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Early Predictions: 2011 Indiana Pacers


Written by Nick Huffman

Also seen at Nick from Naptown

My favorite thing to do is make well thought out guesses on future outcomes.  Of course the best time for that is March during the college basketball tournament, heck yea.  You never know when the moment will present itself and you get to say, “Ha.  I  told you so.”

Now the offseason for the Indiana Pacers is here, and I’m starting to make simple mental projections on possible increases of success.  It is fun to play around and sort of simulate what could happen, and then go as far as make claims of what should happen.  After putting a lot of time into analyzing some statistics combined with character evaluation of core players, I put together some things that I strongly believe should happen and some that could happen.

But.  There’s always a ‘but’.  Keep in mind there will be different circumstances due to players coming and going, things that will be determined before or after the draft that is still a while from now.  I’ll set the situation and explain the prediction.  Just fun here.

The Pacers shockingly land the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft and select John Wall from Kentucky.

Had to get this one out of the way.  If the Pacers did indeed magically win the lottery I would start to believe karma is real.  Bird shipped out the bad athletes and never tanked a season for a higher pick… think about it.

John Wall, yea, he’s not bad.

If you just look at what Rajon Rondo brings to the Boston Celtics and Derrick Rose for the Chicago Bulls so young in their careers, you have to get excited about having a player like Wall.

My Prediction:  The Pacers make the playoffs as a serious contender, with a shocking record of 50-32 just one season after posting the opposite record, 32-50.  Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert do the heavy lifting with Wall facilitating the offense and the Pacers win at least their first series.

The Pacers start the year with a similar roster but make a trade near the deadline for a good talent.

The current roster is capable of posting at least a .500 record.  Honestly, I was shocked they weren’t able to win 41 or more games this year.  They can’t get any worse, the core players are young and will only improve with another year of work.  There is really no reason why the Pacers can’t keep pace to slip into the playoffs with the current players.

So, assume the Pacers are hovering around .500 near the trade deadline.  Bird comes across a deal to bring in a player, preferably a guard, and he can use all the expiring contracts (Troy Murphy, Jeff Foster, T.J. Ford, Mike Dunleavy) and manufacture a deal for an All-Star caliber player.  (Chris Paul is a possibility with the idea that New Orleans really likes what they got out of Darren Collison this season.  Collison is no Paul, but he’s much cheaper and just as productive.)

My Prediction: The Pacers gel quick with their new player(s) and keep pace to make the playoffs as the seventh or eight seed.  They put up a good fight with the better teams in the East, coming up short but not without getting a taste of what they can be in 2012.

The Pacers, after few acquisitions, play the entire season with no trades and create a rotation similar to the one used in 2010.

Tyler Hansbrough enters the year with a chip on his shoulder with the doubters on his heels.  What a huge difference that would make, seriously.  Many are quickly claiming it was a big mistake for Bird to get Hansbrough, but those who pay attention to games saw clearly ‘Psycho T’ is an extremely passionate player that can’t be defined by measurables.

Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy know this is their last season as Pacers, and they won’t disappoint.  Murphy is going to continue to play great basketball, he has really increased his game the last two seasons.  Dunleavy will be playing for a new contract elsewhere, so expect to see him perform at a higher level as well.

My Prediction:  The Pacers prove how decent of a team that could have been in 2010.  This time with a clean bill of health, Hansbrough and Dunleavy make major contributions as expected and the Pacers are a deep team in 2011.  Rush finally understands his role, and A.J. Price has a breakout season as a backup.  They make the playoffs but lose in the first round, still in need of a better point guard and compliment to Granger.

Common theme?

Basically I think the Pacers are going to make the playoffs next season, regardless of acquisitions or departures.  I want to believe it will be thanks to better defense or because they learn play the same brand of basketball for the full 48 minutes each game.

A little taste of the playoffs for the first time since 2006 would do some good around the Pacers, especially going into 2012 with all those expiring contracts.

If they don’t make the playoffs?  My prediction skills are trash.