Chad Ford and John Hollinger of ESPN have for awhile now worked jointly on a column that attempts to predict the long-term outlook of all 30 NBA teams. Not too long ago, the Pacers came in at 26th in their “Future Power Rankings” — meaning that there were only four teams that were worse off.
Now? They are number 11. What a difference a November can make.
Why have they leapfrogged so many other franchises who were deemed more promising just four short months ago?
For starters, big man Roy Hibbert looks like a Most Improved Player candidate. The 24-year-old, 7-foot-2 big man is averaging 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks and still hasn’t reached his ceiling. Add in point guard Darren Collison, who was acquired this offseason, and star swingman Danny Granger and the Pacers suddenly have a terrific young core to build around.
The team has also been helped by the sudden emergence of Brandon Rush. After three passive, inconsistent seasons, Rush is hitting his jump shots and locking down players on the defensive end. If he can keep it up, he becomes a fourth piece to the puzzle. The Pacers also have a wealth of other young players — such as Tyler Hansbrough, Paul George, A.J. Price and Lance Stephenson — who barely play but all have promise down the road.
They go on to talk about the $30-ish million the team has in expiring contracts this summer and how it has to option to either let that money come off the cap or use to use the deals as assets in trades this year.
I think we all know that things are looking up for Indy. But it is interesting to see just how far they have come in the eyes of some experts.