2012 NBA Offseason: Indiana Pacers

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Indiana Pacers (Last Year: 42-24)

2011-12 Season Summary:
The long-term plan the Pacers put into effect a couple of seasons ago is starting to pay off. By building through the draft, not overpaying free agents, and making smart transactions, Indiana has become a relevant team in the Eastern Conference. For the first time since 2004-2005, the Pacers finished with a winning record and advanced past the opening round of the playoffs.

Though not nearly as productive as he was when he averaged almost 26 points per game four years ago, Danny Granger remains the alpha dog for Indiana. His scoring dropped to less than 19 points per game, but that�s because of the better supporting cast surrounding him.

Paul George improved from his rookie season, becoming that all-around threat due to his versatility. Darren Collison was solid, though not spectacular, in running the point, while first-year Pacer George Hill provided a huge lift off the bench, eventually replacing Collison as starter. The team also stole Leandro Barbosa from the Raptors prior to the trade deadline, only giving up a second-round pick for a gifted bench scorer.

Roy Hibbert continues to make strides as he is developing into one of the better centers in the Eastern Conference. The former Georgetown Hoya even made his first All-Star Game appearance this season. Free agent acquisition David West returned from a season-ending injury the prior year and added experience and leadership to this young Pacers team. He was solid on the floor as well, though his numbers didn�t come close to his output when he was with the Hornets.

The frontcourt depth – and overall depth in general – was an area of concern. Tyler Hansbrough was solid off the bench, and Louis Amundson brought solid energy and hustle to the floor. Neither guy possessed a whole lot of size, so the Pacers ran into trouble against bigger, more physical teams. Prior to Barbosa�s arrival, guys like Dahntay Jones, A.J. Price, and Lance Stephenson were seeing significant minutes off the bench but failing to produce at a high level.

2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:

C: *Roy Hibbert

PF: David West/Tyler Hansbrough/Jeff Pendergraph

SF: Danny Granger

SG: Paul George/#Dahntay Jones/$Lance Stephenson

PG: *George Hill/Darren Collison/*A.J. Price

NBA Free Agents:

*C-Roy Hibbert (RFA)

*PG-George Hill (RFA)

*PG-A.J. Price (RFA)

#SG-Dahntay Jones (TO)

$-SG-Lance Stephenson (PO)

SG-Leandro Barbosa (UFA)

F/C-Louis Amundson (UFA)

C-Kyrylo Fesenko (UFA)

2012-13 Team Salary: Approximately $34.8 million

NBA Offseason Needs:

1. Re-sign Roy: Roy Hibbert is a restricted free agent and has certainly outplayed his rookie contract. He is due a long-term extension, and since Indiana has the right to match any offer he signs with another team, expect the Pacers to open up their wallet and re-sign their center; even if it costs the team in excess of $10 million per year.

2. Extend Hill: George Hill is in a similar position to Hibbert in that he is a restricted free agent and due for a pay raise. Since Hill overtook the starting point guard position from Darren Collison in the postseason, Indiana will likely pony up the cash to keep Hill, and then possibly use Collison as trade bait to help upgrades other positions of need. If the Pacers are confident in Collison being their starting point guard, they could let Hill walk or just sign-and-trade him to get some assets in return.

3. Wing Scorer: With Leandro Barbosa being a short-term rental since he is a free agent, the team needs to find a serviceable replacement who can provide the same kind of scoring punch off the bench that Barbosa did. If the price is right, Indiana will consider re-signing the Brazilian, but certainly won�t overpay for his services.

4. Backup Big: Assuming the Pacers extend Hibbert�s contract, they still need to find a serviceable backup center since Louis Amundson is a free agent. Even if the 6�9″ Amundson is re-signed, Indiana could use a true big man to bang inside against larger opponents.

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