Beat the Heat, but Beat the Rest?

improvement

In what has become a recurring theme to Pacers fans over the years, the 2013 Indiana Pacers came within a whisker of greatness. Unfortunately, one of the greatest players of all time stood in the way — yet again. (Pacers fans still get angry over the team that had six All-Stars and two Hall of Famers and still fell just short to Michael Jordan in 1998 [don't worry about the fact that several of those players were either past or ahead of their prime ... I'm just trying to stack a nice deck for this introductory hyperbole]).

Last year’s Pacers team was pretty straightforward. The league’s best starting lineup along with its league-leading defense wasn’t quite good enough to completely make up for their lousy bench in the playoffs against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. It didn’t matter how big Roy Hibbert and David West were in the series or how futile Miami’s attempts were at stopping them inside. Paul George’s leap into becoming a legitimate All-Star wasn’t quite enough. Even Lance Stephenson’s energy, intangibles, and improved consistency couldn’t put them over the hump. At some point, Sam Young, D.J. Augustin, and Tyler Hansbrough had to enter the game — and as much as you may have wanted to appreciate the various (albeit very few) qualities that each of those players brought to the floor, the drop off was insurmountable.

(I’d be lying if I told you I stopped having the recurring nightmare of Sam Young catching a pass while standing wide open in the corner, only to watch him practically shudder in fear before hoisting up an airball, drop the pass entirely, or weakly play hot potato with the rock.)

And yet, here we are in September, looking at the upcoming season with a renewed hope. What once was a weakness has turned into a strength. Assuming Danny Granger agrees to assume an almost Jamal Crawford-esque roll, the entire bench falls into place.

On the wings, the aforementioned Granger and Chris Copeland replace the dynamic duo of Gerald Green and Sam Young. It would be difficult to find a bigger offensive upgrade anywhere in the league. Despite some shortcomings (that are probably overblown by Pacers fans who remember him toiling away as the only good player on below average teams for so long), Granger is a former All-Star who will absolutely carry the offense while the starters are resting. And assuming Copeland’s 2013 campaign wasn’t a complete fluke (a real possibility by the way), he will add floor spacing and toughness while on the floor. It’s also an upgrade on the defensive end, even with Sam Young’s above-average defensive qualities. Forgetting the fact that Gerald Green couldn’t handle and understand basic defensive systems and offensive sets, both Granger and Copeland add a versatility that the Pacers sorely lacked.

The Pacers can now conceivably go big, small, or even “Super Wing” (a term I just made up, but I think we will see a lot of this season). In big lineups, Granger is a good enough ball-handler that the Pacers could move Paul George to the 2, play Danny at the 3, and go to war with Hibbert and West down low. In fact, this lineup is so good, it might end up being their starting lineup — or at the very least, their crunch-time lineup down the stretch of games. Conversely, Granger and Copeland both make good stretch fours, and could be played with George Hill, Lance Stephenson, and Paul George at the same time. The most intriguing play would be to go “Super Wing” for a few minutes at a time. Conceivably, the Pacers could play lineups of Stephenson, George, Granger, and Copeland with a big and just pick out individual match ups to abuse. (I’m well aware that this lineup might only work on NBA 2k14, but you have to be honest: the idea at least intrigued you a little.)

Replacing Augustin is C.J. Watson. Not only is Watson a more reliable outside shooter than Augustin (he shot 41% compared to DJ’s 35% on more 3-pointers a game last season), but he can also dribble with a man in his face. Most importantly, he’s not a complete defensive liability, and he could even play some 2-guard in super small lineups if the Pacers wanted to go that direction.

Perhaps the biggest non-Granger upgrade came to the Pacers via Argentina in the form of Luis Scola. While Scola’s best years are undoubtedly behind him, he’s always had the sort of “old man game” that ages well. At 33, he still has at least three years left in the tank, and couldn’t be a better fit for Indiana’s offense if you tried to build one in a lab.

Offensively, in terms of production, he’s almost the spitting image of David West. He is able to knock down the 20-footer with remarkable consistency while also being able to get off a wide variety of shots off in the lane over larger defenders. Last season, Scola averaged 13 points per game while shooting almost 50% from the floor. Most importantly, he is a great passer, dishing out more assists last season than Tyler Hansbrough has over the course of his entire career. Yes, you read that correctly. To be honest, as long as the Pacers got a back-up big man that could catch the ball and do anything other than blindly barrel into the lane hoping for a foul, it would have been an upgrade this summer. The fact that they replaced Hansbrough with Luis Scola is icing on the cake.

Defensively, Scola leaves a lot to be desired, but the Pacers didn’t need bench stoppers; they needed guys that could come in and simply maintain their lead while their starters rested. Adding Granger, Copeland, Watson, and Scola should go a long way in accomplishing that goal.

Which of course brings us to our end game: What exactly is the goal?

Most people would tell you that that the end goal is a championship, or at the very least, to beat the Heat.

Even with their shortcomings last season, the Pacers were a game away from beating the World Champions. One has to think that the significant upgrades should all but tip the scales in the Pacers’ favor in a one-on-one matchup against the Heat. The cold truth, though, is that simply beating the Heat may not be enough next year. For the first time in more than fifteen years, the East has more than just one or two high-caliber teams; it may have as many as four. What good would it be to be better than the Heat but not be able to get past another team in an earlier round?

The question to me is not whether or not the Pacers’ upgrades make them better than the Heat, but do those upgrades make them the best in the East?

