Fresh after the Miami Heat were crowned the NBA Champions of 2013, the Indiana Pacers are stuck reminiscing on what might have been. Although they showed the nation that they were more than capable title contenders the fact still remains that they came just short of being the first Pacers team to reach the NBA Finals since the Reggie Miller led Pacers of 2000. The Pacers aren’t dwelling on it though. Matter of fact, they are looking towards this off season with the upmost optimism and still have their sights set on dethroning LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The Pacers showed last season (Especially in their hard fought seven game series with Miami) that they could win at a high level with their knock down style of defense, and old school half court offense. At their best it was hard to imagine anyone beating the Indiana Pacers in a seven game series. The Miami Heat however, exploited the Indiana Pacers one flaw in the four games that it won over the Blue and Gold, to put it simply: Bench Scoring.
The Indiana Pacers bench averaged a dismal 24.1 points per game meaning that the starting five was responsible for over 3/4 of the offensive output. Assuming the Pacers resign David West (As all parties indicate a deal will be made), and the long anticipated return of former All-Star Danny Granger comes to fruition the Indiana Pacers will have already become a better team with either Danny Granger or Lance Stephenson becoming the sixth man off the bench. However, for the Pacers to get better, they will have to continue to stack their bench. The Pacers most recognizable bench players Tyler Hansbrough, Sam Young, and D.J. Augustine are all free agents and will probably be wearing new jerseys next season unless they come back for the right price. Augustine was a failed experiment to get a facilitator off the bench to back up starting point guard George Hill which the Pacers are still in dire need of. Also, unless Gerald Green can come out of his slump of taking and missing bad shots, his days in Indiana are numbered, although the Pacers will have to look to move his contract through various trade opportunities.
Free Agency will not offer the Pacers too much flexibility. After they resign David West, they will be very close to the cap limit although they will have room to possibly sign a solid role player or two. The Pacers have been reported to be highly interested in sharp shooters J.J. Reddick (Milwaukee Bucks) and Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks) which would give the Pacers a much needed threat on the perimeter much like the Miami Heat had in Ray Allen this past season. J.J. Reddick is a very enticing name for the Pacers also because he is a better known facilitator however, Kyle Korver might be the better bargain. Another name that has been connected to the franchise in rumors is Indiana native Greg Oden who is expected to make his NBA return next season. If the Pacers could get the 25-year-old, former number one overall pick for the right price, it would certainly give the second unit a presence on both sides of the floor.
First thing is first however. The 2013 NBA Draft is right around the corner and the Pacers find themselves with the No.23 pick overall in a quality draft in which players like Tim Hardaway Jr. (Michigan), Glen Rice Jr. (D-League), Nate Wolters (South Dakota State), and Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga) are projected to be available. The Pacers could go with any, but this writer thinks that if Glen Rice Jr. is available, the Pacers should jump at the opportunity to grab him. The 6’6 wing man originally out of Georgia Tech (dismissed before his junior season for violating team rules) strived in the NBA D-League last season averaging 25 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals per game in the D-League play-offs. He would bring a much needed scorer to the Pacer’s second unit, and would also fit nicely into the defensive mindset of Coach Frank Vogel.
The Indiana Pacers were so close last season to making it to the mountain top. They have taken a step up every season the past three seasons, this year being beaten narrowly by the Miami Heat. The Pacers have yet to find their ceiling and it can only be assumed from recent experience that they will take another step next season and finally make their return to the ever elusive NBA Finals in 2014.