I'm not gonna bother with a long recap. Right now, the Indiana Pacers are simply no match for the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are just smoother, more co-ordinated, more efficient and better at both ends of the floor right now, and it showed in the 101-79 drubbing they gave to the Pacers on Tuesday.
None of the Pacers played well, but that's probably because the Spurs didn't let them. It was ugly for the blue and gold for the majority of the night, save for maybe a short stretch before the end of the first half when they brought a 20 point deficit back down to 9. Roy Hibbert was 1-7 with 2 points and 3 turnovers in 27 minutes. The 179-year-old Tim Duncan? 14 points and 11 rebounds to go with 3 steals and 3 blocks in 26 minutes.
It was a much needed wake up call for the Pacers because even though they were 2-1 to start the season (before this loss) they were playing pretty crappy basketball. Losing Danny Granger indefinitely is no excuse. They need to get their act together soon, and they might as well start with their next game on Thursday in Atlanta.
I was too depressed after the Pacers lost to the Charlotte Bobcats yesterday to write a recap. The same Bobcats that had lost 23 games in a row dating back to last season. The Pacers were sloppy with their passes, took their opponents lightly, missed a zillion free throws, and just got outworked all night. That said, the Pacers actually still had a chance to win the game, but an 18-foot DJ Augustin jumper from the baseline clanked off the rim as time expired, denying him the chance of playing hero against his former team.
The Pacers regrouped and played their first home game tonight against the Sacramento Kings. Two overtimes later, they escaped with hard fought 106-98 victory. Paul George filled up the stat sheet with 16 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocks. David West had 18 and 18. George Hill had 18, 8 and 5, while Roy Hibbert finished with 12, 10 and 6 blocks.
It wasn't pretty, but 3 games into this new season the Pacers are 2-1, even though all three of their opponents are projected non-playoff teams, teams they ought to have dominated instead of playing down to the wire. So yes, there are concerns, but the season is still young, and the Pacers appear to be working out some chemistry issues still.
Roy Hibbert has been lackluster so far this season. His numbers have been OK, but they are not representative of the type of games he has been having. His teammates have been trying to feed him the ball but he's not securing the right position down in the low post. He still hasn't figured out how to receive the entry pass safely and when he gets fronted he appears completely lost. Even when he has gotten the ball in position his slowfootedness has led to quicker players stripping the ball away from him. On defense, he's still bringing his hands down on block attempts instead of going straight up and falling for pump fakes from players a foot shorter than him, leading to unnecessary foul trouble. Those are things he still needs to work on.
Free throw shooting against the Bobcats was atrocious. 16 of 27 against the worst team in the league is practically asking them to beat you. 24 of 27 against the Kings was much more like it. Every player on this team should be capable of shooting at least 75% from the line every night.
Lance Stephenson has been a pleasant surprise this season. I've been a vocal critic of him since he was drafted by the Pacers but he is showing that he might finally be ready. He had 15, 6 and 4 against the Bobcats (top scoring honors with Hansbrough) and 10 points against the Kings. Most notably, he played 32 minutes in the Kings game, a sign that Frank Vogel has a lot of confidence in him.
Tyer Hansbrough looks rejuvenated this season. He'll always he awkward and unpretty but he has played with more confidence. He still has trouble finishing at the rim but he is a key spark off the bench and a foul-drawing machine.
The newcomers have struggled. Gerald Green had his first decent game against the Kings with 17 points on 6-9 shooting, but he has struggled defensively. Ian Mahinmi, after a solid preseason, has struggled offensively, while DJ Augustin has struggled at both ends. Augstin, in particular, must be feeling the pressure as Darren Collison, the man he replaced, is getting off to a strong start in Dallas.
David West has struggled with his shot a little since his monster game 1, but he remains the Pacers' most reliable offensive player.
The team is still missing Danny Granger's offense. We complain about him when he plays, but without him the Pacers are simply not the same.