The Bulls were without their best player and 2011 league MVP Derrick Rose for the entirety of last season — and still lost just four fewer games than the Pacers. Brooklyn tied the Pacers in the win column and improved as much as anyone over the summer, adding Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko, and Jason Terry to the lineup.

While most don’t expect the Nets to be that dominant of a regular season team due to their age, it’s a hard truth to ignore that a healthy Lopez, Garnett, Pierce, Johnson, and Williams lineup could be fantastic come playoff time. The Bulls also have the size and strength down low to play the Hibbert/West monster to at least a draw. Most likely, the Pacers will have to face one of those teams on their way to a matchup against the Heat. Thus, Indy should strive to be good enough in the regular season to earn a 2-seed or higher.

As good as the Pacers were last season; as much as they improved this summer; as much as I love this hard-working, overachieving team — I’m not sure they are good enough to go on the road and beat Chicago or a healthy Brooklyn in a head-to-head matchup.

So while we look ahead at 2013-2014, just remember that it’s no longer simply about beating the Heat.

The Pacers need to be Beasts of the East.

Topics: The Next Step

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  • Toni Benz

    How sure are you that bulls with Drose back will be that good or should i say a better team than indy?. Rose has yet to prove himself 100% back to his old self. He can be good again, but being spectacular as he used to, i doubt so much. Still, the pacers will get past this bulls team for they look more formidable! I think only you among other ranking/power predictions who put pacers down below chi and brooklyn. I guess you don’t believed enough of pacers team or is not really a believer of them but just pretending so! Pacers had a slow start last season i guess you know that and that they were still on the process of adjusting with the loss of granger then, resulting to just 49 wins. If the way they played last play offs was their kind of performance during the regular season, then they could have gotten higher in the standings and not just 49. How come you did not consider their struggles at the start of season and just judged them based on 49 wins and bulls 45. And per match up pacers also got the better of bulls and i definitely disagree they are draw down low. They will be the beast of the east and on top of chi and brklyn. I suggest just stop writing articles about pacers. You are just putting this team down!!!!!

    • Andrew Wills

      Hey now, This is an excellent piece, he doesnt put the team down, he is simply stating the value of the upgrades we have made to our bench. The East is definitely better as a whole this season, and the Bulls and Nets are the two other teams that have gained on the Heat, I personally think the Nets have built a team around gutys who wont be able to stay healthy, and the Bulls missed their window, but we will see… This article is one of the best analysis pieces I have read on here in a while! Keep the articles coming! I check daily and love to read about the Blue and Gold! He is 100% correct that the Pacers need to strive to be at worst the 2-seed in the East. Frankly, in their current conference, they need to push to be the 1-seed, as Home court advantage will be far more important this year than it has been the past few years before the conference finals. Defense is what kept Chicago close last year, and its hard to argue they got much worse on that end… its goingt o be a great year to be a fan of the NBA, and in particular the Central Division, so soak it in, and enjoy the experiance…
      GO PACERS!

      • Moses Taylor

        Bulls missed their window? Bulls starting lineup is barely older than the Pacers – average age of 27.4 vs. 26.2 for IND (or 27.8 if Granger starts ahead of Stephenson). Only West and Boozer are over 30 of the starters (Granger will be 31 in April). Both teams have some old guys on the bench, as well as some younger blood. So just because the Bulls were competitive sooner doesn’t mean they’re closer to the end of their “window”.

        Only quibble with the article is that the upgrade from Hinrich to Rose might be the biggest offensive upgrade in the league, but that’s coming from someone who really dislikes Hinrich (which is rare in Chicago).

        It will be a fascinating season and series, and I totally agree that if either the Bulls or Pacers realistically wants to get to the Finals and past the Heat they need to win the division and get a top 2 seed.

        • poot

          POOT loves it when people bring “AGE” into the argument. how did you calculate their average age? add up the starters ages and divide by 5? LOL grade school education at work.

          Consider MINUTE WEIGHTED average ages. i’ve explained it in previous articles so no need to rehash, just remember the assumptions that will apply to these two teams:
          +players will continue to play same minutes as prior season
          +players who missed last season (Rose, Granger, etc) will come back to play minutes equal to their last full season
          +teams will scale back minutes proportionally to make room for new arrivals
          +rookies not included, default to 0 minutes

          Now look at the Bulls: 28.82 (7th oldest)
          and the Pacers: 27.72 (10th oldest)

          assuming Granger and Rose aren’t instantly 100%, fewer minutes go to Rose (24) which pushes UP the Bulls average age, and fewer minutes go to Granger (30) which pushes DOWN the Pacers average age.

          The Bulls, at the VERY LEAST, are 1.10 years closer to the end of their “window”
          More likely it is two full seasons.

          Pacers or Bulls, either could beat the Heat without home court. oh wait the heat reloaded with Greg Oden and Michael Beasley… crap they are going to be so much better. or not.

