you listened to Frank Vogel at halftime of Summer League Game No. 1, they won't be afraid to throw him out there. While that's a scary proposition for many Pacer fans, you have to like the confidence of the organization. They liked his size. They liked his athleticism. They liked his skill set. They drafted him when no one else would. And now they're gearing up for a return on their investment. #Pacersway.
5. Stout defense ain't goin' nowhere, so what else you got? - Say hello to Nate McMillan, an alleged defensive mastermind with little-to-no offensive acumen. Can't get more Pacer than that now can we? It will be interesting to see if McMillan can add any new wrinkles to the No. 1 defense in the league. His reputation says he can. But what else does he offer? Clearly, Brian Shaw had a way with young players, and his exit leaves a potentially large void in way of player development. Luckily for Pacer fans, Coach McMillan has just a wee bit of experience with this sort of thing. Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden were supposed to be the next big thing, and Coach McMillan did all he could to build the young core's camaraderie. Hopefully he can do the same in Indy.