The season is still a ways away, but most of the rosters are set, barring the requisite Michael Jordan comeback rumor (just kidding, but only a little). We have an idea where our team stands, but we can't really know unless we discuss everyone else. In that spirit, I'm going to throw up a "competition discussion" thread for each of the other 29 teams over the next couple months or so. We'll go in alphabetical order from A to Z. Today's team: Indiana. Jump to the comments to discuss the Pacers and make a prediction on their record.
Last year's record: 36-46 (Pythagorean record: 38-44)
Offensive Rating: 108.1 17th)
Defensive Rating: 109.2 (19th)
Pace: 96.5 possessions/game (3rd)
Projected starting lineup:
- What can Danny Granger do for an encore?
- How healthy is Mike Dunleavy, and where does he fit in?
- Can the Pacers' new additions actually help them much? Was this really as bad a defensive team as they think?
- TJ Ford lost a lot of time to Jarrett Jack last year and didn't fit in as well as expected. Jack is gone now. What does that mean for Ford? Can he have a better season this time around?
- What can the Pacers expect from their young bigs, Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough?
- Can Troy Murphy duplicate his excellent season?
- How much will the Pacers actually miss Marquis Daniels, Jarrett Jack and Rasho Nesterovic?
- What's the long-term direction here? Indiana signed Jim O'Brien to a contract extension and have a lot of guys on long-term deals, but is there much potential for improvement?
Indiana was a pretty misunderstood team last year. Conventional wisdom makes you think they were an all-offense, no-defense club -- the Pacers were fifth in the league in points scored (105.1), but 26th in the league in points allowed (106.2). Ah, but this analysis ignores pace, and as we all know, pace changes a lot. The Pacers (ha ha) played at the third-fastest pace this season, which inflated both their points scored and points allowed numbers. Once you adjust for pace, you realize that Indiana was mediocre because, in fact, they were mediocre on both sides of the ball, rather than being excellent offensively and awful defensively.
Unfortunately, based on their offseason moves, it doesn't appear like the Pacers themselves even realize this. Defense was the theme of the Pacers' offseason, as they brought in Dahntay Jones to help their wing defense, signed Earl Watson because of his defensive reputation guarding point guards and drafted hard-working Tyler Hansbrough with the 13th pick in the draft. The Jones move in particular was very foolish, because the Pacers just drafted Brandon Rush the year before because of his defensive reputation. The Pacers also let Rasho Nesterovic walk because of the presence of Hansbrough, even though Nesterovic might have been their best interior defender last year. Not smart, Pacers, not smart.
The good news for Indiana is that Mike Dunleavy is probably coming back and Danny Granger is likely to improve. I've always been a fan of Dunleavy's game. He reminds me of Mike Miller, in fact, with his underrated ability to pass and rebound in addition to shooting. Dunleavy only played 18 games last year and should play much more this time around. However, he won't be ready for the season opener, making you wonder when he will come back. Granger, meanwhile, evolved into one of the top players in the East last year and should continue to be outstanding.
Otherwise ... where are the Pacers going to improve? Granger is great, and TJ Ford should likely be a bit better now that there's no competition for his spot. But Jarrett Jack, Marquis Daniels and Nesterovic are gone, and while you can't blame Indiana for not ponying up the cash to re-sign Jack and even Daniels and Nesterovic, those losses are going to sting, and the Pacers' new additions don't fill them. Unless Roy Hibbert, Hansbrough or Brandon Rush take significant steps, Troy Murphy matches his fantastic season and Dunleavy comes back strong and finds his niche, this team isn't going to improve. The chances of all that stuff happening are pretty unlikely.
Jim O'Brien is a good coach and these guys will play hard every night, so they won't be awful. It's tough to play them at times because they wear you out with their fast pace. At the same time, they were basically a 38-win team last year and are now worse when the rest of the East will likely be better.
Mike's Prediction: 33-49, fourth in the Central, 11th in the East.
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