2012-13 Indiana Pacers Preview: How Far Can They Go This Season?
2012-13 Indiana Pacers Season Preview: How Far Can They Go This Season?
Team: Indiana Pacers
Last Year’s Record: 42-24
Key Losses: President Larry Bird, PG Darren Collison, SG/SF Dahntay Jones, PF/C Lou Amundson, G Leandro Barbosa
Key Additions: President Donnie Walsh, GM Kevin Pritchard, C Ian Mahinmi, PG D.J. Augustin, C Miles Plumlee, SG/SF Gerald Green, SF Sam Young, G Orlando Johnson
The Indiana Pacers were able to have one heck of a season last year, almost being able to knock off the eventual-champion Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs. Leading 2-1, the Pacers weren’t able to hang on as LeBron James took over for the final three games.
The Pacers saw a lot of changes last season. Star Danny Granger realized he doesn’t have to do much anymore for Indiana in order for them to win, Paul George slowly started emerging into a star, George Hill was found out to be the leader at the point guard position, David West is easily the veteran leader of the team and Roy Hibbert could in fact be the most important asset on this squad.
Ever since the Reggie Miller era ended and the rise of Indianapolis Colts football, the Pacers had their big slump. They were unable to make the playoffs and they didn’t get any support whatsoever from their fans, which led to their huge dip in attendance.
The Pacers were able to make the playoffs in the 2010-11 season, but barely and they got nearly-swept by the Chicago Bulls in the first round. This year has been different, as they showed that they can be potential title-contenders.
With a new season ahead and a revamped squad, what is the outlook for this unique squad this season?
Significant Moves During the Off-Season
The Pacers saw a lot of moves coming towards them this off-season.
It first started off with bringing back Donnie Walsh as the team’s president after it was announced that Larry Bird would step down. Kevin Pritchard, who was with the team for much of last season, was named as the team’s official general manager.
Indiana also revamped Bankers Life Fieldhouse to draw more fans in the building. With the attendance growing rapidly now, Indiana will accommodate their fans as they installed a huge, 50-foot HD television screen in the arena, which is like the NBA-equivalent of the what the NFL's Dallas Cowboys have in their stadium.
Regarding moves, the Pacers were able to ship off Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones away to the Dallas Mavericks to acquire center Ian Mahinmi. Mahinmi is the backup center the Pacers have long been looking for, and despite drafting Miles Plumlee, Mahinmi is more experienced and can provide more help right away.
Indiana also signed forward Sam Young, who is the backup small forward the Pacers have long been looking for since Mike Dunleavy. With Granger obviously needing some rest, Young can step in right away and provide a lot of solid defense when needed.
The Pacers also signed Gerald Green, a 6-8 athletic swingman who will fill in at shooting guard and at small forward on some occasions. He’s like the experienced version of Paul George, as both look to put on a show with their amazing dunking skills. Green has proven himself being a solid role player, like he did with the Brooklyn Nets last season, and he makes the Pacers’ bench a lot stronger for this season.
Along with Plumlee in the draft, the Pacers also drafted Orlando Johnson in the second round, who was considered a steal. Johnson has proven himself an amazing shooter and he’s pretty big and strong for his size, giving him a big advantage when driving down the lane against most guards in the league.
One of the best signings had to be D.J. Augustin. Coming from the Charlotte Bobcats, Augustin looks to bring more for a winning team. He did pretty good back in Charlotte and started on some occasions until Kemba Walker came in. Augustin is a good shooter and has a great knack for passing the ball. He is the backup point guard needed to fill in for Collison after he left. He will be solid behind George Hill in the line-up.
Adding to it, the Pacers also re-signed Hill to a five-year, $40 million extension, showing how much they are committed to him. They also did the same to Roy Hibbert, giving him a four-year, $58 million extension. What Indiana hopes for is that they both don’t change after their new, big paydays, kind of like what has happened in the past before.
The Pacers’ biggest strength is their chemistry. There’s not a lot of teams that have been successful when working with a bunch of high-quality players, none of them exactly being a major superstar like LeBron or Kevin Durant.
Indiana has about 6-8 players who can be starters on 90-percent of the league’s teams. Instead, all work together and are incredibly unselfish, thanks to the rotation head coach Frank Vogel has built.