I've started to accept the fact that the Pacers will always be a grind 'em out kind of team. They will rarely blow other teams out but could get some tight wins against top teams.
Update in former Pacers:
- Brandon Rush is out for the season with a torn ACL - Darren Collison is killing it as the starter for the Mavs. He's averaging more than 17 points and 7 assists a game while shooting around 60% from the field. - Dahntay Jones is not getting much burn in Dallas. - Mavs also signed for Pacer Troy Murphy. - Lou Amundson still hasn't played a game for the Wolves. - Leandro Barbosa has cooled off considerably after his stellar opener against the Heat. His defensive weaknesses might have something to do with it.
The Pacers next head to San Antonio to face the Spurs on Monday. It will be a serious test.
I tell you what: I was ready to write about how it was a long season and that a road loss to the Raptors in the Pacers' season opener was not an alarm but a learning experience. Danny Granger is out indefinitely with a knee injury and George Hill is still recovering from hip and thumb injuries -- those were the excuses I was going to use (and not the fact that the Raptors flat out played harder for the majority of the game).
But instead, David West entered "beast mode" and George Hill finished them off with a floater with 2 seconds left on the clock. Pacers claw back from an 8-point deficit with 4 minutes to go and win 90-88. Remarkable.
Of course, it is veteran David West. I told you he was going to be in "beast mode" often this season and he absolutely was tonight. 25 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter alone during a stretch where the team went to him on every possession and he delivered on just about all of them, helping the Pacers rally all the way back before George Hill slashed into the lane to hit that floater on the Pacers' final possession of the game (before Bargnani airballed a fallaway at the buzzer whilst defended by West).
West has been, since being acquired last season, the Pacers' most reliable offensive threat. It's great to see him looking like the David West of old. Key moment:
3:27 left in the 4th quarter. David West, who had just scored 10 consecutive points for the Pacers to bring the deficit to 6 points (86-80), finally misses a jumper. Roy Hibbert beats everyone by diving to the floor for the offensive rebound and calls a timeout before the Raptors can wrap him up. West assists on a George Hill 3-pointer from the timeout, then makes two more big baskets to bring the Pacers back within one, setting up the epic finish.
The Pacers are clearly still getting used to the new players and season-opening jitters. Plenty of horrible turnovers (18) including 12 in the first half alone. Also a lot of possessions that wasted far too much time before getting going.
The team was efficient, though, in getting good shots and putting the ball in the hole at 47.4% including 5-11 from the 3-point line. Conversely, the D was good enough to hold the Raptors to 36.3% from the field.
Paul George probably isn't going to significantly increase his scoring average this season, but he sure is going to fill up the stat sheet on a nightly basis. Tonight he had 14 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists to go with a block. Surprised he didn't get at least a couple of steals.
Roy Hibbert was solid and lived up to my expectations after securing that massive offseason contract. He dominated the smaller defenders and his teammates must get credit for consciously trying to feed him the ball down low. 14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 blocks is what we should demand from him every night.
Danny Granger's absence was felt on the offensive end as Gerald Green struggled with 6 points on 2-7 shooting and had a team high 6 turnovers. Green will be fine, though I much prefer to see him with the second unit.
Ian Mahinmi and DJ Augustin also struggled in their regular season debuts after solid preseason finishes. Mahinmi scored 1 point and had 4 turnovers and 3 fouls in 19 minutes and Augustin had 5 points, only 2 assists and 2 turnovers in 15 minutes.
Tyler Hansbrough didn't seem to play any different but it was good to see him be aggressive and get 20 minutes of court time. Lance Stephenson also produced in 13 minutes of floor time with 5 points and 4 rebounds.
As expected, coach Vogel used a 10-man rotation. Sam Young, who filled in at SF off the bench, will likely fall out of the rotation once Granger returns.
The Pacers won this game because of David West and because they believed in their ability to grind out games. They had plenty of these types of games last season where they had to be patient in wearing down their opponent and that experience was the key to getting tonight's win.
