2012-13 Season Summary:
We learned a few things about the Pacers this year. With their current core, they are capable of competing for an NBA Championship. Paul George is on pace to become a superstar. Roy Hibbert was well worth the max contract he received last summer.
It's rather impressive that Indiana was able to take the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals even with the Pacers' supposed star player Danny Granger sidelined for pretty much the entire season due to a knee injury. With Granger in street clothes for all but five games, George took the torch and had a breakout season earning the NBA's Most Improved Player Award and developing into one of the most versatile and talented young players in the league.
Hibbert took a step forward in becoming a monster presence in the paint on both ends of the floor, but particularly defensively. What he might have lacked on the offensive end, David West (aka king of the 15-foot jumper) picked up the slack, bouncing back from a rather lackluster 2011-12 campaign. The bench play up front was marginal. Tyler Hansbrough and Ian Mahinmi brought energy and toughness, but not a whole lot of skill, while first-round draft pick Miles Plumlee (I gave an F- to that pick on draft night) was pretty much useless.
Fresh off his contract extension, George Hill posted career-highs in both points and assists to become the true floor leader of the team. With Granger out of the lineup, Frank Vogel moved George to the three and turned to Lance Stephenson to take over as starting shooting guard. "Born Ready" seemed to figure out his role with the team, adding toughness and a defensive aggressiveness on the wing. Once again, the reserve play was average at best as free agent acquisitions D.J. Augustin and Gerald Green did nothing to amaze.
2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Roy Hibbert/Ian Mahinmi/Miles Plumlee
PF: *Tyler Hansbrough/*Jeff Pendergraph
SF: Danny Granger/Gerald Green
SG: Paul George/^Lance Stephenson/Orlando Johnson
PG: George Hill/*Ben Hansbrough
NBA Free Agents:
PF-David West (UFA)
PG-D.J. Augustin (UFA)
G/F-Sam Young (UFA)
^SG-Lance Stephenson (TO)
*PF-Tyler Hansbrough (RFA)
*PF-Jeff Pendergraph (RFA)
*PG-Ben Hansbrough (RFA)
2013-14 Team Salary: Approximately $50 million
NBA Offseason Team Needs:
1. Power Forward:
Priority No. 1 for the Indiana Pacers this offseason should be re-signing David West. With him being an unrestricted free agent and Tyler Hansbrough a restricted free agent, Indiana has a hole at power forward. Lacking the cap space to really make a run at any upgrade in free agency, West is a terrific fit due to his experience, toughness, and ability to hit mid-range jumpers. It might once again cost the Pacers in the ballpark of 10 million dollars per year to keep him but that wouldn't be a terrible extension.
2. Shop Granger:
Granger's trade value took a major hit this past season due to his problematic knee injury. If West ends up walking, Indiana might be forced to trade Granger for 50 cents on the dollar in hopes of finding a replacement at the four. After the way George and Stephenson played this past postseason, Granger has become expendable, plus he entering the final year of his contract.
3. Backup Point Guard:
D.J. Augustin plugged this hole for a year, but really didn't perform well enough to make the Pacers want to re-up him to a multi-year deal. If they choose to let him walk, finding a backup to George Hill will become a priority for Indiana once it figures out its power forward position.