Indiana Pacers need better bench play to take next step



The Sports Bank will be counting down to the opening tip of the 2012-13 NBA season with team by team previews starting with the worst and working our way to the title contenders.  There is no lockout this time around so let’s get going.

Since the Chicago Bulls are without Derrick Rose, the Indiana Pacers become the new team to beat in the Central Division.  Indy made a major leap last season but do they have enough to reach the next level in the Eastern Conference?

2011-12: 42-24, 3rd in Eastern Conference
Predicted EC Finish: 5th

Projected Depth Chart:
C: Roy Hibbert/Ian Mahinmi/Miles Plumlee
PF: David West/Tyler Hansbrough/Jeff Pendergraph
SF: Danny Granger/Sam Young
SG: Paul George/Gerald Green/Lance Stephenson/Orlando Johnson
PG: George Hill/D.J. Augustin/Sundiata Gaines/Blake Ahearn

Indiana’s off-season was: confusing.  When Larry Bird was running the show, the Pacers did it the right way by building through the draft and make smart decisions in free agency.  New management had their hand forced when they matched the Blazers’ max offer for big man Roy Hibbert.  Four years, $58 million is a lot to pay Hibbert in my opinion but Indy didn’t have much of an option.  They also re-signed George Hill to a five-year, $40 million deal which again, I feel is on the high side.

They gave up too much to acquire an at best, average NBA center in Ian Mahinmi.  This deal came days after Indiana made the dumbest pick in the NBA Draft by reaching for Miles Plumlee late in the first round.  They brought in D.J. Augustin and Gerald Green to add depth in the backcourt but is still felt like an “un-Pacer-like” off-season.

2012-2013 will be a success if: the bench play improves.  Depth and skill from the second unit was a weakness last season and Indiana tried to upgrade their reserves in the off-season.  Frank Vogel knows what he will get from his starting line-up but the question mark comes with the likes of Tyler Hansbrough, Mahinmi, Augustin, Green, and whoever else earns minutes.

2012-2013 will be a disappointment if: one of the stars gets dinged up.  Simply stated, the Pacers cannot afford to lose Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, or Paul George for an extended amount of time.  Hill and David West are more replaceable since Indy has decent backups for those two guys but there just is not enough talent on the wing and in the middle to make up for what Indiana would lose if Granger, George, or Hibbert went down.

Looking ahead to next summer: Power forward will be the position to keep an eye on as David West becomes a free agent and Tyler Hansbrough will be a restricted free agent.  Hansbrough could be extended during the season and while providing some valuable leadership, West must be more effective to get an extension that would net him the $10 million per year he is currently making.  Augustin’s deal was only for one year as well so point guard will be another spot to keep an eye on.

#6 Philadelphia 76ers
#7 Chicago Bulls
#8 Toronto Raptors
#9 Milwaukee Bucks
#10 Detroit Pistons
#11 Atlanta Hawks
#12 Cleveland Cavaliers
#13 Orlando Magic
#14 Washington Wizards
#15 Charlotte Bobcats

David Kay is a senior feature NBA DraftNBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)

You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.

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