Pacers play their next game against the Charlotte Bobcats.
Here we go. The 2012-2013 NBA season kicks off on Tuesday, with the Indiana Pacers opening their campaign against the Raptors in Toronto on Wednesday.
It's an exciting time to be a Pacers fan, after this rising team of young talents and experienced veterans defied expectations to finish with a 42-24 record last season (equivalent to 52 games in an 82-game season) before pushing the eventual champions Miami Heat to six games in the second round.
During the offseason, they accomplished their two main goals in keeping franchise center Roy Hibbert and the team's starting point guard of the future, George Hill.
They also kept the rest of the starting five in tact, and lucked out when associate head coach Brian Shaw inexplicably failed to land a head coaching jon (again) and decided to stick around for another season.
The Pacers made most of their changes on the bench, essentially swapping former starter Darren Collison and defensive ace Dahntay Jones for Mavs back-up center Ian Mahinmi, who takes over from Lou Amundson (who was not re-signed) in the reserve center position. To account for the gap left by Collison they signed Bobcats starting guard DJ Augustin. They let go of bench scorer Leandro Barbosa, who was a late addition last season, but signed swingman and high-flying dunking machine Gerald Green.
In the draft, they surprised a lot of people by drafting Miles Plumlee, a Jeff Foster clone with an amazing vertical, as well as volume shooter Orlando Johnson.
Rounding out the full 15-man roster was Tyler Hansbrough's brother Ben Hansbrough, a guard, and Sam Young, a defensive-minded small forward who has played sparingly for Philly and Memphis in his last two seasons.
The Pacers depth chart for this season is as follows:
PG: George Hill (starter), DJ Augustin, Ben Hansbrough SG: Paul George (starter), Lance Stephenson, Orlando Johnson SF: Danny Granger (stater), Gerald Green, Sam Young PF: David West (starter), Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Pendergraph C: Roy Hibbert (starter), Ian Mahinmi, Miles Plumlee
Of course, this is a full roster of 15 and on most nights the third name in each position won't be getting any minutes. Chances are, coach Frank Vogel will employ a core rotation of 8 to 10 players, with Augustin, Green and Mahinmi being the three key guys off the bench, with Tyler Hansbrough and Stephenson inserted when necessary.
My guess is that we will see a range of different roster combinations, including pairing Augustin and Hill in the backcourt and shifting George to small forward, or Mahinmi playing power forward alongside Hibbert. Granger might also play some minutes at power forward, Green could also play some shooting guard, and Stephenson could see some minutes at the point.
On paper at least, this looks like a very solid lineup that has reasonable depth at every position and players who offer flexibility by being able to play multiple positions.
I am most intrigued by the three new additions off the bench.
Augustin, who recorded 11 and 13 assists in his final two preseason games, will provide the Pacers with a much needed pass-first presence, especially as the team finished 29th in the league in assists last season. As we saw during the playoffs, the second unit was in dire need of someone who could create opportunities for teammates. The first unit actually could have used it at times too.
Gerald Green has proven that he belongs in the NBA and is possibly the league's most dynamic dunker. He also gives the Pacers a legitimate, versatile offensive threat off the bench, someone that can shoot, drive and jump over everyone. Indiana has not had a bench player like him in a very long time.
And Mahinmi has surprised me with his offensive efficiency. He didn't score or rebound much in Dallas, but he has opened a few eyes with a bunch of consistent performances in the preseason. He also provides the Pacers with something they haven't had in a while -- a backup big who isn't undersized, can defend opposing centers and can score in the low post.
While I really did not like losing Collison, it appears the Pacers have done well to address some of the team's most glaring weaknesses this offseason.
I have serious concerns that Granger, the team's leading scorer, is not going to be 100% this season and might miss multiple games because of a nagging knee injury. Recent reports say that Granger remains bothered by the knee and it is not clear whether he might need surgery or if he is expected to make a full recovery with rest. Granger struggled mightily at the start of last season because he wasn't in shape or form, and it looks like that might be the case again this season.