      • Toni Benz

        Best article??? crazy! Yes all teams need to struggle ofcourse. The point of argument was according to him “The Bulls were without their best player and 2011 league MVP Derrick Rose for the entirety of last season — and still lost just four fewer games than the Pacers.” As this may be true but he is stating the pacers got only 4 wins ahead of bulls and w/o rose( where is the better analysis on this which he did not figure out anymore what transpired) and figured out now that rose is back, they are definitely on top of pacers, his judgment based on the 49 wins and bulls 45, got it? How the hell is this analysis, when it’s still unseen how rose will do. And he goes more to say, “I’m not sure they are good enough to go on the road and beat Chicago or a healthy Brooklyn in a head-to-head matchup” WHAT??? what makes him think bulls got the better of pacers? coz of the 49 wins and bulls 45 w/o rose. If you go one on one with the match ups, it’s pretty clear pacers had the advantage. Pacers need to work hard and that’s for sure. Their bench revamped, can be the best reserves if handled properly. All in all, this team is looking great to contend for a championship.

        • Buster78

          Calm down, Toni. The author never says that the Bulls are definitely on top of the Pacers. He merely points out that Chicago finished pretty close to Indiana in the standings, and they will be getting a very, very good player back in Derrick Rose, a young guy who’s had over a year to recover from his knee injury.

          The only claim in this article that I can see you having issue with is that Indiana might lose to Chicago if the Bulls have home court advantage in the series. This is a rather safe assumption.

          Overall, the main point of this article is that the Pacers this year need to be mindful of other teams besides the Heat. Which is true, and sometimes forgotten by fans. While the Pacers have built the team over the last couple years to try to beat the Heat, constructing the team with such a single-minded focus may leave them vulnerable to other good teams in the East. Let’s not forget what happened to the 2009 Cavaliers.

  • Realist

    Don’t drink the Brooklyn kool-aid.

    • poot

      Here’s a writing trick I steal from Bill Simmons.

      Team A won 66 games, lost in the ECF, added a 37 y/o AllStar who was MVP 9 years earlier and won a ring 3 years earlier, and added a 33 y/o former #4 pick who was AllStar 1 year earlier and twice scored 51 pts before winning 6th man of year award

      Team B won 49 games, lost in the 1st round, added a 37 y/o AllStar who was MVP 9 years earlier and won a ring 5 years earlier, and added a 36 y/o former Finals MVP who was AllStar 1 year earlier and once scored 50 pts before making AllNBA 3rd team

      Team A went on to win 5 fewer games the next season and lost in the ECSemis…
      if you haven’t guessed, it’s the 2008-09 Cavs

      Team B is the 2012-13 Brooklyn Nets

      Will the Nets defy history?
      I’m not drinking the kool-aid either……………

  • Derek Cooper

    Of several good teams in the east hoping for some player(s) to be healthy+return to form; i’d say the pacers are least dependent on theirs(granger). The bulls need rose. The knicks need stoudemaire+andre barniane(no clue how to spell that..) . Nets just need their really old guys to hold up. Miami if other teams are at full strength I think need d.wade on a high level. …yep pacers really don’t need granger like the others need their guys. Pacers = to heat on paper but since heat have lebron+are the champs id say heat #1 pacers #2. But yea those other teams are really close to the heat+ pacers if they have good fortune with health/injuries.

    • poot

      great point Derek. Pacers are least dependent on Granger

      take last years Pacers. sub Scola for Hans. sub CJ for DJ. sub Cope for Green.
      add 1 yr of chemistry, 1 yr of PG at star level, 1 yr of Hibs as defensive force, 1 yr further from DWest’s ACL, 1 yr more of GHill running the show, 1 yr of Lance playing important minutes

      That, alone, is a huge upgrade for the #2, almost #1, team in the East.

      what did other teams do? Nets got old, Heat added players with Huge BUST potential, Knicks made sketchy moves, Bulls got back Rose

      NOW add Granger. That pushes the Pacers over the top.
      but if he isn’t 100%, no harm. still a very likely #1 team.

  • Boogie Wonderland

    So because the Pacers eventually adjusted to not having Granger and went on to be somewhat successful, all of a sudden Granger’s absence means NOTHING! All I keep hearing is how Rose is important to the Bulls success but Granger’s loss meant less. WHAT? How do you make that argument? That makes no sense!! When you get done, Granger’s absence played a HUGE part in the Pacers winning only 49 games! Oh yea, and one of the Pacers games was dropped due to the unfortunate events that took place at the Boston marathon. I don’t get these silly dismissals of the importance of Granger. Bottom line is that Danny was sorely missed and yet Indy still put together a hell of a season.

    • Derek U

      The people who don’t believe that, didn’t watch the first month when they were somehow 8-8, and ended up 10-11 in the first 21 games. They struggled against the weakest of teams in the east. It took time for that adjustment

      • Boogie Wonderland

        Exactly!!

    • DonovanCurtisPadgett

      I agree, however you can make the argument that Paul George doesn’t make that big of an improvement with a healthy Granger all of last year. So you’re right they would have won more games with Granger fully healthy all of last year. However because he wasn’t, it forced PG to take on more of the scoring burden (causing struggles early with the 10-11 start). I don’t know if the improvement would have been that vast, but there definitely would have been one, perhaps 53 wins or so.

      Finally getting to my point I believe the DG injury is the best thing to happen for the 13-14 season. With PGs improvement the net positive of a healthy Granger and confident PG, because of last year, this team is so much greater than if Danny played all last season healthy.

      • poot

        i hope you are right about that.
        from how last year ended, seemed the Pacers were 1 reliable bench player, 1 more decent outside shooter, 1 more rangy defender away from being in the Finals, or winning it all
        I get that PG got a huge scoop of Royal Jelly, but this kid was building his game every year even with DG.
        I equate it to Lebron having DWade by his side. Has Lebron gotten worse because he doesn’t need to be as good playing with Wade? No, in fact, having Wade take pressure off him makes his life easier, and he thrives. Imagine if PG had a great 3pt shooter all last year to kick out to after driving (instead of Lance or Green or Young) or imagine if PG didn’t have to guard the best SF every single time down the floor?

