The Indiana Pacers were arguably the most polarizing team throughout the 2013-2014 NBA season. They were supposed to be the team that dethroned the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference and make it to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2000.
The Pacers made it clear that their goal going into the season was to have home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs in hopes of playing the Miami Heat in a game 7 at home.
While the Pacers ultimately ended up with the #1 seed in the East, it took them 7 games in the first round of the playoffs to get past an Atlanta Hawks team that barely made it to the field of eight in the weakened conference. The second round went smoother as the Pacers defeated the Washington Wizards 4-2 before ultimately falling to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals 4-2.
Throughout the season the Pacers were one of the best defensive teams statistically by finishing ranked second in points allowed per game (92.3) and first overall rating (99.3). However, their offensive struggles were highly noted during the regular season, finishing ranked 24th in points per game (96.7) and 23rd for offensive rating (104.1), and were too much to overcome against the Heat.
Going into the offseason the biggest question surrounding the Pacer’s organization is the future of Lance Stephenson whose emergence, along with his bizarre antics, put the Pacers in a tough spot. While most of the organization, including Pacer’s President Larry Bird, did not agree with his on court antics, there is no question they would like Stephenson back. They’re currently in talks with Stephenson to re-sign him although there has been little progress made thus far.
The Pacer’s must also look into addressing their point guard situation as George Hill demonstrated he is not capable of running an efficient offensive attack for a title contender and is no more than a complementary player. This will depend on how much money the Pacers have left if they were to re-sign Stephenson or if they have enough pieces to conduct a trade.
While Stephenson’s antics on the court were frustrating at times, nothing compared to Roy Hibbert’s Jekyll and Hyde act towards the end of the season and throughout the playoffs. Hibbert was anything but an All-Star in the playoffs and his mental toughness has been highly questioned by everyone around the NBA.
The same could be said about Paul George, who was an MVP candidate early on in the season but provided little consistency and failed to reach what many believe to be superstar potential.
Lastly, the Pacers somehow must address their lack of bench production either internally or through costless agency. This is easier said than done as bringing in Evan Turner and Andrew Bynum midway through the season did nothing but disrupt the team’s chemistry.
David West was the only consistent player throughout the regular season and the playoffs and showed great leadship the Pacers will desperately need to have next year as they look to finally breakthrough and get to the NBA Finals.
Coach Frank Vogel has a tall task this off-season in getting his team mentally ready for another run at the NBA Finals. If the Pacers are to reach the NBA Finals next season, it will ultiamtely be because Paul George emerges as the superstar everyone envisions him to become.