It's a worrying sign and I wouldn't be surprised if the Pacers start shopping him around before the trade deadline in February, especially if Paul George starts taking giant leaps in his game. My prediction is that Granger's shooting percentage will improve (it can't go much lower than last season's 41.6%) but his scoring will dip again, possibly to below 18 points per game. As long as the rest of the team picks up the slack I am not too concerned.
With great money comes great responsibility, and it appears Hibbert has at least addressed those responsibilities off the court. Whether he will produce like a max player on the court remains to be seen, and my guess is it will be unlikely. That's not to undermine Hibbert's importance to the team, because he might very well be the Pacers' most important piece, but as much as he has improved Hibbert is still very much a work in progress.
Hibbert will never suddenly start overpowering opponents like Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum and he will never start popping jumpers over opponents like Dirk Nowitzki, so all I am hoping for this season is a more consistent and focused offensive game, improved fitness and less foul troubles. If Hibbert can do those things I am predicting a solid year for him -- maybe around 14 points and close to 10 rebounds and a couple of blocks a game.
David West One guy that has slipped under the radar a little is West, who should be a lot more assertive and effective this season as he appears to have finally gotten his legs back completely after ACL surgery. When West enters beast mode this season, look out, because he will start dominating again like the old days. My prediction is that we will see around 15 points per game from him at a very efficient percentage, and there will be games where he will clearly be the team's go to guy.
George is starting to get more and more pressure to play like the star he is supposedly destined to be, and I think that is a good thing. I'm not expecting him to take the jump to the next level all of a sudden, but his improved handles and added experience should allow him to take another solid step forward. George averaged 12.1 points last season and I think anything around 14-16 points per game is a realistic target for him. It's not just scoring though -- I think George will also fill up the stat sheet across the board.
George Hill might potentially be heading into a disappointing season. He is one of my favorite players on the team, but being the Pacers' starting point guard hasn't worked out too well for all those that have tried before him in recent years. Plus he didn't even play a single preseason game with a hip and thumb injury, meaning he might not be in game shape until later into the season. Is it possible that Augustin might do what he did last season and replace him in the starting lineup before the season's over?
I think Hill will have a handful of really excellent games but on the whole his numbers won't be too different from last season. 10-13 points and 3 assists per game might not be too far off.
Is DJ Augustin an upgrade or downgrade from Darren Collison? I'm not sure, but I'm itching to find out. Both are undersized, speedy point guards who can shoot and aren't great defenders, but from what I've seen so far it seems Augustin is a much more willing passer. Did you know Collison only had 3 double-digit assists games all of last season? Well, Augustin had 9, and that was passing to scrubs in Charlotte. I'm looking forward to him changing the dynamics of the secound unit's offense, and helping out the first unit's as well.
I don't expect him to average double digits in points this season, but even as a reserve I believe he should lead the team in assists with an average between 5 to 7 per game.
The thing I am certain of is that the Pacers are going to get a lot more Sportscenter highlights because of Green. I had wanted the Pacers to keep Barbosa for his offense but I am happy they got Green instead. His shooting and his ability to get to the rim with his astounding athleticism makes me suspect that he could be on quite a few Sixth Man of the Year ballots by the end of the year. He should no doubt lead the second unit in scoring and could average anything between 12 and 15 points a game, and potentially higher if he has to fill in for injured starters.
Mahinmi's performance this season will largely depend on the type of minutes he gets. If he can average around 18-20 minutes then I wouldn't be surprised if he can get around 7 or 8 points and 5 or 6 boards a night. However, his scoring is not that important in the scheme of things. My hope for him is to be able to be a presence on defense and potentially form a formidable shot blocking duo with Roy Hibbert when the team needs to lock down.
