The Indiana Pacers have a buzz surrounding their franchise that is the highest that it has been since before Reggie Miller retired. They were able to push the Miami Heat to a seven game Eastern Conference Finals series last season, and improved their roster a lot this past off-season. Heading into the 2013 season, many experts are calling the Pacers a favorite from the Eastern Conference to knock off the Heat and reach the NBA Finals.
Indiana’s biggest on the court issues last season was without a doubt their bench performance. They did not have anyone who was capable of coming in and scoring at a consistent rate, and that hurt them all season. The Pacers’ main priority this off-season was to make sure that the bench depth was addressed.
The first big news of the off-season was that Larry Bird was coming back to lead the Pacers’ front office. After taking a year off to deal with health concerns, Bird decided to make a comeback and help the Indiana Pacers make a run at an NBA title. Bird is the main reason for the resurgence of the Pacers, and has built a quality team with quality players on and off the court. There is no doubt that without Larry Bird, the Pacers would not be in the situation that they’re in right now.
Bird made four key moves by re-signing David West, and signing C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland, and also acquiring Luis Scola from the Phoenix Suns. All four of those moves by the Pacers put them in the most competitive place that they’ve been in years. Watson will be a major upgrade at the back-up point guard position over D.J. Augustin from last season. Chris Copeland adds the perimeter shooter that the Pacers were missing all of last year. Luis Scola adds a consistent offensive threat as Indiana’s new back-up power forward, and has a great leadership quality off the bench as well. David West has been the Pacers’ vocal leader the past two seasons, and is a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses on a nightly basis. Indiana also drafted Solomon Hill out of Arizona with the 23rd pick in the NBA Draft. Hill may not be a key piece for the Pacers this season, but he has the potential to become a very good player in the future.
Perhaps the biggest move of the off-season is the recovery from former NBA All-Star Danny Granger. Granger missed all but five games last season due to a knee injury, and had season-ending surgery late last season. Many questions were raised about whether or not Granger would be capable of recovering from the injury, but so far he looks great in training camp. If Danny Granger is able to make a full recovery, he adds a career average of 18.1 points per game to an already dangerous team.
The Pacers pride themselves on being one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Roy Hibbert is a big reason that Indiana is ranked so high defensively. Standing at 7’2′, Hibbert is one of the best rim protectors in the league. He blocked a career-high 2.6 shots per game and made opposing teams think twice about driving to the rim.
The Pacers gave a massive five-year, $90 million contract to Paul George as well this past off-season, and are expecting him to take over as the face of the franchise starting this year. George had a huge season averaging 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game last year. During the Playoffs he upped his averages even more with 19.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game. Larry Bird doesn’t like giving up this kind of big contract, but when he does there is a good reason for it. Paul George is a budding superstar, and will be one of the best players in the NBA for years to come.
The rest of the 2013-14 Pacers roster is filled with talent. Lance Stephenson, George Hill, Ian Mahinmi, and the rest of the group are all capable of stepping up and playing great basketball. Frank Vogel is one of the best up and coming coaches in the league, and learned a lot from the Pacers’ disappointing Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat. This entire Pacers’ franchise has gotten even more experience, and has had an entire off-season to work on what they lacked last year. You can expect a much improve Pacers roster.
Overall this past off-season has been exactly what the doctor ordered for the Indiana Pacers. With an improved bench and the key pieces from last season, things can only get better. The Eastern Conference as a whole did improve, but the Pacers made the moves that will help them compete and stay ahead of the majority of the East. The excitement is back in the city of Indianapolis, and the Pacers certainly have a legitimate chance at making a run at an NBA championship.