2014 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: 56-26)

2013-14 Season Summary:
After finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference, it appeared as if the Indiana Pacers were poised to dethrone the Miami Heat. However, a late-season spiral carried into the playoffs as the Pacers were not playing their best basketball when it counted most, and as a result, were defeated by LeBron and company in the Conference Finals.

Led by one of the league’s blossoming stars in Paul George, Indiana has a few key decisions to make this offseason that affect whether or not the club can remain among the best teams in the NBA. Most notably: what to do with free agents Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner?

2014-15 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Roy Hibbert/Ian Mahinmi

PF: David West/Luis Scola/*Lavoy Allen

SF: Paul George/Chris Copeland/Solomon Hill

SG: *Evan Turner

PG: George Hill/C.J Watson/David Sloan

NBA Free Agents:

*SF-Evan Turner (RFA)

*PF-Lavoy Allen (RFA)

SG-Lance Stephenson (UFA)

C-Andrew Bynum (UFA)

SF-Rasual Butler (UFA)

2014-15 Team Salary: Approximately $65.3 million

NBA Offseason Team Needs:

1. Let Lance Leave?: George isn’t the only young Pacer who made a leap this past season. Lance Stephenson is quickly becoming one of the best all-around two guards in the NBA. The former Cincinnati Bearcat is a free agent and due for a huge pay raise this summer.

Indiana is already over the salary cap, and Stephenson’s price tag might be too much for the the team to afford. If he does head elsewhere in free agency, the Pacers must find a new shooting guard, but they won’t have a ton of flexibility to do that on the open market, which is why they might have to pay more for Stephenson than they are hoping.

2. Sign and Trade Turner: Turner was acquired prior to the trade deadline, and management was hoping that he would be the late-season addition that the Pacers needed to take them over the edge. Instead, Turner never seemed to figure out his role in Indiana. He is a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer worth more than $8.7 million, and I can’t see the Pacers being in a major hurry to sign him to a long-term extension.

Indiana can match any offer sheet Turner signs in the summer, but I wouldn’t expect that to happen either. Rather than just letting him walk, the Pacers should look to move Turner in a sign-and-trade deal that can net them a quality piece or two – possibly a shooting guard if Stephenson does leave.

3. Point Guard: George Hill took a bit of a step back this past season as Indiana’s floor general, while C.J. Watson didn’t exactly wow anyone off the bench. The Pacers should look for an upgrade at the point guard position, especially if Stephenson does not return since he spent a good amount of time with the ball in his hands initiating the offense.

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