Although new Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard says the team is never done looking for ways to improve, chances are the Pacers are just about finished dealing for now. Unless a miraculous new deal or trade drops into their lap, this Indiana Pacers team will go into the 2012-2013 season with their starting core intact and a few new faces on the bench. It doesn't look like they will add OJ Mayo or Courtney Lee now that they have Gerald Green, and they've already made it clear that they won't be pursuing any amnestied players.
So, what have the Pacers added and lost this offseason?
C: Roy Hibbert (4 years, $58 million)
G: George Hill (5 years, 40 million)
C/PF: Ian Mahinmi (4 years, $16 million) -- trade via Dallas
F: Gerald Green (3 years, $10 million) -- free agent
G: DJ Augustin -- free agent
PF/C: Miles Plumlee - rookie
SG: Orlando Johnson -- rookie
G: Darren Collison -- traded to Dallas
G/F: Dahntay Jones -- traded to Dallas
Remaining free agents:
G: AJ Price
G/F: Leandro Barbosa
PF/C: Lou Amundson
C: Kyrylo Fesenko
*None of the remaining free agents are expected to be back at this stage.
**Jeff Foster was lost to retirement before the end of last season
The Pacers' 2012-2013 roster is taking shape:
|C||Roy Hibbert||7'2"||12.8ppg, 8.8rpg, 1.97bpg|
|PF||David West||6'9"||12.8ppg, 6.6rpg, 2.1apg|
|SF||Danny Granger||6'8"||18.7ppg, 5rpg, 1.8apg|
|SG||Paul George||6'10"||12.1ppg, 5.6ppg, 2.4apg|
|PG||George Hill||6'2"||9.6ppg, 3rpg, 2.9apg|
|G||DJ Augustin||6'0"||11.1ppg, 2.3rpg, 6.4apg (Bobcats)|
|G/F||Gerald Green||6'8"||12.9ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.1apg (Nets)|
|PF||Tyler Hansbrough||6'9"||9.3ppg, 4.4rpg|
|C||Ian Mahinmi||6'11"||5.8ppg, 4.7apg, 0.5bpg|
|G||Lance Stephenson||6'5"||2.5ppg, 1.3rpg, 1.1apg|
That's a roster of 12 players at the moment, which is enough, but the Pacers can sign up to 15 in total.
Looking at it now, I can't immediately say that the team has improved from last season. The starting 5 should improve.
The three spots where you're likely to see the biggest improvements are the PG, SG and C positions. George Hill filled in admirably at PG at the end of the season and the playoffs, and should only continue to improve his game and confidence. Paul George's growth has not been as remarkable as hoped, but he will no doubt continue to grow. The question is how much and whether it will only be physical or mental as well. And Big Roy has already said he's looking forward to the challenge of being a max contract player. For some reason I have a sick feeling that he might be too pleased with himself right now and is due for a setback, but I honestly hope he proves me wrong.
The veterans at PF and SF also have room for improvement. David West is a year older but also a further year removed from knee surgery. He showed glimpses of "beast mode" towards the end of last season and I think he will be more consistent in 2012-2013. I even expect his numbers to improve. Danny Granger has no doubt peaked offensively but I hope he continues to learn to be a better team player. I don't care if his scoring average drops to 16 or below as long as he shoots a higher percentage, plays better defense and becomes a better playmaker and rebounder.
As for the bench, sure, Augustin and Green appear to be double-figure scorers off the bench, but that was with poor teams last season. It's unlikely they will get the same burn in Indy. Whether they are overall upgrades on Collison and Jones remains to be seen.
Hansbrough has not only peaked, but appears to have regressed last season behind David West. Mahinmi appears to be an upgrade over center wannabes such as Amundson and the retired Foster, but not a huge one. Plumlee is said to be "NBA ready" but it's hard to see someone who couldn't even make an impact in college make much of a splash in the NBA. My only hope is that he stays healthy, works on his game and provides serviceable minutes. Orlando Johnson's shooting has been way off in the Summer League, but at least he's not afraid to shoot it. I don't think he'll get more minutes than AJ Price did last season, if any.
The X-factor is, of course, Lance Stephenson, who was just named to the Orlando Summer League First Team (along with Plumlee). By all accounts, he has grown up a lot (choke signs aside) and is serious about taking his game to the next level. He will definitely get more minutes this season but it's uncertain whether that will be a positive or negative for the Pacers.
Even though it's not going to happen, I wouldn't mind seeing the Pacers to bring back all the remaining free agents apart from Fesenko. There's no one else out there to sign and the bench just looks a little...incomplete. Mahinmi, Augustin and Green are all unknown commodities in a Pacers uniform and we know Hansbrough will be Hansbrough. Plumlee and Johnson are rookies and Stephenson still hasn't been proven. That's a much flimsier bench on paper if you ask me.
Here's my case for bringing those guys back (at acceptable salary levels):
Barbosa -- yes, he was horrible in the Miami series and has never been much of a defender, but he is a still speedy veteran who can shoot and slash and create his own shot. Green is supposed to replace him but I think they can be a 1-2 scoring punch off the bench. We all know the Pacers' bench struggles to score.
Amundson -- more effective than Hansbrough defensively and more experienced than Plumlee. With Mahinmi on the roster he will no longer have to be forced to guard centers. If Hansbrough continues to regress or if Plumlee is not ready or if either man gets injured the Pacers will become awfully thin up front.
AJ Price -- AJ is serviceable, and that's all you need for a third-string point guard. Lance is probably expected to take up that role now but Price is more proven, safe and stable.