Who knows what might’ve happened if Indiana Pacers‘ head coach Frank Vogel left Roy Hibbert on the floor at the end of Game 1? Maybe the Pacers go on to take the series in six or seven games. Then again, maybe not.
What is clear, though, is how the Pacers floundered in the deciding Game 7 against the Miami Heat.
Sure, the Heat had the upper hand from the opening tip of the Eastern Conference finals; that’s the case any time you have LeBron James leading your team. But the Pacers didn’t help themselves at all, as their shaky offense that was commonplace early in the season reared its ugly head at the worst possible time.
That same turnover bug made it difficult for the Pacers to replicate anything more than an average offense all season long — a lack of passers and (for the most part) creative players will do that to you.
That’s the main objective for Kevin Pritchard, Donnie Walsh and Co. this summer. Bringing back free agent David West is item no. 1 on the list, obviously, but roster versatility is right there with it. The majority of this makeover will occur with the team’s harmful, underwhelming reserve unit.
Assuming the Pacers do bring back West at a price most expect him to get this summer, that leaves two “key” bench players that will see their contracts run out: D.J. Augustin and Tyler Hansbrough. It’s difficult to believe that Augustin will be back after his worst season to date, and the fact that he struggled to do anything against Miami’s trapping defense won’t help him in that regard.
As for Hansbrough, he’s a restricted free agent, but the Pacers have been trying to move him via trade for the past two seasons.
That leaves two glaring holes at both the reserve point guard and power forward spots, and not enough salary cap space to make any type of big splash in free agency. Considering that the Pacers led the league in passes completed to fans in floor-level seats (I made that up, but if it was an actual stat, the Pacers would be right there towards the top), I imagine a lead guard that is known for his passing is top priority.
Jose Calderon? Beno Udrih? If they are looking for more of a scoring punch, the Pacers could also look at C.J. Watson, or even turn towards natural 2-guards that can also distribute, like J.J. Redick or O.J. Mayo, and let Lance Stephenson get some time at the point.
However, there is a wildcard in all of this upcoming decision-making that could easily turn the Pacers’ biggest weakness into some what of a strength. Danny Granger, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during a preseason game, could very well be one of the best reserve players in the league if he is willing to accept that role and return to anything close to what he was before the injury.
Granger is more than capable of leading reserve units with his scoring repertoire. His outside shooting, size and ability to get to the line would be a massive boost for a team that got nothing from their bench this past season.
On the other hand, he’ll also be playing under an expiring contract next season, making him intriguing to potential trade partners. The Pacers would certainly listen to those calls this summer too, or at least you would think so anyway.
Just like with the Granger situation, the “ifs” and hypothetical scenarios are in abundance this offseason for the Pacers. It’s certainly a make-or-break time for a team that went toe-to-toe with the Heat despite featuring a roster that was limited to what it could do offensively.
Roster versatility could lift these Pacers to the next step: the NBA Finals.
Brandon Curry is an NBA writer for Rant Sports. Follow Brandon on Twitter @ByBrandonCurry