4) Indiana Pacers 49-32 in the 2012-2013 season. 3rd in the East. 1st in the Central.
The Pacers were one of the biggest surprises last year when they nearly knocked out the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Paul George went from good role player to potential superstar with his performance against LeBron James, playing him step-for-step until the Pacers fell short in Game 7. This team also didn't have one of their best players, Danny Granger during the entire playoffs. This team has a lot of potential to do a lot of damage this year, from Granger and George, to their front court pair of Roy Hibbert and David West. The pressure will be on this team to repeat what they were able to accomplish last year, and possibly even expectations to win a title. Good times in Indiana.
Acquired: Luis Scola, C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland
Drafted: Soloman Hill (#23)
Lost: D.J. Augustin, Tyler Hansbrough, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, Jeff Pendergraph
Starters: George Hill (PG), Lance Stephenson (SG), Paul George (SF), David West (PF), Roy Hibbert (C)
Bench: Danny Granger (SF), Luis Scola (PF), C.J. Watson (PG), Chris Copeland (SF), Ian Mahinmi (C)
Up: Paul George - What a spectacular year Paul George had. The #10 pick in the 2010 draft went bananas last year when Granger went down, and took the NBA by storm. From the first series against the Hawks to the Conference Finals against the Heat, Paul George was a force to be reckoned with. Because of David West and Roy Hibbert causing mayhem inside, George got a lot of open looks and open lanes. Now this year, opponents will be scheming their defense around him. We'll see how he adjusts.
Down: Luis Scola - The roller-coaster career for Scola has been stuck on a low note as he joins the Pacers. Scola was one of the solid starters in Houston from 2008 to 2012. However after the 2010-2011 season, his stats have started to drop along with his minutes, including when he was traded to the Suns in their nightmare 2012-2013 season. Now coming off the bench for one of the first times in his career, it will be a new experience for Scola, but hopefully a better one for him to succeed.
X-Factor: Roy Hibbert - While Paul George got most of the attention for becoming the superstar of the team, Hibbert had once again a very solid season at the center. He caused a huge problem for the Miami Heat in their series, and continues to be a tough player to guard at his 7'2" frame. Now going into a year where Indiana fans believe they could be title contenders, Hibbert will need to be big once again, figuratively and literally, for the Pacers to reach their goals.
Question to Ponder...Is Paul George going to be a star SG or SF?
This question looks at the future of this team. Paul George is the true superstar of the team, however before this year he was the Shooting Guard for Indiana. With Granger's injury, George was asked to fill in the Small Forward spot, which he thrived at. Now with Granger coming back, the question for the Pacers is how they are going to play their superstar. They could put him at the Shooting Guard and play him next to Granger, yet maybe the reason he sparked last year was the move to the Small Forward position. Yet if you move him to SF, how do you get Danny Granger into the game? If you can't get him in the game, do you consider trading Granger for future assets? It's a very difficult long-term problem for Indiana, but one they might want to establish soon to help develop Paul George more efficiently.
Bold Prediction for the Indiana Pacers: David West will have the best statistical year of his career!
It's West's third year in Indiana, and he seems to be getting much more comfortable on this team. West saw his numbers jump last year with Paul George's rise and Roy Hibbert's continuing presence inside. Now with Granger returning and Scola to back him up, I really like the outlook for West. You could argue Scola would steal his minutes, but that could be in West's favor, having him better rested for the times he does play. His best career stats were between 2007-2009 in New Orleans, where he put up just over 20 PPG and nearly 9 RPG. This year, I could see him being even better, around 22 PPG and 10 RPG. I just think his mix on this team is a perfect fit. He has the mid-range game to compliment Roy Hibbert, he won't get double-teamed much with Granger and George being threats on the perimeter. It sets itself up. Expect a huge year from West.
Projected Record: 57-25 3rd in the East, 2nd in the Central.