        I hope you are right, but I still think the Pacers suffered last season with not DG. maybe it will pay dividends this year.

  • sfss53

    The argument for the Nets and Bulls were based off the record but remember how the Pacers had a horrible start to the season and their series against the Knicks and Heat were the best they played all season? Also people keep assuming Rose is going to be just as dominant and remain healthy but that’s in no way guaranteed. Plus I’m not too sure he makes the Bulls much better since he doesn’t make his teammates better

  • Joe Betz

    Granger’s absence, while less important to the team overall than Rose to Chicago, clearly played a huge role in the Pacers struggles during the first few months of last season. With Granger, the Pacers would have won several more games, easily.

    The Pacers upgraded their offense in the best way possible: they found similar players with similar skill-sets of the current starters. Attitude, team-chemistry, and overall talent upgrades will keep the Pacers a point above Chicago and Brooklyn–against Miami, it will be a coin toss…

  • lil-bang

    Looking at the playoffs last year, Miami was the only team that really didn’t get bit by the injury bug:
    1. Granger-IND
    2. Rose-CHI
    3. Stoudamire-NYK-he was back but wasn’t up to speed
    4. Lopez-BKN-he was back but he wasn’t what he was at the beggining of the season
    5. Rondo-BOS
    Wade has been less active the past 2 years, but I think that’s just the toll of getting ‘pounded’ driving to the lane for several years. Rose take a look, that’s what you are going to be like in a few years.
    No matter how the regular season goes for CHI, BKN, NYK, IND, MIA. All these teams will walk over the East. Alot of it comes down to who is heathly come April-June (or whenever the longest playoffs end).
    I would really love to see this Pacer team stay together for more than one year. Particularly this one. Build some chemistry. The turn over of this team has been very active the last couple of years. That’s just another plus that Miami has over everybody. But I don’t see Danny being around anymore after this year. Unless they offer him (and he excepts) a huge pay cut.
    Good Article. As you can tell I agree that the Heat are not the only team to look out for.
    GO PACERS!!!

  • poot

    had a lot of trouble getting through this article…
    first 6 paragraphs… garbage opinions.
    next 8 paragraphs… filler?
    then the point of the article, the headline, buried at the end, is 6 sentences on the Pacers compeition.

    Look, i can get past the whole “Danny will lead the bench” thing. to me, it makes no sense unless DG is less than, say 80%. yet that assumption is not even discussed. basically all he says is “at worst, he will be better than Sam Young.” wowzers.
    one more on that- consider the rotations
    hibbert -> ian
    west -> scola
    granger -> cope
    pg -> lance
    hill -> watson
    it makes sense, it flows, there is a direct thought. one of the starters gets in foul trouble/hurt/tired, they have a sub. now consider the latter:
    hibbert -> ian
    west -> scola
    pg -> granger -> cope? bury your big FA signing? ok…
    lance -> oj? granger as a 2? yeah right he couldnt guard a 2 when healthy.
    hill -> watson

    yeah there are ways to make it work, but they all rely on the players each playing multiple positions during the same game. maybe that can be a good strategy at times, but in a playoff series where you are trying to play at your highest level? come on now.

    then comes the filler, generic opinions about Scola and CJ that were discussed in length in the previous two posts. good opinions, but nothing new.

    finally we get to the meat of the article. now the fun starts.
    he points out that not only do the Pacers have to get past the Heat, but they also have to get past the Bulls and Nets. ok I agree. but then he takes a one sided approach to discussing the challenges.

    Bulls: “they are big and strong, only won 4 less games than the Pacers and get back the 2011 MVP”
    Nets: “they won as many as the Pacers and have a “star” studded starting 5, age is a weak argument”

    that’s this article in 2 sentences.
    the rebuttal?

    “Bulls are big and strong”
    not exactly. Noah is tall and Boozer is strong. Mohammed is tall and Gibson is strong. and that’s it. Noah is injury prone and has a garbage center behind him. i credit Noah for playing through pain, but the Heat showed last year that he’s easy to neutralize when not 100%. Boozer had an anomoly of a year last season, likely caused by not having Rose around, expect him to go back to his old ways soon. Gibson is a good player, i like him, but he barely cuts it as a PF. he will need serious help to defend the likes of West or Scola.
    “Bulls won 4 less games”
    they also lost 5 more. or 10%. pretty big diff. consider the Pacers starting the season 10-11. that had to help.
    “Bulls getting back 2011 MVP”
    where did they get that time machine? the Lakers have the 05, 06 and 08 MVPs! oh wait no, they have 2013 Nash and Kobe. Bulls are getting 2013 DRose. will he be great? maybe. will he look like DWade in the playoffs? maybe. will he be garbage? maybe. no one can say for sure. how will a ball dominant player fit in with the team? consider recent “ball dominant” player type plugs. Melo (32% usg) to Knicks, Kevin Martin (30% usg) to OKC, Monta (28% usg) to Bucks, Amare (27% usg) to Knicks, etc. For the most part, they have been complete failures. The only instance of success I found, was Lebron (33% usg) to the Heat. but that involved him changing his game to be a facilitator, and teaming up with 2 star players. Ball dominant Rose will write his own legacy. will he evolve his game? or will he be a shell of his former self? either way, don’t expect to ever see 2011 Derrick Rose again.

