The Indiana Pacers roster is now filled to the brim with all 15 players signed. With 7 brand new players on the roster this Pacers team will come nowhere close to resembling the team fans are accustomed to. There are some familiar faces back, but after the extreme remodel the front office undertook things are now a lot different at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
In Larry Bird's post season press conference early this year he spoke of how Indiana was looking to pick up the pace and score more points. 6 to 8 more points a game is what he said. Little did anybody know that what he meant was a complete re-structuring of the team personnel.The team identity took a complete shift when David West decided to opt out as well as Roy Hibbert's much awaited trade to the Los Angeles Lakers. Armed with a platoon of new players, Frank Vogel and company will try to change their entire style of play and still provide a winning basketball team.
When considering the breakdown of the Pacers roster the best place to start is to separate players by their positions; which is growing increasingly difficult to do nowadays. Today's NBA is about position-less basketball and as showcased by the Golden St. Warriors last year, success is not dependent on old school principles. Because of the complete lack of traditional point guards on the roster the players have been separated by three categories- backcourt, wing, and frontcourt. Some aspects that will be analyzed will be the player's strengths and weaknesses, what role they will play on the roster, and finally what to expect of that particular player. Obviously more time will be spent covering the players who will see significant time. Without further ado it is time to get started.
- George Hill is one of the few returning familiar faces to the Pacer roster. After having a career year last season with averages of 16.1ppg, 5.1apg, and 3.6rpg he will look to continue his upward trend. Considered by many to be the only point guard on the roster, there will be pressure on him immediately due to the lack of veteran leadership on the team. His strengths are fairly evident- he is a top notch defender who can guard multiple positions, he is capable playing off the ball and he does not need the ball in his hands to be effective (which should make him fit in nicely with Monta Ellis). He took a great step forward last year by posting another career high with a PER of 21.5 and he showed glimpses of the aggression that many said he did not have. That leads us right into his primary weakness; his aggression. The "good" George Hill is the one many saw last year who stayed aggressive and was always a threat to score. The biggest knock on him is that he has tendency to disappear and not impact a game consistently. The thing to expect from Hill is a steady contribution from the point guard spot. He is the perfect pairing for a backourt mate such as Monta Ellis and look for him to get alot more opportunities for catch and shoot three pointers off of Ellis drives. The new up-tempo style the Pacers will be running will suit Hill perfectly and his performance should reflect that.
- Monta Ellis was Larry Bird's guy. At least that is what he appeared to be. He was the primary target of the front office when the free agency countdown clock struck midnight, and thankfully for Pacers fans they landed something they have been sorely lacking for some time. Indiana was in the bottom half of the league in nearly every major offensive statistical category last year so they decided to attempt to solve that with the signing of Monta Ellis. There is doubt about it, the guy can flat out score. With a career average of 19.3ppg he has shown a great ability to put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. Transition is where he creates most of his opportunities and that is something the Pacers have not taken advantage of in past years. He is a blur in the open court and finishes well at the rim, despite his below average size at the shooting guard position. His real bread and butter however, is the pick and roll. He was second to only Damian Lillard in the amount of possessions last season as the primary ball handler out of the pick and roll. His mid-range jumpshot has become extemely lethal when coming off of a screen and he attacks the rim with reckless abandon. Despite all these strengths, there are also some glaring weakenesses. He shot a lowly 29% from 3-pont range last season and even though he is capable of catching fire and hitting consecutive 3-pointers- he is not an efficient shooter by an stretch of the imagination. His defense also leaves quite a bit to be desired, but Frank Vogel has shown a tendency to get the best out of guys on the defensive end so there is no need for worry just yet. He will also serve as the primary ball handler when he is in the game and with the amount of space vacated in the paint due to the departure of the lumbering Roy Hibbert, Ellis should be just as effective, if not more, as he was in Dallas.
- Rodney Stuckey made quite an impact in his first season with Indiana. He played with the blue collar attitude that fans respect and he showcased an ability to be a scoring punch off the bench. After the numerous Pacers bench collapses over the past few years Stuckey was a breath of fresh air. He served as the primary ball handler with the second unit and proved himself quite capable as a sixth man. He has great strength and is able to finish in traffic, as well as being a sniper from midrange. He also shot an outstanding 39% from 3-point range last season. He has expressed since his re-signing that he is most comfortable coming off the bench and the coaching staff will be more than willing to grant that request. He will contribute as the first man off the bench with strong play and will also be a dark horse candidate for sixth man of the year.
- Joseph Young is the steal of the draft. At least that is what people thought after his stellar performance in the Orlando Summer League. Expectations should be tempered because it is...you know summer league. That doesn't mean Pacer fans should not be excited for what he has to offer. He is another extremely talented scorer who has the potential to be the microwave guy off the bench. With the lack of point guards on the roster he will see some time on the floor and he will have a chance to prove himself. The lack of other guards also shows the Larry Bird has faith in him to play from the start. Chances are he struggles with turnovers and adjusting to the NBA game at first, but he will provide instant offense off the bench at some point this season. Bird compared him to Monta Ellis, and chances are he could be that good.
