Some would categorize the 2012-2013 season for the Indiana Pacers as a success, others might say it was a failure. One thing everyone can agree on is the fact that the Pacers were one strong quarter away from the first NBA Finals appearance since the 2000-2001 season. The Miami Heat were pushed to seven games and Indiana almost pulled off the upset on the defending champs, but a fellow by the name of LeBron James had other plans. So while watching the Heat celebrate yet another title, the Indiana front office made some moves that not only filled the holes that were present before, but bolstered the roster with even more talent, skill and most importantly, muscle. The key to defeating the Heat is man-handling them, so the Pacers got more size with the addition of Luis Scola. Another good sign is the fact that Roy Hibbert has taken the position they call ‘Center’ serious and decided to train with Tim Duncan again. If the Pacers can continue to improve and stay consistant, they could be representing the East, just maybe.
Key Additions: PG C.J. Watson (Free Agent); PF Luis Scola (Trade w/Suns); SF Solomon Hill (NBA Draft, 23rd Overall); SF Chris Copeland (Free Agent)
Key Losses: PF Tyler Hansbrough (Free Agent); SF/SG Gerald Green (Trade w/Suns)
Player to Watch For: It is safe to say that this upcoming season, Paul George will be a household name if he is not already. George pretty much made the playoffs his coming out party for potential ascension to super-stardom. He posted the 4th highest player efficiency rating last season out of all small forwards according to Hoopstats. During the regular season he shot 42% from the field while averaging 17.4 PPG and those numbers increased in the playoffs as he posted 19.0 PPG average on 43.9% shooting from the field. The only question I have is not if he has the ability to keep those numbers up, but how his game will translate going forward with the impending return of Danny Granger.
Area of Focus: Consistency is every teams downfall, but the Indiana Pacers fell victim far to many times last year to their lack thereof. Turnovers did the Pacers in with most of their games last year and it reared it ugly head in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season as the Heat turned up the pressure and the Pacers could not overcome it. Ball control will be the most important thing for the Pacers going forward. And its easier said than done, but with experience, everything will fall in place. People tend to forget that this team is relatively young and inexperienced at the premier positions on any basketball team, point guard and center. Hopefully with another year under their belt, they can fix that bad habit pretty quickly.
Intriguing Question: What do the Pacers do with Danny Granger?
The former All-Star has been battling injuries the past two seasons and last year it only allowed him to play in 5 games during the 2012-2013 season. Some would argue that with Granger out the Pacers looked a lot better, and actually played good enough to get the to Eastern Conference Finals without him. Paul George had a lot to do with that, as his star shined a lot lot brighter with Granger out. Now the question is, does Larry Bird and the Pacers front office want to keep Granger and his demanding salary number around for a few more years? Would Granger even want to take a discount to stay in Indiana and contend? Two major factors for both sides not parting ways is the fact that Granger is 30 years old and he has a nagging injury history that will raise red flags to most teams. The Pacers have time, but I am sure that once the season starts and depending on how Granger plays, it will be up to the Pacers to pull the trigger or not.
Season Prediction: 50-32
I can see the Pacers making a lot of improvements on their record from last year. They will need to validate their status as one of the elite teams in the East by winning the close games and beating the teams they are supposed to beat. The biggest hindrance from last season was their lack of focus, which always results in unforced turnovers and mistakes that will easily take any team out of a game and even a playoff series. They will have stiff competition now with a much better Nets and Knicks teams, the return of Derrick Rose to a already hard-nosed Bulls team and the defending NBA champions, Miami Heat.