    “Nets age is a weak argument”
    why? because it’s so obvious everyone can see it? good arguments are only one dug up by analysts from nowhere? come on now. the Nets age is a huge problem. I get that Boston stunk last season and most people quit watching them. but I didn’t. I watched Boston. I watched Pierce and KG get winded. I watched them stay in the game and shoot flat footed bricks and get worked on D by their opponents. I watched them go to the bench and the rest of the team collapses. These are not 2008 KG/PP. They are not even 2011 KG/PP. They are old. They have heart and experience, but not much else to offer.
    “Nets starting 5, like Napoleon’s suit… it’s incredible.”
    Again we are playing magic rewind game here. KG/PP were huge names the past 15 years. That makes it easy to say that they are stars. But remember when Cleveland landed a huge superstar in Shaq? and Phoenix? and Boston? he was already well on the decline, and didnt play remotely close to superstar level. even with days off and limited minutes, he was no longer even close to a shell of his former dominant MVP self. but he was still named Shaq. That’s what the Nets get. Guys named Pierce and Garnett. and Kirilenko and Terry. These aren’t the same guys they were when they were dominant/allstars. The Nets are portrayed as having acquired these stars. Normally I would give the benefit of the doubt, they may have something in the tank. but I watched the league LAST YEAR. and either they were not trying, or they are running on Empty. I don’t picture the Nets with 2008 KG/PP, etc, I picture them as that Lebron’s Cavs team that added Shaq and Jamison. Shouldnt that team have been dominant? just looking at the names, yes, but there is more to it than just that.

    oh yeah, and the Nets are going to be coached by Jason Kidd! a man known for his ability to manage personalities and make good decisions. that was sarcasm, referring to his impact on the Knicks last season as well as his multiple run ins with the law. the guy could be a great coach 10 years from now, i dont know why they are expecting him, alone, to manage all these players on his own (Spolestra at least had Riley doing all the dirty work)

    ah in the end i am thankful for a new article, but as i said, the first half was based on a garbage opinion, the second half was rehashed fluff, and the centerpiece of the article was, appropriately, buried, because it was so full of holes.

  • ALS Cel

    Why are you not sure that indy is not good enough to win against chi or brklyn, you must be on the wrong side of awareness, i think so. Well, as many other writers believed pacers are better than these two teams and mostly ranked them higher than these two and predicted a strong title run and even winning it all, we are also in the same thinking! I think your assessment is not quite legitimate. Pacer is the stronger team, the better team! And oh btw chi is always “not healthy” so forget the word “strength” for them. And Hibbert/West/George is definitely more formidable than their bulls counterpart(so it means not a draw as you were claiming,bad judgement) Pacers will crushed them…right before your very eye!

  • Rick Kruichen

    You know what??? bulls has a lot of IF’s like “if healthy”, when was bulls healthy on a playoffs, do you remember? They never were and what will change that now, did they get a new coach that will give them more rest? That will always be the case over and over and over again. Actually, they have changed their name from chicago bulls to chicago sheeps. Bulls is not appropriate for something lame! And that is the team that will beat Indy? Not in a million. You better gather your thoughts PRECISELY!

  • poot

    NBA.com ranks each team’s offseason.
    They break down the Frontcourt, Backcourt, Defense, Bench, Coaching and Overall

    Pacers were one of 3 (+Nets, Clippers) with an A- ranking.

    So who got the A’s??? Spurs (ok fine with that) and of course the HEAT

    What a joke. First of all, they give Heat a A+ for Frontcourt (vs the Pacers getting an A)
    This is incredible. Did NBA.com’s writers miss the playoffs? Yeah Bosh is a big name and LeBron plays PF against crappy teams, but their front court is a joke. They even talked about adding Greg Oden boosting the frontcourt among the best evers. HAHAHA please watch the ECF again, only 1 frontcourt showed up and it wasn’t Miami or Greg Oden.

    Then they give Miami’s Defense an A (vs the Pacers A- grade)
    I mean it’s crazy right??? Like something out of a Heat Homer’s repertoire. “Lebron can D up 1-5 and they play really hard gambling team D so that makes them the best” unless you look at the stats. If you are the best, why are you allowing 4 more ppg than the Pacers? (among other things)

    Also the Coaching is funny. Heat get an A, Pacers get a B
    Yeah, coaching won that title last year. LOL they won almost in spite of the coaching. I agree Vogel choked a few times, but giving Spolestra higher marks than Vogel (B) or Thibs (C) is like you never watched a game.

    Finally, writer of these NBA.com grades, Sekou Smith, was chided by a Jazz fan who says that Jazz had a successful offseason by not overpaying mid-level talent and allowing opportunity for young players to flourish. Smith responds that Jazz were rated low because their moves will make them WORST NEXT SEASON THAN THE YEAR BEFORE.
    If this is the logic he uses, how can MIAMI be given a perfect A????
    Let’s just say Lebron gets better (is it possible???)
    Wade can’t get better. Bosh can’t get better.
    Battier, Haslem, Allen, all those old clowns are deteriorating FAST.
    and they lost Mike Miller.
    Who can be better? Hope for more improvement from Chalmers and Cole? Greg Oden will revive his career magically? Beasley will not only drop all his issues, but become a completely different player (high volume scorer?)

