The Pacers Will Have a Good Season, But There Are Real Reasons for Pessimism

Some say I am a pessimist. I say I am a realist.

I am not pessimistic about the upcoming Pacers season. In fact, I think Pacer fans have a ton to look forward to this year. Seeing the growth shown last regular season and the battle-tested experience developed during the playoffs, there is a the sense that this team, through the force of its pride alone, will allow them to continue to climb. Then again, not many people are pessimistic about their favorite team on October 1.

The realist in me tries to examine holes in my optimism. This is why people call me pessimistic, because when everyone sees reasons to be excited, I try to find ways that it could go wrong. (It’s a miserable way to live).

So far, I have found three major concerns.

#1. Everyone was healthy last year.

“Growth” is the key word for the Pacers this season. Because when you bring back basically the exact team from the year before — a year when you didn’t win the championship — the natural question is, “Why will the team be better?” While most teams’ fans will point to a marquee acquisition or an injured player returning to previous form, Indiana must primarily rely on internal growth, both individually and collectively.

I do believe that we will see such growth, especially from the young players but also as the roster gels as a unit.

Having said that, the Pacers had a fortunate run last season. They dealt with no significant injuries in the season. Now, injuries are a pretty pointless subject to talk about because they can never be predicted, but few teams are ever as healthy as the Pacers were last year. Yes, Jeff Foster was forced to retire because of his chronic back condition and George Hill did miss 16 regular-season games, but Darren Collison, who sat out 6 regular-season games due to injury, was the only other rotation player who missed more than 4 games. And nobody missed a single playoff game because of injury.

It is possible that this happens again, but it is worth mentioning that arguably the three most reliable players on the Pacers roster are a 32-year old power forward who recently had ACL surgery, a 7’2” center, and a 29-year old who has dealt with knee issues.

Any successful playoff run requires some luck when it comes to health. Just ask the Bulls and Magic, which, respectively, lost Derrick Rose to a freak knee injury and Dwight Howard to back surgery. Even the Heat nearly had their trip to the title wrecked by an injury to Chris Bosh. Well, the Pacers had plenty of luck last season and still came up short against a team that didn’t.

This Pacers team can grow, but it may require a repeat of the luck they had last year.

#2. Did the bench really improve this offseason?

Pacer fans still have nightmares about playoff games where double-digit first-quarter leads were erased — then replaced with double-digit deficits. The bench was just bad. And while the midseason acquisition of Leandro Barbosa reaped some rewards before the postseason, he really didn’t help in the playoffs, during which he shot 37% from the field, and 15.0% (3-for-20) behind the arc.

On the other hand, probably the biggest reason for optimism in 2012-13 remains somewhat of a secret: just how elite the Pacers’ starting five was last year. This was true both with Darren Collison and, especially, George Hill at point guard. When they were on the court with Paul George, Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert last year, the Pacers played 9.5 and 16.7 points per 100 possessions better than their competition, respectively. For perspective on those numbers, that gave Indiana the first and seventh best-performing units in the whole NBA that played at least 200 minutes together. There were 30 such units leaguewide, with Miami’s best unit finishing sixth and Oklahoma City’s best finishing tenth.

Given the productivity of the starters, the front office made it an explicit priority to bring back back all five and then do whatever they could to improve the bench. Out goes Darren Collison and in comes DJ Augustin. See you later Loouuu, and hello to Ian Mahinmi. Goodbye Dahntay Jones, welcome Gerald Green. The Pacers also chose not to bring back Barbosa and will likely give Lance Stephenson his minutes.

So the question Pacer fans is, “Are you more comfortable with a second unit of Augustin, Stephenson, Green, Hansbrough and Mahinmi than Collison, Barbosa, Jones, Hansbrough and Amundson? That will be a wait-and-see. Fans get excited about change and new faces, but the truth is none of the five players coming off the bench, outside of Augustin, have truly proven themselves at the NBA level. Some would even question Augustin, an undersized, career 40.1% shooter who has never averaged even 6.5 assists per game despite starting for Charlotte the past two seasons.

#3. How much will Paul George grow?

One last question to think about before you start making reservations for the NBA finals is how good Paul George will become. Anytime you hear the Pacers talked about in the next few weeks leading up to the season, you will hear them mention something about Paul George reaching the next level.