I really don't care how many points Tyler scores or how many rebounds he grabs this season. He just needs to get his confidence back and continue hustling for every loose ball and rebound. He needs to improve his defense and continue to get under the skin of his opponents. And if he can start hitting that line drive mid-range shot again it would be a huge bonus.
Interesting year for Stephenson. We keep hearing how this guy is a big part of the future of the Pacers and will be getting significant minutes this season, but so far he hasn't proven to me that he deserves the accolades and opportunities. We know he is strong and crafty and has excellent court vision, but it's time for him to finally deliver when it counts. I think he will have his moments this season but I would be very surprised if he suddenly starts putting up big numbers. Is 5 points per game asking for too much or too little? You tell me.
Plumlee has a lot of critics but I guess when you're not expected to do anything you will have opportunities to surprise. I doubt he'll get a lot of burn this season behind the veterans but when he's on the court I think he will be solid. He won't win Rookie of the Year but he won't be the worst first rounder this season either.
Pendergraph is supposedly improved, but I don't think that means much if he's not getting court time. My guess he will still be a strictly garbage time player unless the team is hit by a slew of injuries to its big men.
Memphis fans swear this guy is horrible. If that's true, then I guess it's a good thing he's at the end of the Pacers' bench. At least he is said to be a good defender.
This second rounder is a chucker by most accounts, and I think garbage time will give him ample opportunities to put up a lot of shots. Seriously though, he hasn't shown that his touted shooting can cut it in the NBA yet.
I continue to have a nagging suspicion that the Pacers signed Ben to a non-guaranteed contract to keep is brother Psycho T sane. Ben is the team's third string point guard (fourth if you put Lance Stephenson at the third string) and unless he turns out to be the second coming of Jeremy Lin I doubt he will still be on the team by the end of the season.
Outlook and Prediction
The Pacers have been ranked everything from second to fifth or six in the Eastern Conference, and it's easy to see why. Apart from Miami, a lock for the first seed, a whole bunch of revamped teams are vying for the remaining playoff spots.
There's the new and improved Boston Celtics, which lost Ray Allen by added the likes of Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green, as well as former Pacer Leandro Barbosa. There's the new Brooklyn Nets, which added Joe Johnson to its core of (now healthy) Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez. There's the Philadelphia 76ers, which lost Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams but added Andrew Bynum. What about the New York Knicks, which lost Jeremy Lin but added Ray Felton and Jason Kidd? And let's not forget about the Chicago Bulls, which won't have Derrick Rose for half the season but still fields an extremely strong team. The Atlanta Hawks also now have Lou Williams, Kyle Korver and Devin Harris.
Whichever way you look at it, it's not going to be easy for the Pacers to secure that number 2 seed, which absolutely should be one of their goals for the season.
One thing pointed out by a lot of analysts is that the Pacers had an unusually healthy team last season, which certainly helped the team's record in a lockout shortened schedule with multiple back-to-back-to-backs. This season, we already have Danny Granger sporting a knee injury and George Hill battling a hip and and thumb problem. Having lucked out last season, it's not out of realms of possibility that the Pacers could have a few significant injuries this season that could affect where they end up on the standings.
On paper, I can't be certain that the Pacers are a better team this season than last, but I do believe they attempted to address perceived weaknesses without blowing things up.
On the starting lineup, with the exception of Danny Granger (who might be headed for another minor decline), I think it is safe to say that the Pacers will improve at every position. George Hill is only 26 and entering his fifth pro season, while Paul George is only 22 and heading into his third season. Roy Hibbert is still improving and will be working hard to live up to his big contract, while David West should be in much better condition after not having to rehab all summer.
On the bench, DJ Augustin pretty much cancels out Darren Collison but has a higher potential to make his teammates better with his passing. Gerald Green is less experienced than Leandro Barbosa but is a much more explosive and dynamic scorer, a better defender and an overall upgrade in that spot. And Ian Mahinmi is an upgrade on Lou Amundson, that's for sure.
