Pacers Slowly Building for Future but Should Struggle this Season

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Pacers basketball

David Kay’s NBA season previews heads to Hoosierland where the Indiana Pacers are coming off their worst season in more than twenty years.  The future is looking up for Indy though there likely will not be a major improvement this season.

Indiana Pacers (32-50 in 2009-2010)

2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Roy Hibbert/Jeff Foster/Solomon Jones/Magnum Rolle
PF: Tyler Hansbrough/Josh McRoberts
SF: Danny Granger/James Posey/Paul George
SG: Mike Dunleavy/Brandon Rush/Dahntay Jones/Lance Stephenson
PG: Darren Collison/T.J. Ford/A.J. Price
Head Coach: Jim O’Brien (4th season)

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $64.4 million

Offseason Moves:
-Pacers acquire PG Darren Collison and SF James Posey in four-way trade that sends PF Troy Murphy to Nets
-Pacers acquire C Magnum Rolle from Thunder for PF Ryan Reid and cash considerations

Off-Season Grade: C+

It was a fairly quiet off-season in Indy which actually should benefit the team in the long-run.  The Pacers spent all summer hunting for a point guard of the future since that position has been in limbo for the past several seasons.  Larry Bird practiced patience in doing so but finally ended up getting his guy in Darren Collison.  It came at a fairly steep price as the Pacers had to deal starting power forward Tory Murphy while also taking on James Posey and his remaining two-year, $13.4 million deal.

Paul George was an intriguing pick in the draft as he plays the same position as Indy’s best player, Danny Granger.  I would have preferred seeing the Pacers draft an athletic big man which the team sorely lacks and could use even more now with Murphy getting traded.  I think if Lance Stephenson ever matures as a person, he could be a tremendous steal as a second round pick.

2010-2011 Outlook:
The Pacers have not made a playoff appearance in the past four seasons, and more than likely, that streak will continue this season.  While the team improved perhaps their biggest Achilles heel by adding Collison at the point and have a true star in Granger, there are too many other questions on the roster.

Most notably, who will replace Murphy’s productivity up-front?  Roy Hibbert and Jeff Foster are two big bodies who can play the five.  Tyler Hansbrough provides energy, hustle, and all those other attributes that made Dick Vitale swoon over him as a college player but he was unable to stay healthy enough last season to be a regular contributor.  He will likely assume the starting power forward position.  Outside of those three, the other options include Josh McRoberts, Solomon Jones, and Magnum Rolle who should not be seeing big minutes for any playoff-caliber team.

Danny GrangerThere is also the question of who will start alongside Collison and Granger on the wing.  Mike Dunleavy will likely begin the season in that position but needs to rebound from a 2009-2010 season filled with struggles.  Brandon Rush, Dahntay Jones, and Posey will all battle for minutes as well while George and Stephenson could be wild cards but are probably going to be groomed for the future.

Looking Ahead to Next Summer:
The Pacers will be major players next off-season.  With Ford, Dunleavy, Foster, and FINALLY Jamaal Tinsley’s contracts coming off the books, Indiana will have at least $20 million to work with in free agency.  Indianapolis is by no means a hot spot for marquee players to sign, but with some good young talent in house, the Pacers might be able to land some quality players.  There is also the possibility of management trying to turn those expiring contracts into a star player via trade before the February trade deadline.

NBA Power Ranking: 22nd

Other NBA Previews:
#23 Golden State Warriors
#24 Washington Wizards
#25 Detroit Pistons
#26 New Jersey Nets
#27 Sacramento Kings
#28 Cleveland Cavaliers
#29 Toronto Raptors
#30 Minnesota Timberwolves

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