George brings all the tools in the world to the table, and makes you wonder what could happen. His growth is essential for the Pacers’ growth because Hibbert, Granger, West and Hill are known entities: you can essentially pencil in what you are going to get. With George, will you get just excellent defense, solid rebounding and good spot-up shooting? Or will you get the emergence of an All-Star who can change the game at both ends?

If it’s the latter, watch out. But while he has given us glimpses of that type of growth, they have only been glimpses. So it’s hard to bank on a breakout performance from George.

Ultimately, the Pacers have their best team coming into training camp since 2005.

Fans have have a ton of reasons to expect excellence. But they just need to be keep everything in perspective.

Topics: Curbing Enthusiasm

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  • Michael

    The first and third really do scare the bejeezus out of me this upcoming year. I think the bench will improve, but I am not expecting much out of PG (though he will still be my favorite player for quite a while)…. also Hansbrough needs to be at least not terrible this year, which I am not certain will happen

  • Sam

    I disagree that we “know what we are going to get from Hibbert”

    I think Hibbert can improve drastically along with Paul George

  • River Rat

    Hey Mick – Nice photo at the top. Looks like you had yourself a Sound of Music type moment! Sweet. Anyway, doesn’t David West qualify as an injured player returning to form? And seriously, since when did “Improving Internally” become such a bad way for good teams to get better? The Pacers have one of the best starting 5′s in the league. They are getting better, internally! Despite peoples’ pessimism.

  • River Rat

    What’s the point of talking about injuries until they happen? Who doesn’t have a knee in question in the East? Question should be: Who has the heart?

  • Ronal Eugene is Right!!!

    You can’t just write off the injuries like that. Foster being forced to retire was huge. He was a big part of what the second unit did. He was the best screen setter on the team and did all the little things to make the second unit respectable. Plus he was an amazing 3 point shooter. Amundson was a downgrade in every possible way and was way out of position playing center at 6’9. Not saying we win the Heat series with Foster, but to think it wouldn’t have made a difference to have him instead of Amundson is dumb. George Hill missed a quarter of the season and was the leader of the second unit with Foster out. Again you totally discount the significant drop off from Hill to AJ Price in every aspect of the game. I’d also argue that West wasn’t 100% at any point in the season. It wasn’t until late in the season until he started to look like his old self. Granger got the Kobe Bryant knee treatment, he should be good for the season.

    There is no way the bench could not be better this season. Green is a mystery, but it’s not like Dahntay Jones isn’t anything special and was out of positioin at SF. He’s an overrated defender and one of the worst offensive players in the game because of his refusal to play within himself. I’m so glad I won’t be cringing as he turns the ball over trying to dunk over 3 defenders this season. Amundson was horrible and should never have been playing center. He hustles and that’s about it. Mahimni is a legit backup center, big upgrade. Barbosa was a black hole. He put up numbers against the bad teams and disappeared against real talent. I liked DC, but I think having a true point guard instead of one who’s only effective looking for his own shot will be an upgrade. And with Mahimni and Plumlee both being able to play PF Hansbrough will get pulled if he continues his horrible play.

    Paul George is 22, Stephenson is 22, and it takes big men longer to develop. Not unreasonable to expect improvement from all 3 especially if you read everything about how hard they’ve been working this summer.

    So what’s with this site running fanposts from Indy Cornrows and why is the one article a month that Eightpointsnineseconds publishes about why the Pacers are going to suck?

  • Mike Tinkle

    If Lance Stephenson is given consistent minutes he could become a major spark off of the bench. He has as good an ability to score the ball as anybody on the team, and is also an excellent passer. If he can learn to control his shot selection he could become a major weapon. I like second unit of Augustin, Stephenson, Green, Plumlee, Mahimni over last years bench. Collison was only consistent performer really.

    As for Paul George, you will definitely see an improvement in his confidence, consistency, and shot selection. (Hopefully his ball-handling as well)

    And yea Micky you seem more like a Hateful journalist than a Pacers Fan… Hopefully Lebron tears his ACL this year!

  • Chris D.

