By Brian Kalchik @BrianKalchik on June 9, 2014
What began as a season to savor for the Indiana Pacers ended up right where it did one year ago: another loss in Eastern Conference Finals defeat to the Miami Heat. The fall was surprising, featuring infighting among the team and some pathetic performances. If the Pacers want to stay atop the Eastern Conference, here are the top five priorities they need to address this offseason.
Say what you will about Lance Stephenson and his on-court antics, but he was instrumental to the Pacers’ success this season on both sides of the floor. As an unrestricted free agent this summer, Stephenson is expected to get some major offers on the open market. Can the Pacers' brass handle Stephenson, or will they risk losing him for absolutely nothing?
George Hill is a quality player who is capable of getting hot at any time, but for the Pacers, he can't be the featured PG. When he played against the likes of John Wall and Jeff Teague in the playoffs, Hill was repeatedly burned by both and became a liability. Hill also isn't a true floor general who will help the Pacers get into good offensive sets. The same can be said for backup C.J. Watson, who is also a score-first point guard.
There’s little doubt that Roy Hibbert is one of the most dynamic centers in the NBA and a great anchor to the Pacers' defense, but he collapsed in the postseason, going scoreless in four games. While some of his struggles can be blamed on the negative influence of mid-season acquisition Andrew Bynum, Hibbert has to be accountable himself and bounce back big-time, or else the Pacers will be even worse.
On paper, the Pacers made several good moves this past season, including acquiring Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson in the offseason. However, the stats said otherwise. The Pacers finished 29th in the league in bench points (24.1 points) last season. Another offensive weapon off the bench could do wonders for a team that consistently struggled to score against elite NBA defenses.
In acts of desperation, the Pacers acquired two team-killers in Andrew Bynum and Evan Turner at mid-season, and they proceeded to kill any chances the Pacers had. The Pacers were among the best teams in the NBA, then fell off the map with Turner and Bynum in the fray. All Bynum did was make Roy Hibbert turn into a shell of himself, and Turner got in fights with Lance Stephenson. Both have to be gone this offseason.
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