    How can The Pacers improvement be considered less signficant than the Heat’s in any way????
    As I see it, you can easily argue the Heat will be worse than last year. I think most experts are in agreement on this.
    I cannot see one single way the Pacers won’t be better than last year.
    who is wrong? Poot or NBA.com?

    • Realist

      The article seems unsure whether it’s grading the actual off-season movements or the current rosters just generally, in those areas. How do you judge off-season for coaching if there’s no hiring/firing?

      We get Granger back, added Scola and Copeland, AND OFFLOADED GERALD GREEN.

      If Indiana’s off-season was anything less than an A, I will eat Russell Westbrook’s purse.

      • poot

        100% true.
        the way i look at it, if every team had the exact same roster as last season (assume no rookies, no players returning from injury, etc)
        then would every team receive the exact same offseason moves grade?
        NO.
        The young teams get a bump up, the old teams get a bump down.

        THEN come the transactions.

        So the Heat are already subpar (due to being 5 full years over the average age of NBA players)
        and then they lose Mike Miller, who despite not being much in the regular season or early playoffs, came up huge in the ECF and even bigger in the Finals
        What do they add?
        Arguably, nothing. Greg Oden and Michael Beasley
        Oden is a couple of coin flips:
        Will he play at all this year? 50:50
        If he plays, will he avoid getting hurt again? 50:50 -> 25:75
        If he plays and doesn’t get hurt, will he contribute? 50:50 -> 25:75 –> 12.5:87.5
        If he contributes, will he be a difference maker? 50:50 -> 25:75 –> 12.5:87.5 —> 6.25:94.75
        So yeah it’s a “calculated risk” for Miami, basically nothing to lose but a roster spot that a crappy player would have held anyway. But they have about a 6% chance of getting a player who makes a difference for them. Most likely that means nothing, but it could be a huge win for them.
        As for Beasley, I am not a fan. I never was a fan of Beasley. At his very best, Beasley can fill it up. He can make shots with some range and do a few things in the post, especially facing up. He has the talent and athleticism to get rebounds better than most forwards, though he has not shown the desire.
        What do the Heat want to get out of him? Somebody to score in the post? Or at least to draw attention down low to open up space for shooters? Even at his best, he can’t score as well as Lebron, he won’t draw anywhere near the attention, and he won’t pass out of pressure. So do they want him to be the recipient of Lebron doubles? Are they hoping he can hit open jump shots and hustle for loose balls? Do they want him to learn the Art of Floppery from Battier before he retires?
        Whatever the plan, I see few benefits from the Beasley signing.

        So the Heat got older, lost Miller and most likely added nothing.
        That’s an A offseason for sure!

        For the Pacers, at worst they had their 22-23 year olds get better. Most would argue that 26-27 yr olds are still yet to plateau, but let’s just say marginal improvement from guys like Hibbert and Hill.

        So at worst, they are above average, BEFORE transactions.

        As you said, offloading Green already gives a huge bump up.
        Then signing “missing pieces” such as Scola and Copeland. These aren’t guys that “maybe they’ll be able to play like they did their rookie season before losing both knees” or “poor man version of players already on the team, no other skills to offer.” These are guys who fit needs.

        But that’s why he gave the Pacers a top 5 grade. It’s impossible to deny they got better.
        But less improved than the Heat??? That’s almost as wrong as DWade’s pink capris.

  • poot

    #NBARank (2012 score) ———> 2013 #NBARank, score (Diff)
    #28 George (7.49)
    #40 Hibbert (7.19)
    #43 Granger (7.02)
    #58 West (6.42)
    #68 Scola* (6.18)
    #87 G. Hill (5.71)
    #405 Stephenson (2.52)
    #-NR Copeland* (N/A)
    #230 Watson* (4.03) ———> #238, 4.00 (-8, -0.03)
    #251 Mahinmi (3.76) ———> #271, 3.64 (-20, -0.12)
    #-NR S. Hill* (N/A) ————> #383, 2.64 (+118, +2.64)
    #462 Johnson (2.06) ———> #418, 2.39 (+44, +0.36)
    #480 Sloan* (1.89) ———–> #486, 1.88 (-6, -0.01)

    Any predictions for the rest of the rankings?

    I think every player should move up. They will likely bump down Granger like 40-50 spots. Stephenson should jump at least 250 spots. George could be top 10?

    Also keeping an eye on the departed Pacers…
    #174 Hansbrough (4.59) ——-> #208, 4.25 (-34, -0.34)
    #147 Augustin (4.84) ———–> #227, 4.09 (-80, -0.75)
    #275 S. Young (3.55) ———-> #317, 3.11 (-42, -0.44)
    #421 Pendy/Ayers (2.41) ——> #324, 3.07 (+97, +0.66)
    #246 G. Green (3.82) ———-> #326, 3.03 (-80, -0.79)
    #433 Plumlee (2.30) ———-> #414, 2.41 (+8, +0.11)

    and no, DJ ranking in the top 150 last year is no typo. still makes me LOL

    • Realist

      I lurrrve NBA Rank. So they did one back in April as well, but only the top 30, yeah?