    2nd unit is better for sure, but who knows how much. I’m more worried our starting unit has stood still. We need a distributing PG and still don’t have one. That’s the best way to exploit an inside out game with Roy. My gut tells me were 5th in the East. We have a solid playoff team, so I’m not complaining. We’re in position to pickup a true star in the next year or so. We need someone at least as good as Reggie or Ron Artest in his Pacer prime if we want to challenge the big boys. No one fits that bill on this Roster.

  • Realist

    I am a realist too. But I expect to go 55-27, win the Central, and be a tough out for Miami in the conference finals. Losing in 6 or 7 to Celtics/Knicks/Nets/Bulls in the Semis would be a pass mark at the absolute lowest.

    Also, I agree with Ronald Eugene is Right re the injuries. Not to mention Granger turned his ankle against the Heat (as if guarding Lebron isn’t hard enough as it is) and West had a knee issue near the end as well from memory.

    And yeah, where are Jared and Tim at? Surely someone can throw some sunshine down on our prospects this year.

  • River Rat

    So, let me get this strait: Ronal thinks Jeff Foster was an amazing 3 pt shooter; Mike T. thinks Micky D. is hateful, yet hopes Lebron tears his ACL; And Chris D. wants to bring back Ron Artest. Have y’all simply lost your dang minds??? Whatever. I’m going noodlin’! See ya when the season starts!

  • Ronal Eugene is Right!!!

    And River Rat doesn’t get jokes. 100% from 3 last season. Seriously though I think Mike’s point is that Micky had an idea for an article about why the team won’t be as good as most people think and skewed the facts to support that. Amundson being horrible aside, you don’t know anything about this Pacers team if you don’t understand Foster’s importance to the second unit.

  • High Socks

    Although Micky went out of his way to call himself a realist, I’d still say this is a pessimistic outlook.

    Out of his three major questions, you can legitimately ask both q1 and q2 to the top contenders in the eastern conference. I’d say these are actually bigger questions for both Miami and Boston. Can D-Wade, who is sneakily old with a major surgery this off-season stay healthy? Can the very old Celtics, who depend on a KG that has endured tons of minutes and has had major surgery in the past stay healthy? Will Miami’s additions actually improve the team? (Rashard Lewis? Ray’s health and defensive decline?) Will Jason Terry play at a high level, or begin declining?

    I think Indy is one of the very few NBA teams that have at least 4 starters who will most likely improve and be better than last year. I think Hibbert has plenty of room to improve, and will be a better scorer for one. David West was coming off an acl tear last year and will benefit from having an entire healthy offseason. With a consistent role, George Hill will most likely look like the George Hill that showed up in the playoffs than the inconsistent Hill from the reg season. Obviously Paul George has room to improve. I think a key will be if Granger can be more efficient on the offensive end, maybe more dynamic. I thought his defense was underrated last year.

    As for the bench. Sure, there are question marks. But there are obvious improvements made. More size for protecting the rim and more athleticism on the wing. These are facts, pure and simple. I’d say the real question is, did the Pacers bench improve offensively? Gerald Green certainly provides a more dynamic offensive option than Dahntay. Is Augustine better than Collison? Probably not defensively, but most certainly in terms of running an offense.

    I’d say the most important question for the team is if they can carry over the same professionalism, defensive toughness and togetherness from last year. Injuries are worries for every team, all the major contenders in the East were forced to re-tool their bench, so I’d say these are moot points.

  • Jack

    Uggh I hate it when a person refers to himself as a “realist.” What the hell even is a “realist,” anyway?? A person who predicts mediocrity because that’s simply more likely to happen than complete success..? That sounds about right.

    PS – Losing in the playoffs to the Celtics, Knicks, or Nets would not be an acceptable ending to the season. That would be a failed season. We’re up there with the Heat, Lakers, and Thunder. If any team other than one of these three beats us in the playoffs, it will be a bad season. (Ehh.. And I guess we’ll see how good the Bulls are when they get Rose back.)

  • http://slapdoghoops.blogspot.com Slap Dog Hoops

    My question is: if you know that they will have a good season, why be pessimistic? Why not just enjoy the fact that the Pacers will be entering the season as a lock to win the Central Division and may be the only team able to stop the Miami Heat. In my opinion, this article is just being gloomy for nothing.

