For the past two seasons, the Indiana Pacers have made a name for themselves with tough-nosed defense. They’ve become a legitimate threat to the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls; two of the contenders to represent the Eastern Conference in this year’s NBA Finals.
At the start of 2013, the Pacers have loaded up in a sense. They spent the offseason trying to strengthen their bench, thinking it will give them a better shot of contending. Gone is Gerald Green, D.J. Augustin and Tyler Hansbrough, and the new bench consists of Chris Copeland, C.J. Watson and either Danny Granger or Lance Stephenson when Granger is healthy. But the real prize, and the guy that might push them closer to the Heat, is Luis Scola.
The Pacers gave up a lot to acquire Scola; Miles Plumlee, Green and a lottery-protected first-round pick that they will all but certainly lose to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Scola. The Suns are looking to rebuild and Scola is a good fit for the Pacers. He is the perfect complement to starting power forward David West. The latter provides toughness and tenacity on both ends of the floor and brings a physical game that fits the Pacers’ style. Scola, on the other hand, brings a crafty offensive game and versatility in the frontcourt.
Scola’s role in Indiana will strictly be to score. The Pacers’ defense is already solid, as evident by holding each of their first two opponents this season to 90 points or fewer. But a bench with Scola and Granger or Stephenson can hopefully provide enough offense to outperform the second units of Miami and Chicago.
So far in two games this season, Scola has averaged a modest seven points. But he is 7-for-11 so far from the field in only 38 minutes of action. He hasn’t been relied upon heavily yet, but West and Roy Hibbert have struggled in the first two games, so expect Scola to be a heavy contributor as the top-scoring option off the bench; especially while Granger rehabs his latest injury.
Despite everything the team has to offer, the Pacers continually fly under the radar. Everyone is saying Heat and Bulls for the top-two spots in the East. Maybe the addition of Scola for the Pacers will change that.