The rest of the bench is more uncertain. Of the guys that might crack the regular rotation, Lance Stephenson is the X-factor. If he starts living up to his so-called potential then he could definitely take the bench squad to another level. Tyler Hansbrough is another guy that can make a difference out of the blue, and he certainly can't play worse than he did last season.
But as often is the case with teams that sort of overachieved in the previous season, the Pacers are potentially due for a letdown. They played hard last season but now they might feel too happy with themselves and start getting complacent against weaker teams. Their opponents will no longer overlook them either. In this full 82-game season, the Pacers could win anything between 45 and 55 games, and much of where they end up on this spectrum will depend on health, the chemistry of the new additions and the development of Roy Hibbert and Paul George.
My personal tendency is to be conservative so I can be pleasantly surprised. Accordingly, my prediction for the Pacers in 2012-2013 is a 51-31 record and the third seed in the East.
I had intended to review each player separately, but the imminence of the upcoming 2012-2013 season combined with my laziness has made this an impossible endeavor. So here's my condensed version of the Indiana Pacers player reviews for the 2011-2012 season.
2011-2012 season averages: 62 games, 18.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 41.6% FG, 38.1% 3P, 87.3% FT
Granger, a notoriously slow starter in the NBA, had a horrible start to the season (last in the league in FG% for quite a while) before redeeming himself a some extent as the season progressed. He blamed the slow start on the lockout (suggesting he took it easy) and the fact that he wasn't used to playing with so many good players on the same team. It ended up hurting Granger's numbers overall, as he stumbled to the worst shooting percentage of his career. On the bright side, he did become a more focused defender and passer, even though the numbers don't necessarily show it.
In the playoffs, Granger took it upon himself to get in people's faces (especially that of Miami players) and got a lot of support and criticism for it, but ultimately he didn't quite get it done when it mattered in the end, getting thoroughly outplayed by Lebron (his goal would have simply been to take the "thoroughly" out of that sentence).
As a whole, Granger underperformed, largely in part due to his slow start. His numbers took another step back this season but it's more indicative of the improvement of his teammates as opposed to a noticeable decline in skill and ability. It's becoming more certain that Granger will be a one-and-done All Star and is not suited to be the number one option on a contending team. That said, he remains the team's most potent scorer until Roy Hibbert and Paul George can prove otherwise.
Grade: B- Roy Hibbert
2011-2012 season averages: 65 games, 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.0 blocks, 49.7% FG, 71.1% FT
Hibbert's career took off last season. He was named an All-Star and got votes for Most Improved Player. He was more consistent under coach Frank Vogel than he was in the Jim O'Brien years. And yet, his numbers don't really scream out at you. In fact, he only averaged 0.1 points than he did the year before, and some say he only rose to prominence in the East due Dwight Howard's injuries. Some critics say Hibbert is overrated; most agree that he wasn't worth the massive contract he got during the offseason.
Watching Hibbert's on-court performance this year, however, it is clear that he has improved. He is less foul prone and takes better shots. He freaks out less. His confidence appears to be up and doesn't take as many dips as it used to. His rebounding improved. But my fear is that he is already nearing his peak and that future improvements will only be minor.
In the playoffs, he was supposed to destroy the Howard-less Magic but underperformed. Against the Heat, he had good games and bad. It's still unclear to me what kind of player Hibbert will end up becoming. So far, consistency, fouls and fatigue remain his biggest problems. Hibbert has never averaged more than 30 minutes a game in his career, but if he can use that fat new contract as motivation and work on this weaknesses he does have a chance to challenge Andrew Bynum as the East's best traditional big man (especially if Bynum's health and attitude remain issues).
Hibbert has also been great in the community, but I'm not taking that into account in his player assessment.
2011-2012 season averages: 66 games, 12.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 48.8% FG, 80.7% FT
It's no secret that I love David West. His numbers are not as great as they were in New Orleans, but they're not bad for a 32-year-old coming off ACL surgery in the first year of a brand new team stacked with decent players.