  • Joe B

    The starting five was solid last year, and that was with an out of game-shape David West for the first month and a sophomore Paul George. They will be better as a unit, and that will be scary.

    The comment on DJ is weak at best. He averaged more assists than either Pacers starter on a team that had trouble scoring. His knock of being a bad finisher is the result of having to be the main scoring option when the Bobcat offense broke down, which was often–I don’t see that happening this year. The issue is the bench, but the Pacers second unit is improved going into this year: athleticism, experience, and upside (Stephenson/Green/DJ). But, will TH hit a jump shot this season?

  • Realist

    Hollinger prediction: 52-30, 1st in Central Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference.

    Boom baby.

  • Realist

    But if you really want pessimism, check out the latest Grantland article (by Zach Lowe) on NBA contenders.

    “The Real Title Contenders” (not here)
    Miami Heat
    Oklahoma City Thunder
    Los Angeles Lakers
    San Antonio Spurs

    “A Puncher’s Chance” (keep scrolling)
    Boston Celtics

    “Dreaming of a Puncher’s Chance” (further)
    Memphis Grizzlies
    Los Angeles Clippers

    “Exciting Upside, Too Many Questions” (almost)
    New York Knicks
    Brooklyn Nets
    Denver Nuggets
    Philadelphia 76ers

    “Solid Playoff Teams, But What’s the Plan?” (yep, apparently)
    Indiana Pacers
    Chicago Bulls
    Dallas Mavericks

    See article for the couple paragraphs on Indy, which is more than we usually get.

  • River Rat

    My bad, people. No disrespect meant. Was trying to respond to a funny with a funny, myself. Y’all are serious! A healthy Foster would’ve helped us beat the Heat. Injury may be the only thing that can stop Lebron. A Ron Artest “type” defender would definitely help. Hopefully, Paul George can take his game to the next level as a shooter and defender. As a SG, he could become a huge mismatch problem for even the best teams. I heard PG likes fishing. Is he really 6’10″ now? That dude could be a killer noodler!

  • River Rat

    Under the radar of the national media may not be a bad place for the Pacers to be early. It will give them a reason to talk about us when we meet and beat the expectations as the season goes on. A better home record against playoff teams should be a Pacers goal for this season. 56 wins, a Central Division title, and the #2 Seed in the East is what i got. Pessimists Be Damned!

  • stray dawg

    Indeed. We Must Defend This HOUSE! Pacers! Pacers! Pacers!

  • stray dawg

    I like the addition of Sam Young. He should be a valuable player off the bench, even if it’s deep. I love the fact that he wanted to come to the Pacers! He reminds me of Derrick McKey. Fearless. Defender. Pro.

  • LowDownLoreetaBrown

    Is it just me or does Danny Granger look BIGGER! He looks a little swollen to me. Danny seemed to finally get that LeBron intimidation thing out of his system. He knows he can play with him, although I’m sure he realizes Bron is far superior skill wise. I always hate when people used the words scarygood to describe the Pacers, but I actually think we are SCARYGOOD!!

  • River Rat

    LowDownLoreetaBrown! Sweet name! Agree. Saw a photo of the starting 5 on Pacers.com. The shoulders and guns on Granger definitely look bigger than ever. Also, David West looked to be stretching the Pacers logo across his chest as well. Use whatever words you like, young lady! The Pacers look like they will be all kinds of good this year! LowDown from NapTown can see the Pacers with an NBA Crown! Here We Go!

  • LowDownLorettaBrown

    @River Rat Ha! I spelled my name wrong….facepalm! I like that LowDown from Naptown except I’m not from Naptown!! I’ve been a STL Pacer fan, a Texas Pacer fan, and a Cali Pacerfan. The only times I’ve been to Indy is to attend a Pacer game. That said, I use the nickname RealPacerFan at times becuz well…..that describes me! Can’t wait to get this season started! Let’s Get it!!

  • River Rat

    Uh, i mean if you are from NapTown Miss Brown! Go Pacers!

  • River Rat

    No worries, Loretta! Just didn’t want to offend! Still a great name! And a great post! AllTown MissBrown!

