2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers

2011-2012 Record: 42-24, 2nd in Central
Stat Leaders: Danny Granger, 18.7 ppg. Roy Hibbert, 8.8 rpg, 2.0 bpg. Darren Collison, 4.8 apg.

Depth Chart

C - Tyler Hansbrough
PF - David West, Jeff Pendergraph
SF - Danny Granger
SG - Paul George, Dahntay Jones
PG - Darren Collison, Lance Stephenson (TO)

Restricted Free Agents: C Roy Hibbert, G George Hill
Unrestricted Free Agents: G Leandro Barbosa, F Louis Amundson, C Kyrylo Fesenko, G AJ Price

The Good: The Pacers were one of the deepest teams in the league, and that helped them finish with a 42-24 record and advance to the second round of the playoffs. Roy Hibbert has gotten better every season, posting career highs in points, rebounds, blocks, steals and field goal percentage this year. His slow but very steady development has done wonders for the Pacers rebounding and defensive ability. Hibbert is also very durable, missing only three games the last three seasons. Danny Granger's numbers have gone down across the board the last two seasons, but perhaps that has something to do with the Pacers becoming a better and deeper team. He is still a very good, creative scorer who can drop 25 points any given night. He is not a superstar, but is a level below that, a guy who will be in All Star consideration every year. David West brought a great veteran presence to Indiana. He might have been the Pacers best player in the playoffs, providing toughness, rebounding and scoring to the front court. Paul George is still very much a work in progress, as his playoff showing evidenced, but he offers immense potential. Frank Vogel might be the best young coach in the NBA.

The Bad: Like most small market teams, the Pacers just do not have that dominant superstar that can carry the team on his back in the playoffs. Granger puts up the numbers, but he does not have the attitude or drive to be that great player. He likes to let the game come to him. Darren Collison is a weak option at point guard, and Vogel chose to play restricted free agent George Hill over him in the playoffs. The Pacers back court, as a whole, was up and down all season. The Pacers will be better as young guys like George, Collison, Tyler Hansbrough and Hibbert continue to improve, but their youth showed during their playoff loss to the Heat.

Key Free Agents: Indiana will work very hard to resign both restricted free agents Roy Hibbert and George Hill. Hibbert is a near lock to return, as the Pacers will match any offer for their young, improving big man. The Indiana native Hill moved past Darren Collison to the top of the point guard depth chart by the end of the season. He is a better scorer and seemed to be more confident then Collison. Teams will be after him though, and his old squad, the San Antonio Spurs, already have interest.

Projected Cap Space: $22,323,039. The Pacers have done an amazing job of clearing out bad contracts while remaining competitive. New GM Kevin Pritchard and president Donnie Walsh will have some money to work with. At least half of this cap will be tied up in Roy Hibbert once they resign him but they still will have plenty of money to go after some veterans.

Amnesty Possibilities: Indiana is in fantastic financial shape. Danny Granger is making good money for two more years, but he is not terribly overpaid and is the Pacers best player. David West will bring home 10 million in a very friendly contract for Indiana. The rest of the players are still on rookie deals. The Pacers will not be using this clause.

Free Agent Possibilities: The team would like to replace long time backup center Jeff Foster and find a veteran wing player to back up Granger and George. Spencer Hawes could be had for decent money. He is an offensive minded center that would contrast well to fellow big men Hibbert, West and Hansbrough. Matt Barnes is a good defensive presence that could back up both George and Granger on the wing. If the Pacers want to aim higher and find a replacement for Collison, they could go after Goran Dragic or perhaps even Steve Nash. Andre Miller would also be an upgrade, and he would probably sign on with Indiana if they offered him a starting position.

Draft Possibilities: The Pacers will probably draft the best player available to add to their bench. Guys who would be available around this spot could be Fab Melo, Draymond Green, Evan Fournier, Will Barton or Tony Wroten. Out of those guys, they would probably love to add Melo, Green or Fournier. Melo would give the team a strong defensive presence off the bench. He would not have to worry about offense, as they would just want him to rebound and block shots 15 minutes per night. Green is a veteran rookie who is ready to step in and provide 20 minutes per night right away. He can back up both forward positions and offers ball handling and scoring. Fournier is a tall, talented wing player that could stay overseas for a year or two if the Pacers want to save some cash.

Contending, Rebuilding or Status Quo?: The Pacers should remain at status quo. They have a few young players that they have done a great job of developing and the team and players should only get better. I have my doubts that Granger and George are the scorers who can bring the Pacers to a championship level, but they both have serious 20 ppg potential. Hibbert is an emerging big man who looks like he has All Star appearances in the future. The team has the cap space to go after additional players to add to the roster. Frank Vogel is one of the best coaches in the league and has brought the very best out of his team. Depending on the way the East plays out this summer, Indiana could be the second best team in the conference next year. I do not think they have the talent and pieces to compete with Miami or a healthy Chicago, though. Playing in Indianapolis, I do not know how they take that next step. Small market teams are at such a disadvantage.

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Jonathan Carrano

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