Like we are currently seeing in the NFL, the 2011 NBA off-season is up in the air with a lockout looming. Free agency could be delayed and completely restructured depending on the new agreement reached by the owners and players. Still, The Sports Bank continues to break down all thirty NBA teams to see what areas they need to address in the off-season. The Indiana Pacers finished with a losing record for five straight seasons, but are poised to make a major splash in the off-season.
By: David Kay
Indiana Pacers (37-45 last season)
’10-’11 Season in Review:
After getting off to a 17-27 start to the season, Larry Bird felt a change was needed and fired Jim O’Brien replacing him with Frank Vogel. Vogel made the most of his opportunity, leading the Pacers to the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Indiana was once again led by Danny Granger who continues to be one of more underrated, well-rounded players in the game. Granger’s scoring numbers did dip a bit, mainly because he took less shots as he had better talent around him and did not need to shoulder the load as much as he did the previous two seasons.
That improved supporting cast included point guard Darren Collison who was solid but not spectacular in his first season with the franchise. Roy Hibbert made strides in his third season in the league while Tyler Hansbrough bounced back nicely after an injury riddled rookie season. Mike Dunleavy still battled injuries but was productive in what likely was his final season in Indy.
Rookie swingman Paul George showed great potential at times during the season as well but also lacked the consistency to be a nightly game changer. If he can continue to develop, he should form a talented, versatile tandem on the wing with Granger.
Now the Pacers enter the off-season in an envious position as one of the few teams under the cap thanks to nearly $33 million in contracts expiring. It is up Bird and the front office to make the most of their flexibility and add to a solid foundation.
2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Roy Hibbert
PF: Tyler Hansbrough
SF: Danny Granger/James Posey
SG: Paul George/Brandon Rush/Dahntay Jones/Lance Stephenson
PG: Darren Collison/A.J. Price
SF-Mike Dunleavy (UFA)
PG-T.J. Ford (UFA)
C-Jeff Foster (UFA)
PF-Josh McRoberts (UFA)
F/C- Solomon Jones (UFA)
’11-’12 Team Salary: Approximately $34.9 million
1. Head Coach:
Despite doing a solid job in taking over for Jim O’Brien, the Pacers have still yet to remove the “interim” tag from Frank Vogel and are actually openly looking at other head coaching candidates. This is surprising since Vogel led Indiana to the playoffs and had his team playing competitively in their opening round series with Chicago. Larry Bird did say that Vogel was the frontrunner for the job but has not been shy about keeping his options open if a more attractive candidate is available.
2. Spend Wisely:
For the first time in quite a few years, the Pacers have the potential to be major players this off-season due to all the contracts coming off their books. This is a weak class of free agents this off-season though and Indiana might be better off sitting on their hands and saving some of that cap space for next summer when bigger names hit the market. The Pacers could also use that cap space to try and swing a trade to land some talent, but whatever they do, the front office needs to learn from their past mistakes and not stack up a bunch of bad contracts.
3. Frontcourt Depth:
With Josh McRoberts, Jeff Foster, and Solomon Jones all free agents, that leaves Indy with just Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough in their frontcourt. The Pacers obviously need to add some depth behind Hibbert and Hansbrough and should ideally be looking for an athletic big who can get up and down the floor and someone who can stretch defenses with his outside shooting if McRoberts is not re-signed.
4. Back-up Point Guard:
T.J. Ford ended up in the Pacers’ doghouse and was used sparingly during the second half of the season which opened up opportunity for A.J. Price to back-up Darren Collison at the point. Price really struggled shooting the ball and is not much of a creator off the bounce so Indiana could use an up-grade behind Collison.
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CHECK OUT THE SPORTS BANK’S 2011 NBA MOCK DRAFT
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.