  • Kristjan

    So there is three mid 20′s guys in Estonia who happen to be NBA junkies!
    Two of them don’t have a team, but Nr.31 made the third one love one team more then the others til he dies.
    Thus as the upcoming season is approaching some bets between the men were made.
    Bet1:
    Indiana for 50 wins and above for the third one to win 100EUR/150USD. 49 and under to lose the same amount.
    Bet2:
    Indiana to go for 53 and above to bank 60EUR/90USD…52 wins would cancel the bet, 51 and under would lose the same amount of money.

    These bets where made at diffrent times, thus the bigger bet has better odds.
    Injuries obiously happen, but that happens to all of the teams.

    Would you dare to make these bets?

  • Nate

    I still dont see how we beat Miami. They defiantly got better. Ray Allen, Bosh healthly. LBJ (unfortantly) is by far the best player in the league. I don’t see how we beat them with a better LBJ, healthy Bosh, wade, and sharp shooters. Not to be gloomy. We dont have enough overall talent to stop those 3 when they play well. We saw what LBJ can do when he flips a switch (finals). i think we beat or lose to the Celtics in semis and lose to Miami in 6. Remember, Miami didnt have a healthy Bosh or 100% Wade. They had LBJ. Thats it. And they still flipped a switch and won 3 straight

  • ESPN Insider Pirate

    well since no one else has come out and said it directly yet: these last two articles are mere regurgitations of the message board posting left by US here for the past 3 months. No new information or insight, simply a digest of what the Pacers blog message board posters have had to say.

    So without further ado, what you all have been waiting for:

    Indiana Pacers: 2012-13 Forecast

    Overview
    Well, here they are. After years of rebuilding and unloading bad contracts, the Pacers had their coming-out party in 2011-12 and look set to have a half-decade window of being a quasi-serious contender in the Eastern Conference. Meticulous cap management under Larry Bird and some shrewd drafting — Danny Granger andRoy Hibbert were selected outside the lottery and Paul George10th overall — allowed the Pacers to rebuild. The final step came when they scored a rare free-agent coup with David West.

    Bird stepped down over the summer, however. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: Indy handed the reins back to Donnie Walsh, with former Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard as a heavily involved No. 2. Meanwhile, the Pacers parted ways with Bird’s right-hand man, David Morway.

    The new front office inherits an enviable situation, as most of the hard work has been done. The Pacers identified a solid coach in Frank Vogel and seem locked into this starting five, assuming West re-signs, for the foreseeable future. With West the only player on the wrong side of 30, the Pacers don’t figure to go away any time soon.

    The question, instead, is whether they can make the additional leap to be something more than a solid second-round playoff team. The Pacers have five good players, but they don’t have a true star, Hibbert’s max contract notwithstanding. The best shot at one is George, but he and Granger are both natural small forwards. It seems inevitable that the Pacers will have to move Granger to get the best out of George.

    The other move that could lift the Pacers another level would be upgrading the bench. An effort was made on that front in the offseason, although to what end is unclear. Indiana will be able to keep the starting five together and stay under the luxury tax or reasonably close — an imperative in this market — but the Pacers have to keep finding inexpensive role players to piece together the rest of the roster.

    Drafting well would go a long way toward accomplishing that, and the draft was Pritchard’s specialty in Portland. Nonetheless, the Pacers represent a typical study in the challenges facing small-market teams trying to take the final steps to be a champion. Nobody is flocking to Indiana in free agency or demanding a trade to this team, they can’t go deep into the tax, and they’ll be drafting in the 20s for the next few years.

    Getting to this point took some wise drafting and a lot of patience, which was impressive. Getting further will take a double dose of smarts, luck and timing.

    2011-12 Recap
    How is this possible? The Pacers were 28th in 2-point shooting percentage, ahead of only Cleveland and Charlotte, and somehow had a good offense anyway. This answers one of the big questions of last season, which is how an offense could look so ugly and still produce decent results.

    It turns out, it looked ugly because it was ugly. There were a lot of forced shots and bad bricks, and much of it came either in straight isos or pick-and-rolls that the ball handler turned into isos. The indiscriminate gunning was bad enough with the starters, but it really went over the top any time Tyler Hansbrough checked in. Not surprisingly, the Pacers had the third-lowest assisted-basket rate in the league.

    So where’s the good news in all this? And how the heck did they finish eighth in offensive efficiency?

