By the end of the Pacers’ run this year, everyone was happy. Enough was enough. No one wants to hear constant drama from a team that isn’t title worthy, and after the All Star break this year, it was clear that the Pacers were not title-worthy. It looks like their series last May with the Heat that went seven games was the apex, rather than the beginning, of their run. Most teams would be happy with a trip to the Conference Finals, but the Pacers geared their entire season to dethroning the Heat. The Pacers look like they’re in need of a major shakeup, crazy as it sounds. Rarely does a 56 win team need to make to significant moves, but the Pacers limped through the playoffs and have a roster filled with question marks.
Beginning with their bench, the Pacers have few quality guys. They’ve made some poor moves in the past years that have left them with a marginal bench. Trading a first round pick and two players, Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee, who turned out to be major contributors on a 47 win team, for Luis Scola proved to be costly. Further, dealing team leader Danny Granger for Evan Turner (and basically Andrew Bynum) was perhaps the worst move they made. And letting Darren Collison and D.J. Augustin leave to play large roles on other playoff teams left the Pacers with a bench consisting of C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland, Scola, among others. The Pacers need to draft guys who can contribute immediately.
In the starting lineup, one considered among the best in basketball, there are suddenly questions at nearly every position. Almost unanimously, it is agreed that George Hill is not a championship caliber starting point guard. Everyone thought this last year though. But the most talked about player, Lance Stephenson, had a coming-out season that nearly catapulted him to the All Star game this year. The problem though, is Stephenson is a selfish player with questionable decision-making ability and character. He has immense physical talent, but as a free agent this summer, the Pacers have to decide whether his antics are worth the price. He is still only 23 years old and has a bright future, but the Pacers fought chemistry issues all season long, and while no one knows exactly who the culprit was, it’s safe to bet that Stephenson didn’t exactly provide a calming presence in the locker room. The team’s superstar Paul George played at an MVP level in the first half of the year, but tailed off in a major way to finish the year. In many ways his (as well as Roy Hibbert’s) production level mirrored that of the team’s. George had some big games in the playoffs and was unfairly criticized at times, but he was also exposed as mostly just a jump shooter on offense. In other words, he’s not a true superstar. He doesn’t get to the foul line like a traditional superstar should. By the end of the season, most people considered George to be along the lines of a Scottie Pippen, rather than a Michael Jordan. In other words, translating that way-too-frequently-and-incorrectly used comparison, he’s a very talented all-star caliber defender who is competent on offense, but not a go-to guy.
In the frontcourt, David West had a solid season. He did pretty much what most expected: provided a scoring punch offensively and was the closest thing to a leader that the Pacers had. But at center, Roy Hibbert presents a dilemma to the Pacer front office. Hibbert was routinely eviscerated on social media at the end of the year, due to his frequent double-doughnut games of 0 points and 0 rebounds. The problem is that he was the key to their success against the Heat, with their entire defense geared around his shot-blocking and shot-altering defense in the paint. Trading Hibbert seems possible, even likely, but he’s paid $15 million, and he has a player option after next year. Who wants a possibly washed-up (or just bad, or overrated!), overpaid center on a one year rental? It’ll be tough to get too much value in return for Hibbert.
The most likely scenarios if the Pacers shake things up revolve around Stephenson and Hibbert. It would not be surprising if one or both guys was playing in a different uniform next year. The Pacers could just march on with their currently constructed roster, but after the team’s highly publicized problems, a change is for the better.