      Anyway, here is the top 100 by position, adjusted to include the updated top 30 from April, and the rest fall in line as they were this time last year (below the —)

      PG
      Chris Paul
      Russell Westbrook
      Tony Parker
      Kyrie Irving
      Stephen Curry
      Deron Williams
      John Wall
      Rajon Rondo
      Derrick Rose

      Steve Nash
      Ricky Rubio
      Ty Lawson
      Kyle Lowry
      Brandon Jennings
      Mike Conley
      Jrue Holiday
      Jeremy Lin
      Goran Dragic
      George Hill
      Andre Miller
      Jose Calderon
      Darren Collison

      SG
      Kobe Bryant
      Dwyane Wade
      James Harden

      Manu Ginobili
      Joe Johnson
      Eric Gordon
      Monta Ellis
      Ray Allen
      Tony Allen
      Tyreke Evans
      Kevin Martin
      Arron Afflalo
      Jason Terry
      Lou Williams
      O.J. Mayo

      SF
      Lebron James
      Kevin Durant
      Carmelo Anthony
      Paul George
      Paul Pierce

      Andre Iguodala
      Rudy Gay
      Luol Deng
      Danny Granger
      Ryan Anderson
      Danilo Gallinari
      Nicolas Batum
      Gerald Wallace
      Andrei Kirilenko
      Shawn Marion
      Wilson Chandler
      Kawhi Leonard

      PF
      Blake Griffin
      Dirk Nowitzki
      LaMarcus Aldridge
      Kevin Love
      Zach Randolph

      Pau Gasol
      Kevin Garnett
      Josh Smith
      Serge Ibaka
      DeMarcus Cousins
      Amare Stoudamire
      Al Jefferson
      Greg Monroe
      Paul Millsap
      David West
      Andrea Bargnani
      David Lee
      Anthony Davis
      Carlos Boozer
      Luis Scola
      Kenneth Faried
      Ersan Ilyasova
      Anderson Varejao
      Taj Gibson
      Kris Humphries
      Elton Brand
      Derrick Favors
      Thaddeus Young
      Brandon Bass
      Nick Collison

      C
      Tim Duncan
      Dwight Howard
      Marc Gasol
      Chris Bosh
      Joakim Noah
      Al Horford
      Tyson Chandler
      Brook Lopez

      Roy Hibbert
      Andrew Bynum
      Andrew Bogut
      Nene
      Marcin Gortat
      JaVale McGee
      DeAndre Jordan
      Omer Asik

      • Realist

        Note that I obviously had to use some discretion when assigning a position (eg Duncan is a 5 etc). Take it for what it’s worth.

        Things that may change as of the current rank (since the playoffs) or are just note worthy:
        - Roy Hibbert is not in the top 8 centers, or the top 30 players, but used and abused 4th best center and 18th best player (Chris Bosh) in the ECF. Bosh was quoted as saying he “did not enjoy the matchup” from memory. It’s easy to play the 5 when you’re not playing actual 5′s, I guess.
        - Lebron + Durant = 1+2 SF and 1+2 in the league probably, no dramas there. Does Melo still edge PG for third best SF? Coming off the playoff run, PG could land anywhere from 8-25. Who knows.
        - Point guard is probably the most loaded position, but we knew that. Shooting guard is the opposite, but we knew that too.
        - Power forward (depending somewhat on how you assign positions) is the second most loaded position. David West apparently is about 15th best according to that list. I expect a slight bump though, maybe into the 40′s overall.

        And I agree with poot. Lance should jump 250 spots or so.

        • poot

          awesome, thanks for the breakdown.

          point guard is so loaded. i have no problem with GHill coming in as #19, that is a starting-for-a-good-team caliber NBA point guard. I think he is better than a few guys ahead of him: Nash, Rubio, Lowry, Lin, Dragic… in a straight up swap the Pacers would lose any of those trades (although Nash would be interesting, the team D could cover up his shortcomings well enough to really get something out of his offensive output.) I also would rank Hill above Jennings and Holiday, but that may be bias since I’m not a fan of how either runs the point.

          power forward is crazy though. DWest at 15??? I had to look over the 14 names ahead of him again and again. 14 better than DWest and that doesnt include Duncan Bosh or Horford??
          I think the methodology is inconsistant. Even though they say it’s based on “the overall level of play for each player for the upcoming NBA season,” to me it seems they add other factors. Like Griffin at #1? Obviously they are assuming he is young and developing and will add something to his game. Dirk at #2? Clearly past performance is also part of it, I love Dirk but he’s a few years removed from that high a ranking.

          I think Aldridge and Love are easily the two best.
          Then comes a group with ZBo, DWest, Pau, Blake, and DLee.
          I think Dirk is probably just at the edge of that,
          closely followed by JSmith, Boozer, Scola, Faried, Millsap, then the rest…

          biggest jump i expect to see is Nik Vucevic, but there are a few Pacers who have also earned higher rankings as well

        • poot

          wanted to lob this one your way as well:

          http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/page/ESPN-Forecast-track-record-130415/nba-espn-forecast-proved-most-accurate-prediction-system

          in this article, ESPN claims to have the most accurate prediction system in the world.

          then they diffuse that a bit by saying, well actually they only have the the most accurate prediction system out of the 34 they surveyed.

          however they only name 4 of the 34 “predictors” – - themselves, Hollinger, Vegas and Bovada

          they give no metrics as to how they determine who is “most accurate” and they list no rankings, besides giving themselves #1
          former ESPN analyst Hollinger #2 (which is insulting because he is better than anyone ESPN has left)
          and Vegas #3, i believe, becuase they wanted to give as generic a name to list with themselves and Hollinger as possible

          Here were their predictions last season for the Atlantic:
          http://f.cl.ly/items/0K050t3b2E1G183A2m0n/espnpredictsatlantic.png

          Most accurate… cool story bros.