    For starters, they got to the line a ton and made their freebies. While they had trouble finding the open man, when they did, they made the shot, as Indy shot a strong 36.8 percent on 3s — albeit on very few attempts; again, finding the open man wasn’t a strength. As a result, its true shooting percentage was almost exactly at the league average of 52.7.

    The second part, as you may have figured out by now, is that Indy was a classic quantity team. Maybe the guards didn’t find the open man, but they didn’t throw the ball away either. And all those ugly isos at least produced a shot. The Pacers were well below the league average in turnover rate and well above it in offensive rebound rate. As a result, only five teams averaged more shots per possession than the Pacers.

    Basically, they were good at every part of offense except 2-point shooting. That’s still an important factor, but the Pacers were the rare team whose excellence on the rest of the spectrum let them thrive despite an abysmal shooting percentage inside the arc.

    Still, one wonders how good they might be with a dynamic point guard. Shooters like George, Granger and West dot the perimeter, and Hibbert has a solid face-up game too. A guard who could drive and dish would make their lives a lot easier.

    Defensively, the Pacers were solid overall, but their weakest link pointed an arrow at the frontcourt. Indiana fouled like crazy, particularly with the second unit, posting the league’s fifth-worst opponent free throw rate. The Pacers also had a subpar defensive rebound rate and gave up more 3s than normal.

    Usually all three of those are signs of an ineffective frontcourt rotation, and it’s not a huge surprise to see Indy rank so low. While Hibbert and West were effective offensive players, they both had defensive limitations. West is a bit undersized and couldn’t jump after offseason Achilles surgery, while Hibbert protects the rim but moves slowly. The second unit didn’t help either, as undersized Lou Amundson struggled as the backup center.

    This takes us to the other big story of the season. A lot of people don’t realize how bad Indiana’s bench was and how much it held the Pacers back, especially in the playoffs. Consider that the four-man pairing of West, George, Granger and Hibbert outscored opponents by 259 points. The rest of the time Indy was -41. Every bench player had a negative plus-minus, every starter had a positive plus-minus, and George Hill and Darren Collison, who swapped roles halfway through the season, were neutral.

    This carried over to the playoffs, where the Pacers’ starters outplayed Miami’s, but the bench was so bad they lost the series anyway. Indy was plus-58 with its starting five on the court, but with at least one sub playing, it was minus-97 against a club not exactly renowned for its bench.

    HOLLINGER’S ’11-12 STATS
    W-L: 42-24 (Pythagorean W-L: 42-24)
    Offensive efficiency: 103.5 (8th)
    Defensive efficiency: 100.4 (10th)
    Pace factor: 93.4 (19th)
    Highest PER: Roy Hibbert (19.35)

    Offseason Moves
    Indiana kept its starting five intact and, based on the failures of the bench, went about rebuilding the second unit. In the end, I’m not sure the overall impact was a net positive, but it beat trying something that had been proven not to work. Check out these moves:

    Let Amundson go, drafted Miles Plumlee and Orlando Johnson: Plumlee is a great athlete and leaper, but he might have been a reach in the first round. His anemic production at Duke suggests he’ll be a one-dimensional rebounder. He does, however, add some genuine size to a frontcourt that needed it. Second-rounder Johnson was another need-based pick, as the Pacers look to fortify a wing rotation that disappointed last season.

    Re-signed Roy Hibbert for four years, $56 million: The Pacers “matched” an offer sheet from Portland that was never actually signed by Hibbert, as Indy quickly offered him identical terms and he decided not to bother with the charade. The most important part, other than the money, is that it contains a player option for the fourth year, which means the Pacers and Hibbert could be doing this dance again three years from now. The Pacers probably overpaid, but they had no realistic alternative; Dwight Howard wasn’t clamoring to come to Indiana.

    Re-signed George Hill for five years, $40 million: This one was preordained when the Pacers traded their first-round pick to San Antonio for Hill a year ago, with the intent to re-sign him. While one can argue that the money was a bit rich for a restricted free agent who isn’t a star, Hill had a productive first season in Indiana, and his ability to play both guard spots gives the team some roster flexibility. The biggest issue may be the fully guaranteed fifth year on the deal, which no other team could even offer Hill. That, combined with the dollars, seems like an overreach.

