I could probably copy and paste my recent Milwaukee Bucks post here and you’d get the idea.
Indiana, like Milwaukee, had to deal with major injuries last year and missed the playoffs. Again, like Milwaukee, they’re on the outside looking in when it comes to how most are projecting the East’s 2009-2010 playoff picture. If all goes right, sure, they could sneak in there, but it’s hard to argue that they’ve improved, talent-wise, during the off-season.
Here’s a quick run-down.
Players Added: Tyler Hansbrough, A.J. Price, Dahntay Jones, Earl Watson, Solomon Jones, Luther Head.
Players Lost: Marquis Daniels, Jarrett Jack, Rasho Nesterovic, Stephen Graham, Maceo Baston, Jamaal Tinsley (kinda).
With due respect to Psycho T, I’d argue that for this season Daniels, Jack, and Nesterovic are the three best players on those lists. Unfortunately, they all reside on the “Players Lost” list. Still, you can’t really kill the Pacers for the boring moves they’ve made this summer (besides the Dahntay Jones one – inexcusable). As was the case with Milwaukee, they didn’t have much room to manoeuvre because they’re so close to the luxury tax. With the money Troy Murphy, Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford, and Jeff Foster are making, they likely won’t be in a position to make a big splash next summer, either. This is the result of mistakes of the past, mistakes that other teams should learn from. If you’re going to invest big, long-term money to a player, you better make sure it’s a guy who can be a top player on a successful team. Danny Granger fits the bill fine, but while I like Murphy and Dunleavy, I don’t think they should be your key guys. So, if you’re going to slam the Pacers’ front office for assembling a middle-of-the-road team, that’s fine, but realize those seeds were planted well before this summer.
Let’s talk about positives, though. These guys were a fun bunch to watch last season. They pushed the ball at every opportunity, finishing 3rd in the league in pace. Granger is a great, great young prospect, and I’m not just talking about fantasy basketball here. Roy Hibbert had a much better rookie season than I could have anticipated, shockingly posting a better PER than former Pacer center Jermaine O’Neal was able to muster. Theses guys should improve this year. So should Brandon Rush, who showed a lot of promise when he was given a starting role for the last month of his rookie campaign. T.J. Ford, who no longer has to share minutes with Jarrett Jack, has a great opportunity to bounce back from what was a down year in 2008-2009. Also, the new faces might help them improve their defense from last season. All good things.
Like I said about Milwaukee, it’s not too far-fetched to see the Pacers ending up with the 8th seed. Nobody’s penciling them in now, though, especially with the way some other Eastern teams have improved. With a week until training camp starts, Indiana fans are anxious and can do nothing but hope for the best. If this year’s squad is as fun as last year’s and finishes with a better record, I guess that’s a successful season. If you take a broader look at this franchise, though, there are real problems. Danny Granger, at 26, is approaching his prime – do we really want to wait until the summer of 2011 to see him (potentially) on a winning team? I say no. Mediocrity is annoying.