          • Realist

            lol. ESPN gave the gold medal to ESPN Forecast. Bravo.

  • Realist

    Now less than 20 days (Oct 10) until the Pacers meet the Rockets in Manila, Philippines, for their second pre-season game (after CHI@IND on Oct 5) in the first of the two Asia games.

    Still have no idea obviously who is making the Phillippines/Taiwan trip from either of the two rosters. I guess the only certainty is Jeremy Lin. As I am making the trip up from Oh-Stray-ah, I would very much appreciate it if we could send our A squad, Houston too. Especially that bitch Howard so I can boo the shit out of him. I will understand if the Wests and the Scolas don’t travel (“DNP – Old” as Popovich would say). I’ll be heart broken if Danny boy doesn’t come down, though I do expect Roy/PG/Hill/Lance/OJ to travel no probs (pulp can move baby).

    While a good deal of you lucky Hoosier locals (yeah, there are actually people jealous of you folks living in Indianapolis) might check out the CHI game beforehand, that might be closer to a summer league rotation than a regular season rotation, while the Asia exhibitions, you’d think, would be starters at least starting etc. Either way, I will have a trip report up here, probably in this “thread”, based on 8p9s current pace.

    • poot

      man, you sparked something, two new articles since your 8p9s diss

      anyway, Mahinmi is now on NBARank, dropping 20 spots and 0.12 points down to 271.
      I’m keeping track of who gets ranked ahead of him.

      Alex Len….. fine. even though he’s a “project” and has been injured all summer, he is a #5 pick and is young and going to a bad team. So i can’t say for sure, but he could be better than Mahinmi.

      Now consider this:
      Player A has playoff per36 of 4.1p/7.0r/0.9b
      Player B has regular per36 of 11.3p/7.6r/1.1b
      Player C has regular per36 of 10.8p/7.8r/1.2b
      Player D has playoff per36 of 6.4p/8.1r/1.9b
      Player E has playoff per36 of 7.0p/10.1r/3.1b

      Player A underwent knee surgery in June and is expected to miss 6-9 months (possibly the full season)
      Player B couldn’t get playing time ahead of JJ Hickson and had Robin Lopez brought in to start over him
      Player C is plan B to Bynum’s creaky knees
      Player D had the worst postseason Offensive Rating last year of 57, worse than Kidd or World Peace.
      Player E is Mahinmi

      .

      Note: DeJuan Blair was also ranked ahead of Ian. (I have no idea why ESPN lists the 6’6″ Blair as a Center, he couldn’t guard a guy like Hibbert to save his life. Of the Spurs 20 most frequent lineups – totaling at least 30 minutes together – 2% feature Blair as the center. Bonner was the PF in those situations. Blair’s most common lineup totals 80% of his PT next to Duncan, where Blair is clearly the PF of the two. Therefore I will omit this error from my analysis, as Blair is a PF. If anybody disagrees, I don’t care.)

  • poot

    So I break down #NBARank like this:

    10) All NBA 1st team ……………….Ranks 1-5
    9) All NBA 2nd team ………………..Ranks 6-10
    8) All NBA 3rd team …………………Ranks 11-15
    7) Non-All NBA All Stars ……………Ranks 16-30
    6) Rest of the NBA’s starters ……..Ranks 31-150
    5) Top [2] bench players …………..Ranks 151-210
    4) Solid [next 3] bench players …..Ranks 211-300
    3) Fringe [next 2] bench players …Ranks 301-360
    2) IR mainstays ………………………..Ranks 361-450
    1) [soon to be] Free Agents ……….Ranks 451-500

    So far they have Identified the Pacers as follows:
    Watson – Solid Bench Player
    Mahinmi – Solid/Fringe Bench Player
    S. Hill – IR Mainstay
    Johnson – IR Mainstay
    Sloan – [soon to be] Free Agent

    I’d have to say ESPN is not doing too bad, although I think they greatly undervalued Mahinmi. He’s a rotation player for sure, not the guy who comes off your bench situationally or as the 3rd option at a position.
    With the stacked Pacers 1-10, it’s likely Solo and OJ will get minutes similar to players 13-15 (IR mainstays) on a bad team. So that makes sense. Sloan is the worst of the 3 and may not play at all this year (Note: I hated the Sloan signing at first, but he has a good personality. I think he’s going to be a welcome lockerroom addition and a net positive, despite lack of on-court contribution.)

    Then Watson is a Solid Bench player. Not our top 2 off the bench, but right there after them (Lance and Scola I would imagine.) Fair rating. He probably wouldn’t be top 2 on many team’s benches, but he’s right up there close to it. The only problem I have with his ranking is that it is worse than whatever DJ Augustin will get. I have not heard ANYONE refer to the DJ to CJ move as a downgrade. In fact, I haven’t even heard anyone call it an even transaction, everyone seems to call it an upgrade. Then how in the world is DJ ranked higher? Bizarr-o

    I see Lance and Scola ranked higher than top reserves, as they could start for most teams. Not sure where they will rank Cope. By my system he should be at best #210, but ESPN is already past that, so they rank him as a top bench player. Which is cool.

    I see PG in that 11-15 range,
    Hibbert/West in that 16-30 range,
    Granger/Hill in that 31-150 (I’d say more like 31-75) range

    What do you guys think? How would you rate the players in the NBA? and where do you think your Pacers fit into that?