    Traded Collison and Dahntay Jones to Dallas for a signed-and-traded Ian Mahinmi (four years, $16 million): This was the big question mark in Indy’s summer, as the Pacers could have signed Mahinmi outright rather than trading two players for him. The contract also seemed a bit generous for a player of Mahinmi’s modest talents. The one big positive is that the Pacers seem to have solved their backup center issue. Mahinmi will be a big upgrade on Amundson defensively, and unlike Amundson, he can make a shot from outside the charge circle.

    The problem is more that the Pacers needlessly gave away two players to make it happen. Apparently they viewed Jones as a negative asset and wanted him gone badly enough that they were willing to throw in Collison. That seems a stretch given that Jones was fairly productive a year ago, but it was the logic. Meanwhile, the Pacers lost a productive point guard who was the lone positive for their struggling second unit — all for a player they could have signed outright.

    Signed Gerald Green for three years, $10.5 million: Indy filled its backup small forward spot by looking to cash in on Green’s potential. He washed out earlier in his career, but last season, he destroyed the D-League like it was a video game and played quite well for New Jersey. Given the dollars, it was a reasonable risk on the Pacers’ part that may pay big rewards. The nice part for Indy is that if Green thrives, it can play small lineups with Granger at the 4 much more frequently, something the team hardly ever did last season.

    Let A.J. Price go, signed D.J. Augustin for one year, $3.5 million: The new backup point guard in Indy will be Augustin, which is the other puzzling part of the Collison deal. First, the positive: Augustin is a better passer than any guard on the Pacers, and he may be able to distribute the ball to Indy’s shooters much more effectively. Unfortunately, Augustin hasn’t made his own shots, either from outside or in the paint, and defensively he is a major liability. As a result, he is a downgrade from Collison in nearly every respect and costs $1.2 million more.

    The Pacers signed him to only a one-year deal, which means even if Augustin plays well, they’re hosed, because he can walk as a free agent and the Pacers won’t have his Bird rights — the most they can offer is a 20 percent raise to $4.2 million. Collison would have been a restricted free agent and much less of a flight risk.

    Let Leandro Barbosa go, signed Sam Young and Sundiata Gaines to one-year, minimum deals: Barbosa was secretly awful last season, and the Pacers were wise to let him walk. I liked the moves they made to fill out their roster, as Young and Gaines were undervalued by their former teams. Neither can shoot, but the Pacers have enough shooting. It’s likely one of these two will be the backup shooting guard, although Johnson and Lance Stephenson also figure in the picture. Gaines may get minutes at the point if Augustin struggles.

    2012-13 Outlook
    The biggest advantage the Pacers have is that they play in the Eastern Conference, where it looks like they may land the No. 2 seed by default. With the former powers crumbling around them and nobody else to take the mantle, Indiana may find itself in the conference finals this spring.

    This would be another tangible sign of progress, but if you’re looking past this to the Pacers’ chances of winning a conference title or the whole shebang, look at two factors: Paul George and the bench. George is the team’s one chance to have a genuine star emerge, so if he can take that next step in his third pro season, it will make Indy’s already potent starting five a real force — even against the Miamis of the world.

    With the rebuilt bench, the hope is that supplementing the frontcourt with Mahinmi and Plumlee and adding a passer in Augustin will offset some of the weaknesses that plagued this team last season. Adding Green helps too. I’m dubious that the changes will amount to an improvement, but give Indy credit for aggressively addressing a problem area.

    The final issue, as always, is fortune. The Pacers had good luck with health last season, as Hill was the only rotation player to miss more than six games, and they received another stroke of good luck with opponents shooting only 72.9 percent from the line, well below the 75.2 percent league average. (Indy benefited by about a full game in the standings from this.)

    They probably won’t have quite as much buena suerte this season, but they probably won’t need it either. In this conference, Indy looks like the biggest threat left to Miami’s dominance.

    Prediction: 52-30, 1st in Central Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference

  • Ward

    Help me out here. I don’t understand how moving Paul George to SF helps his game or how moving Granger out helps the Pacers. Seems like a huge risk for a team that is getting better by staying together.

