Pacers show faith in Coach Vogel after he signed contract extension this summer…
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The Indiana Pacers topped the Eastern Conference last season, but injuries and trades have ensured that they will not be able to repeat their success this year.
With expectations rising after success in previous years, the Pacers delivered in the regular-season by topping the Eastern Conference and ending with a 56-26 record.
They did threaten to surrender their top seed on numerous occasions, but the Miami Heat were unable to take advantage and finished two games back.
In the post-season, Indiana struggled throughout with key pieces going missing particularly on offense. However, to their credit, they battled past both the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards in order to set up a Conference Finals clash against old rivals the Heat. However, the script was a familiar one as LeBron James and Co. advanced to the NBA Finals.
What can the Pacers realistically aim for without George?
Coach Frank Vogel prides this team on their defensive ability and they held teams to 92.3 points per game on average last season which was the second best in the league behind the Chicago Bulls.
Naturally, expect that same work ethic and suffocating defense to be a hallmark of the Pacers’ play this season, but ultimately their failing will come on the offensive end.
With Lance Stephenson moving to the Charlotte Hornets, Indiana have lost a temperamental yet talented piece of their roster. The 24-year-old was criticised for his attitude at times, but his ability to provide an offensive spark was a key part of the franchise’s success in the last two years.
In addition, Paul George is likely to be sidelined for the entire year after suffering a broken leg during an exhibition game with Team USA this summer ahead of the FIBA World Cup. While there are suggestions that he could make a return near the end of the regular season, neither the player nor the team will want to risk him until he is fully cleared by the medical staff.
However, you have to question the sense is playing George at that stage if there is nothing to play for, as he will take time to work off the rust and gain confidence in his game and leg in competitive action.
Nevertheless, the Pacers still have key pieces that they can rely on this year in the form of David West, George Hill and Roy Hibbert. West’s all-round game and leadership will be critical, while Hill’s hustle and ability to go-off in terms of scoring will also be fundamental.
There are question marks over Hibbert after his dismal form at the end of last season, but the giant center will still be a defensive rock and will potentially have the ball in his hands a lot more this year which will in turn give him confidence and and the type of responsibility he has asked for previously.
CJ Watson, Luis Scola and Rodney Stuckey are all solid players to come off the bench, but in my opinion, there isn’t enough there for the Pacers to compete at the top end of the Conference.
The race for top spot will be between the Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, and so the Pacers fall into a smaller group of teams looking to secure 3-8 in the East. The Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat appear to have more talent and depth and so Indiana will be competing with an even small bunch for the 6-8.
The loss of Stephenson and George for the year will be too much for Vogel to cover up offensively, and while they will make life difficult for opponents, they haven’t got enough scoring to win games consistently.
The Hornets, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks will be the direct rivals this year, and unfortunately for Indiana with their lack of playmaking and scoring, this is the year they drop out of playoff contention.
PG: George Hill
SG: Rodney Stuckey
SF: CJ Miles
PF: David West
C: Roy Hibbert
Sixth Man: Luis Scola