NBA Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers: 5 Players Who Must Step Up in 2013-14

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5 Players the Pacers Need to Step Up This Season

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This time last year, the Indiana Pacers were gearing up for a brand new season after taking the Miami Heat to six games in the Eastern Conference semis. This time last year, the Pacers also lost Danny Granger, to injuries, transforming their season into a up and down adventure, culminating in a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series with the Heat. While the Pacers failed to defeat the Heat, they found their new franchise superstar and became a championship contender.

That championship contender status has rolled over to the 2013-14 season and with the offseason moves the Pacers made, they have become even more of a contender. But the rest of the NBA didn’t remain stagnant, so the competition has also raised their game. For the Pacers to remain contenders they will need to rely on certain players to get the job done each and every night.

Luckily the team will not have to rely on just one or two players like a lot of teams; instead they have a group of unselfish guys and any one of them can go off on any given night. Trying to gameplan around an actual “team” is a hard task, which is why the Pacers have a significant edge this season.

The team has to remain healthy and players like Roy Hibbert and Paul George cannot regress this year. Granger doesn’t need to return to 100 percent healthy, but if he can alleviate some of the pressure from George, then his job is complete. Lance Stephenson has to remain a force this year and not fall into a mental lapse if he returns to the bench.

These are just some of the storylines surrounding the Pacers. But what about the five guys who have to step up in order for the Pacers to hold the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the season?

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5. Paul George

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The Indiana Pacers have already said this season is “Championship or Bust” which makes the play of Paul George that much more important. George broke through the rookie wall and supplanted himself as the Pacers franchise player last season in the absence of Danny Granger. He will need to push himself to superstar status if the Pacers expect to be left holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the season.

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4. Roy Hibbert

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Roy Hibbert was the Pacers' defensive anchor last season, something he will have to be again this year. His late-season play was what Pacers fans have been waiting for, for close to five years. Hibbert will need to continue to play like he did in the playoffs if the Pacers want to beat the Miami Heat. It’s safe to say Hibbert won’t need to be a scoring machine if Danny Granger is healthy and the bench is actually improved, but he will still need to pull in double-doubles every night.

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3. Danny Granger

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If it wasn’t for Danny Granger missing most of last season, then Paul George may not have emerged as the Pacers potential franchise, superstar player and Lance Stephenson never would have surprised the NBA world. But Granger is back, albeit not 100 percent healthy, and his presence alone will benefit the rest of the Pacers squad. Adding another scorer will push the Pacers over the hump they faced last year. Granger doesn’t need to get back to perfect health, but if he can return to his old days of dropping 15-to-20 points per game, then the Pacers should have an easy route to the NBA Finals.

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2. Lance Stephenson

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Lance Stephenson burst onto the NBA scene last year in pure Rucker Park fashion, and he did not disappoint. Despite spending his first two NBA seasons on the bench, Stephenson showed night after night that he belonged in the starting lineup, as if he had been there the entire time. This season will bring with it a significant change as Stephenson is sent back to the bench in favor of Danny Granger, but he will be the sixth man and leader of the second unit. There will be a lot of pressure on Stephenson to maintain the same level of play from a year ago and if he can handle the pressure and added responsibilities, then the Pacers will be a fun and scary team to watch.

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1. Luis Scola

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In one of the more shocking offseason moves, the Pacers traded Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green, and their 2014 first-round draft pick for Luis Scola. Scola gives the Pacers bench depth, a backup power forward they have desperately been seeking for a couple years and more veteran leadership. Many compare Scola to David West as they playing styles are similar; do whatever it takes to win the game. Scola doesn’t need to change anything about his playing style, just needs to maintain it. If that happens, then the Pacers will be tough to stop, even when the entire second unit is on the floor.