  • dwain

    euuuu what a stinker of a pre season game that was….least it doesn’t count

  • AMFinocchi

    Indiana improved the bench. We had no SF in the second unit (Dahntay as a SF was a joke). I think DJ it’s a great feat. If the first unit have problems moving the ball, DJ might come up to help. He won’t need to score, the others will do it for him. We finally got some real backup C’s instead of Lou (who wasn’t terrible, but was way out of position). I think Sam Young is overated (Lance would give us more points or something more interesting), and I can’t talk about Sundiata, I always confused him with Raja Bell.
    I think the secret key of the Pacers is based on THans shot. If he can recover his mid-range and close shot, the second unit will be really helpful.
    Also, I love Vogel, but he has to figure out a plan B for the offense. Every time the rival defended in zone, the Pacers went off REALLY bad.
    Finally, I think Miami got leaks. They have a lot of players, but they still can fall with a Wade’s or Bosh’ bad night. I mean, we got the W in the playoff AT Miami. We wasted it in that fourth game, but we got 2 to 1 with court advantage. Ray Allen wasn’t really great last season, he is almost an ex-player.

  • Ronal Eugene is Right!!!

    This article and completely ignoring training camp amd preseason are giving me real reasons for pessimism about this site. I understood the lack of activity during the summer, but there is plenty to talk about now.

    Last night’s game was awful, but with 3 starters out you knew it would be. DJ looked good. His defense is as bad as advertised, but he has a good 3 point shot and did a good job creating. He would have had a lot of assists if anyone on the team could hit a jump shot. Mahimni looked good, very athletic and a decent mid range jumper huge upgrade. Lance was too reckless but there was obvious improvement. Sam Young looked pretty good too. Hansbrough being outplayed by Pendergraph isn’t a good sign. He could easily be out of the rotation by January. Gerald Green did not look very good, but he hustles and has crazy athleticism. He seemed kind of nervous so hopefully he plays better in the backup role.

  • Jack

    Nate,

    Here are a few things to consider about the playoff series against the Heat last season:

    1. Wade played off his ass in Game 4. He made everything he threw up. The dude was on fire. If it weren’t for that, Pacers would’ve won Game 4.

    2. As the series progressed, it became increasingly clear that what hurt the Pacers was our bench. Our starting lineup not only played well together, but actually outplayed the Heat’s starters for most of the series. It remains to be seen exactly how improved our bench is after the offseason acquisitions.

    3. Ray Allen won’t make a big difference. Remember how detrimental Shane Battier was to the Pacers? Why should I worry more about Ray Allen after Battier hit big 3 after big 3 against us last season? Moreover, I’ll be pretty happy with any defensive possession in which Lebron doesn’t drive to the hoop. That’s how the Heat beat us. And with Allen on the team, LBJ will be driving slightly less frequently.

    4. Don’t predict a Pacers loss to the Celtics. That shows ignorance as a basketball fan.

    • BenJW

      Not sure how having Ray Allen will cause James to drive LESS frequently. Logic says he should drive every time, either finishing or dishing to Allen for 3.

  • http://www.noregard.net/ Adam No Regard

    With this much pessimism, maybe you should try moving to NY and rooting for the Knicks, Mets, and Jets. It’s a great time! ;-)

    Seriously, though, I don’t think there’s any reason to worry about this team’s growth in the necessary areas, and Augustin is a really nice addition, IMO. As for health…well, crossed fingers and toes it is, I suppose.

    I wrote a Pacers preview over at No Regard for Human Life, and gave them a presidential match of Woodrow Wilson. Would love to hear some of your thoughts in the comments section over there:

    http://www.noregard.net/2012/10/no-regard-presidential-previews-indiana.html

  • Hoosier

    Really, Adam? Woodrow Wilson? You can compare basketball games to War? Have you served? Have you lost family members? Friends? Do you really think your opinion matters to anyone except yourself? Find a better way to be a fan.

  • Brandon

    Paul George won’t reach his potential until he’s moved to his natural SF position and Granger is shipped.

  • Jack

    granger is “shipped”?? go away

  • FreeAgentID

    First, the Pacers bench is totally different this year, except for Hansbrough.
    I get it Micky.
    But, I think the Pacers will have a very good year.
    Go Pacers!

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