Boy has it been slow around here with the lockout. I just hope Pacers players are more motivated and dedicated than I am when it comes to their team.
Anyway, in a rare bit of news, ESPN has been running a series of 5-on-5 (5 fact or fiction questions put to 5 experts) on each team in the NBA, and recently the Pacers were the subject of discussion.
You can check that article out here
If I could sum up the sentiment of the experts, including the TrueHoop guys from Eight Points Nine Seconds, I'd say it is overwhelmingly pessimistic. The Pacers are considered 'the second best team in Central' but barely scraped into the playoffs last year where they bombed out in 5 games against the top seeded Bulls. They have cap space but uncertainty looms because of the lockout and the fact that few marquee players would consider Indiana an enticing destination.
In any case, here is my take on each of the 5 questions.
1. Fact or Fiction: Darren Collison is the answer at PG.
I say Fact. Despite his troubles last season Collison is still better and has more upside than any PG the Pacers have had since Mark Jackson. Yes he is small and his defense is less than stellar, but he still has the opportunity to grow into his game. People often forget that Collison is only entering his third season and had unrealistic expectations heaped onto him because he filled in well for Chris Paul in extended minutes during a short stint in New Orleans. I like his attitude and work ethic, and with more experience, time with teammates, increased Vogelization and a good pick and roll partner (a role Hansbrough could fill), I reckon Collison will become much more effective as time goes on. We'd all love Chris Paul or Derrick Rose on our team, but Collison is good enough.
2. Fact or Fiction: Paul George is the answer at SG.
Fiction. I think George makes a much better SF than SG, but unless Danny Granger goes, SG is where George will find most of his minutes. George has great size, length, an amazing skill set, mindset and incredible potential -- if he develops the right way he'll be a significant upgrade over Granger, but that's a big IF. As high as I am on him I have a feeling that because of the ridiculous expectations on his shoulders George can only underachieve next season.
3. Fact or Fiction: Tyler Hansbrough is the answer at PF.
Most people will say Fiction because they see Hansbrough as an ideal energy guy off the bench, and that would be correct in an ideal world. But unless the Pacers can land that big time PF they've been searching for since Jermaine O'Neal departed, Hansbrough is their guy. He showed in flashes that he can be a solid NBA player (especially in those back to back games against the Knicks). As long as he can channel his emotions in the right direction and find consistency (the biggest problem amongst all Pacers players) there's no reason why he can't be the PF of the future.
4. Fact or Fiction: Roy Hibbert is the answer at C.
Again, in the absence of a Dwight Howard falling into their laps, Roy Hibbert is the answer at C for the Pacers. Like Hansbrough and Collison, Hibbert must continue to grow -- not only in skill, strength and experience but also in mental stability. Hibbert disappeared for long stretches in games and throughout the season and couldn't stop trying to dissect the reasons in the media, which only made things worse. I'd take Hibbert's god-given size and talent over any C the Pacers have a realistic chance of landing right now.
5. Fact or Fiction: The Pacers are on their way to the East elite.
Define 'elite'. If you are talking about the likes of Miami, Chicago and Boston (though likely not for long), then no, the Pacers are nowhere near that. But if you're talking about the Pacers rising up and potentially putting themselves in that second group -- along with Orlando, Atlanta, New York -- then I'd say they have a good chance. It's all about the development of the young players, the development of coach Vogel and whether the Pacers can land one or two solid players (like George Hill) to take them to that next level. They won't have any superstars or game-changers like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Lebron, etc, but perhaps they could use the old Pistons model (the one that toppled the Lakers franchise) as a guide to forming a unit that is significantly greater than the sum of its parts.