The chemistry is what led the Pacers to giving the Heat a scare in the playoffs last season. It is what led them to third in the Eastern Conference. Everyone works so well together and it’s hard to stop when you have about seven All-Star caliber players that keep coming at you.
This is what leads to another strength: their bench. Indiana, by far, has one of the top three benches in the league. The second unit already includes players like Augustin, Green, Young, Tyler Hansbrough and Mahinmi. Not to mention young products in Lance Stephenson, Plumlee and Johnson trailing behind, it’s hard to stop this team when they’re always energized.
The biggest weakness pretty much correlates to the strength. As far as chemistry goes, there’s always those times when the players’ ego kicks in. That was shown sometimes last season, which led some of their losses.
Like against the Heat in the playoffs, there were times when players wanted to make things happen by themselves all of a sudden, such as like Granger and George. Both swingmans had that in them last year and that’s what led to losses.
Granger has always been seen as the team’s go-to-guy since he first emerged on the scene. That is what led to him scoring nearly 26 points per game in the 2008-09 season and continually to do so after that. However, his numbers have dipped each year since 2008 and he’s always had a slump at the start of the season, which leads him to frustration and sometimes just jacking up shots.
If Granger can tame that now, knowing that he doing this “hero-ball” thing now isn’t needed anymore, Indiana should be in good shape. However, the same could go for George, who has done that sometimes done that last season, as he is one of the players that many believe could turn into a major superstar.
Another big weakness for the Pacers was getting to their big men down low. Indiana has one of the best backcourts in the league with a tandem of David West and Hibbert. Both had a great advantage over the Heat in the playoffs last season because Chris Bosh was out, but Indiana was unable to take much advantage of it.
In that series, they jacked up a lot of three-point shots and jumpers and never looked down towards Hibbert and West much. For much of the playoffs, West was the anchor of the offense, scoring the majority of the points. He could not be stopped. But then, Indiana would make questionable decisions and not pass to him anymore, leading to the opponent coming back. The same went for Hibbert.
If Indiana is able to get their egos out of the way and are able to find their big men down low much more often this season, it can go a long way. There’s not many players left like Hibbert and West anymore with the game turning faster and hybrid. It’s best to take advantage of these rare tools.
Obviously, the main goal for the Pacers is to win it all. However, some main things to focus on are to get the team chemistry rolling and fast.
There are some new players in and they can adjust easily to how the Pacers play. Being an overall better team is a great start, and so far, that is what it’s going to look like. With a full training camp together finally, their chemistry should be at its highest.
The Pacers should also focus on developing their young players like Paul George and Lance Stephenson. George is a great product for this team and that can emerge into a major star this year. Stephenson was supposed to be a superstar straight out of a high school, but so far, he’s looked like a bum. Working with these two could go a long way this year.
Indiana should also work more with their post game and defense. Getting the ball more down low is a big key for their success and when West and Hibbert get hot; it’s hard to stop them. Defense should also play a factor, but not only in the post. Indiana had some problems with defense sometimes against the Heat, and they will need more help with that come this season.
Also, I’ve talked about the Heat a lot in this, and that is the biggest goal for Indiana this season: BEAT THE HEAT! Indiana came awfully close and it must have been a major heartbreaker blowing one of the biggest upsets in sports history away.
Indiana knows if they would have won that game, it looked like they would be heading to the Finals, with enough motivation and firepower to get past the Boston Celtics in the next round. They had that chance and they don’t want to lose it this time.
They are hungry for Miami and they want to stop them, though it will be tough.
Are the Pacers Title Contenders?
So the real question is: Are the Pacers title contenders? And the answer is yes, they are. The Pacers came oh-so close to stopping the Heat and who knows where they could have been had they have beaten them?
The Pacers have a lot of advantages entering this year, having a good shot at claiming the second, or even the top spot in the Eastern Conference. With how uniquely this team is built, it’s interesting how they work, but they get the job done.
They are a strong team with one of the strongest-working chemistries in the league. The biggest question for them is how far they can make it?
The farthest I see them this year is probably the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat. That’s what I see for them. They have a good shot at winning the Central Divison, with Derrick Rose out for a good chunk of the Bulls’ season this year.
I can see Indiana making the Finals if they are able to stop LeBron, but can they? It’s possible, but it will be one of the hardest things ever.
We’ll see how they do this year, but for me: here’s what I see for them:
58-24, First in Central Divison, Second in Eastern Conference