As the season progressed, it became clear that West is the team's unequivocal leader. He's the type of player that demands respect from teammates and the type of guy other teams don't want to mess with. After spending all of last summer rehabbing as opposed to conditioning, West didn't get his legs back until at least mid-way through the season, but when he did, we often got to see glimpses of his "beast mode."
I'm looking forward to a lot more that this year, and I hope the Pacers find a way of re-signing him after his two-year contract expires at the end of the season.
Grade: A- Paul George
2011-2012 season averages: 66 games, 12.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 44% FG, 38.5% 3P, 80.2% FT It's been said since his rookie season that Paul George is destined to be a star in the NBA. Last season was a step forward in the right direction. He reportdely grew a couple of inches to 6'10", becoming most freakishly long and athletic shooting guard in the league. He took a lot of strides in just about every department, including 3P shooting, passing, defense and rebounding. And yet some people remain dissatisfied with his progress, thinking he should have improved more.
He does have ample room for improvement, which is great news. He can become a far more dangerous slasher if he improves his ball handling (which he has supposedly worked on this offseason) and finishing in traffic around the rim. He can become a great defender if he just stops leaving his feet for those pump fakes and taking unnecessary risks. His decision making will get better with time and experience. Really, there isn't much to dislike about George and his silky smooth game. He is going to be a big factor in how far the Pacers can go in the next few years.
2011-2012 season averages: 50 games, 9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 44.2% FG, 36.7% 3P, 77.8% FT
Hill missed 16 games last season and yet still took over Darren Collison's starting PG spot by the end of the year. Team management also decided to keep him and let Collison go during the offseason -- that's a pretty big endorsement for a guy who didn't really put up amazing numbers and isn't a traditional pass-first point guard. Much of it has to do with that 7-game winning streak the team put together when he took over the injured Collison's starting spot at the end of the season.
Don't get me wrong, I love Hill's game. You wouldn't say he is particularly great at any particular thing, but you just have to concede that the guy can flat out ball. His energy, pure stroke and calmer decision-making, especially in crunch time, make him a solid choice at the starting PG position for the franchise moving forward. His pre-season hip injury remains a concern but I can see him putting up improved numbers across the board this season.
2011-2012 season averages: 60 games, 10.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 43.8% FG, 36.2% 3P, 83% FT
Collison began the season as the franchise's PG of the future but will begin the upcoming season in Dallas. It's not that he played poorly, but the diminuitive point guard simply never lived up to expectations after he was traded from New Orleans. Collison showed flashes of brilliance, powered by his dazzling speed, and improved significantly on defense, where he was a huge liability before. But his size remained a problem as well as his hesitant decision-making in tight games. Coupled with George Hill's rise, it became obvious that Collison no longer belonged in Indiana.
I was one of those people that was sad to see Collison go this offseason. I loved his fearlessness and his court vision-- when he decided to pass instead of shoot, though this is unfortunately rare last season. I'm beginning to think that the Pacers' offense simply isn't very good for a PG's passing numbers.
2011-2012 season averages: 66 games, 9.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 40.8% FG, 81.3% FT
Even Hansbrough's biggest supporters will admit that the former Tarheel was unbearable to watch at times last season. He was like one of those crazy guys you might meet on the playground, someone with an ugly game that somehow got to all the loose balls and looked really awkward and shot the ball every time he got it without even contemplating passing it to teammates. I'm still stunned that he managed to average 0.5 assists last season.
And so, despite playing almost the same number of minutes last season, Hansbrough took a massive step backwards. His confidence was dry and playing behind a seasoned veteran like David West certainly didn't help. The truth is, Hansbrough will always be the same player -- an undersized PF who hustles and can hit mid-range shots when he is confident, but isn't a great rebounder or a solid defender. When he doesn't have the confidence, however, he is horrible to watch.
