Top 5 Players To Watch For Indiana Pacers
Watch These 5 Indiana Pacers Players
The Indiana Pacers finished last season just a few points away from an NBA Finals appearance. After taking the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, the team’s front office made some smart moves to ensure they go even further this season. The Pacers’ success this year will depend on the play of their key players and new additions.
One of the Pacers’ weakest points last year was their bench, and general manager Kevin Pritchard tried to fix that by bringing in Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and CJ Watson. Pacers’ star Danny Granger also returns this year after missing most of last season with injuries. Granger will likely come off the bench too after the emergence of Paul George, since neither of them would be well-suited to playing shooting guard.
The addition of these new players should help the Pacers greatly, but their success still largely depends on the play of George and center Roy Hibbert. Both of their reputations shot up last year after their amazing play in the playoffs. After breaking out, they’ll need to prove they can keep up that pace or improve this season if the Pacers want to be contenders for years to come.
The top five players to watch for the Indiana Pacers are some of their best players, but also some bench players with important roles. These players’ play will determine whether the Pacers will be champions or just another team in the Heat’s path to a three-peat.
5. Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert played like an All-Star during the playoffs last year. During the regular season, he has never really reached that level. Hibbert’s production actually fell off a bit last year, when he averaged 11.9 points on 44.8 percent shooting and 8.3 rebounds per game. In 2011-12, he averaged 12.8 points on 49.7 percent shooting and 8.8 rebounds per game. Hibbert did improve in one important category, though. He blocked 2.6 shots per game last year, a career high for Hibbert. Hibbert’s defense carried into the playoffs where he blocked 37 shots and caused huge problems for the elite offenses the Pacers faced. If Hibbert can build on his progress, he can be a top-five two-way center.
4. Chris Copeland
When 28-year-old rookie Chris Copeland started getting heavy minutes late last season for the New York Knicks, he was impressive. Copeland fit extremely well into the Knicks’ three point heavy offense, and joined in the shooting, tossing up 60 threes point attempts in 13 games as a starter. Luckily for the Knicks, he was on and hit 42.1 percent of his shots from distance last season, earning himself a couple of 30 + point games last April.
Three-point shooting was another of the Pacers’ weaknesses last year, and Copeland will help with that, but with his poor defense, it’s doubtful the Pacers will play him anywhere near as much as the Knicks did late last season. Still, having a lights out shooter on the bench will be huge for the Pacers and their championship chances.
3. Luis Scola
Scola is quickly aging, and he’s no longer the near double-double guy he was for the Houston Rockets a few seasons ago. Still he should find a near-perfect role on the Pacers’ bench playing fewer minutes against weaker competition in second unit forwards. Scola is still very effective in the post, and he’s a good shooter, so the Pacers should be very happy with this acquisition. Like Copeland, Scola is a weak defender, but consider how good the rest of the Pacers’ defense, they should be able to mask his flaws and Scola should be able to play around 20 minutes per game.
2. Danny Granger
After spending his prime as the Pacers’ best player, Danny Granger will return from injury to a bench role. He doesn’t seem to upset by it, and he should still play plenty of minutes, but it will be interesting to see how the Pacers use him. They played Granger and Paul George together a lot in Granger’s last healthy season, and they should share the floor fairly often again this year, but many question how long Granger will stick around.
Granger has featured heavily in trade rumors this offseason, and whether he stays or goes will depend on his play and how effective he is being a second or even third scoring option. Unless his injury has severely affected him, Granger is still good enough for a starting role somewhere and the Pacers may see the surplus they have in All-Star caliber small forwards as a luxury they can’t afford.
1. Paul George
Paul George broke out in a major way last year, causing many to believe he is the newest NBA superstar. George had one of the best all-around seasons, showing his skills at scoring, passing, rebounding, defending, and shooting threes. George did have several very rough patches last season, though, playing exceptionally badly through November, culminating in a zero point, 0-7 shooting performance against the Golden State Warriors on December 1st. George was able to turn it around quickly, though, and had one of his best games of the year against the Chicago Bulls just three days later. That Bulls game was a turning point for George, and he was elite for most of the season after that.
It’s easy to chalk George’s poor performance early on his youth, and hopefully Pacers fans will see George perform consistently throughout this season. If George can maintain last year’s production, the Pacers are in a good spot. If he can improve, they’ll be downright scary.