2011-2012 season averages: 65 games, 5.3 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1 assist, 40.7% FG, 42.9% 3P, 83.8% FT
Dahntay will always be Dahntay and he was all Dahntay last season for the Pacers, if you know what I mean. He was a good defender against average offensive players but could never match up with the speed, quickness, strength or size of the elite. He took bad shots but was still athletic enough to finish on the break. I will miss his professionalism but not his game, though now he has been shipped off to Dallas I am starting to think he's not such a bad kind of player to have around. That is all.
2011-2012 season averages: 22 games, 8.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 39.9% FG, 42.4% 3P, 75.8% FT
People are acting like Barbosa's horrible round 2 performance against Miami meant he served no purpose at all on the Pacers. And that's just not true.
As a late season addition, Barbosa was often the offensive spark the team needed off the bench, and I attribute a lot of the team's late surge to his wily veteran moves and willingness to take the big shot. Sure, he was not much of a defender (never has and never will be), but he was in integral part of the bench offense -- just imagine how much more abysmal it would have been without him. '
I really wanted the Pacers to re-sign him if he was available at the right price (I mean, what if Gerald Green gets injured?), but it appears that he was never meant to be anything more than a short term rental.
2011-2012 season averages: 60 games, 3.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 43.2% FG, 42.7% FT
The porn star lookalike gave his best Jeff Foster impersonation for the Pacers last season, but it wasn't enough to keep him on the squad for another year. It's unfortunate, but after drafting Miles Plumlee,the Pacers already had too many undersized white hustle guys on the team (plus Jeff Pendergraph).
The general consensus on Amundson is that he did his best trying to pretend to be a center in the NBA. With the injury to Jeff Foster and the absence of a true center to back up Roy Hibbert, Amundson should be commended for the effort he gave. I recall at one stage commentators were suggesting that the Pacers would be crazy to not re-sign him.
But in the end, he was still undersized and couldn't score except on tip ins and wide open shots at the rim, plus he couldn't hit foul shots. I will miss his effort though.
2011-2012 season averages: 44 games, 3.9 points, 1.4 rebounds, 2 assists, 33.9% FG, 29.5% 3P, 80% FT
AJ Price has been lighting up the preseason for the Washington Wizards in place of injued John Wall, but he never got much court time for the Pacers, averaging just 12.9 points last season.
He is a second round pick who has been solid as a third-string point guard and has contributed in some games, but his horrible shooting percentage this past year didn't help his cause in getting a new contract.
2011-2012 season averages: 42 games, 2.5 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 37.6% FG, 13.3% 3P, 47.1% FT
Born Ready still isn't ready. Lance will probably be best remembered for unleashing the choke sign on Lebron in game 3 of the second round against Miami, after which the Pacers didn't win another game. He was also elbowed in the throat by Dexter Pittman in game 5.
This guy is supposed to be really really good, or at least capable of it, but so far I have only seen the tiniest glimpses of his so-called potential in his 2 NBA seasons. His best game came in the final regular season game, where he scored 22 on 10-15 shooting in a loss to the Bulls. We'll need to see more of the same this season or his time in Indiana might come to an end.
2011-2012 season averages: 11 games, 2.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 50% FG, 66.7% FT
It's a true shame that one of Indiana's best-loved players had to retire mid-season to injury, but Jeff Foster gave all he had to the Pacers for 13 seasons. I won't have a bad word to say about him here.
2011-2012 season averages: 20 games, 1.7 points, 1.7 rebounds, 41.7% FG, 57.1% FT
I don't quite understand why Pendergraph, who is no doubt a good athlete and hustle player, has managed to stay on the Pacers this offseason. He's not horrible but at most he is just a serviceable hustle man. Apparently, after spending the offseason working his tail off he is now more of an NBA player. I have no idea if that means he will be any good this season.
2011-2012 season averages: 3 games, 2.7 points, 3 rebounds, 40% FG, 66.7% FT
Without a doubt should have been last season's MVP.