- Paul George brought hope to a fan base that they hadn't had since Reggie Miller. Then there was the day that will live in infamy for any Pacers fan; August 1, 2014. That was the day the face of the franchise experienced one of the most gruesome injuries in all of basketball. Hearts sank and hopes were dashed as he laid on the court. Fast forward now to today and the hope has been restored. Although he did not make much of an impact last season on the court, his return meant so much more. It showed fans that he was capable and that he would be back. That he would stop at nothing to give the fans the same joy they felt when watching him battle LeBron James or dunk on Chris Anderson.
- This year is not the end all be all of his comeback. It will take time and there will be issues. Him seeing extensive time at the power forward position could lead to more success than anyone could possibly imagined. It could also lead to something far worse. But after seeing his will to get back; there is no doubt that the newly christened PG-13 will be back with a vengence. That is what Pacers fans should be excited about.
- CJ Miles averaged a career high of 13.5ppg in his first season with Indiana. He's shooting touch proved to be his sticking point with the team and he shot 35% from the 3-point line. He also made a team high 154 3-pointers, almost more than doubling the anybody else on the team (the second place player,CJ Watson, only made 70). He had a renaissance year on the defensive end of the floor behind the defensive maestro Frank Vogel and was a key part to the Pacers nearly making the playoffs. The Pacers will look to institute better spacing on offense and with driving lanes staying open for guys like Ellis and George, he should see no shortage of spot up shots from the perimeter. Expect his scoring average to dip due to the fact that he will most likely now be coming off the bench. Still if he can continue to shoot consistently, he will have more than enough opportunities to impact a game.
- Solomon Hill struggled mightily in Orlando for the Pacers summer league team. In 26.3mpg he averaged 4.7ppg and 3.0rpg while shooting a wretched 18% from the field and 0% from the 3-point line...yes 18% and 0%. For a guy who started 78 games for the Pacers last season that is not a good sign. Normally more advanced and experienced players are supposed to dominate, instead he played terribly. The wing is a loaded position in Indiana and although he is a ferocious defender, he will not see many minutes unless his shot becomes more consistent. There is still a ton of potential there, but the pressure is now on him to prove he belongs on the floor.
- Chase Budinger is greatly liked by Larry Bird, At least the image leaked of him on an ESPN magazine cover in a Pacers uniform suggests that. Putting recruiting tactics aside, the truth of the matter is that the Pacers front office believes that he can contribute. It has been stated by several sources that he was brought in the compete for a position with CJ Miles. Though he has struggled with injuries the last 3 years, last season he showed flashes of what he is capable of doing. He is a career 36% 3-point shooter and he showed glimpses that he still may have his top notch athleticism. He struggles on the defensive side of the ball and really the biggest concern is will he stay healthly? In the end if he can have some energy plays like this he will more than welcome.
- Glenn Robinson III was not nearly as highly touted as his father before him, but that does not mean there isn't potential there. A self professed PG fan, he strives to become a better and more complete player. At only 21 years old, do not expect him to make an impact from the start. In fact, expect him to spend some time with the Pacers new affiliate- the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants. If he develops he could absolutely contribute and fulfill his potential as a strong two-way wing player.
- Jordan Hill never liked the big city and is more than happy to be in Indiana. As the 8th pick in the 2009 NBA draft he never really realized his potential. Now 6 years and 3 teams later he finds himself with golden opportunity with blue and gold. Signed to a 1 year deal, he will have the opportunity to prove himself in a contract year. Widely regarded as a potential starter for the Pacers- he offers a terrific motor and ability to finish around the basket. With career averages of 7.8ppg and 5.8rpg he will never blow you out of the water in the statistical region. He will however provide energy on the glass and is a capable finisher. His major issue will be not falling in love with the mid-range jumpshot that has limited his efficiency the past few seasons. Of course he must also drive the speed limit.
- Myles Turner has the chance to be revolutionary. A 7'0" rim protecting stretch 5 who could blossom into a superstar is something every teams wishes they had. When the Pacers drafted him 11th in the NBA Draft many experts knocked the pick saying the Pacers wanted to go smaller and faster so why would they draft him? He quickly silenced any critics with arguably the best summer league of any rookie where he averaged 18.7ppg, 8.3rpg, and 4.3bpg. His smooth and silky jumpshot found the rim more often than not- including shooting 2-3 from the 3-point line in 3 games. Again don't call him the next superstar based simply on summer league, but there is a reason to be excited. At 19 years old he has the body (6'11" 240lbs) to be able to play in the NBA now and he most certainly has the skill set. The other concern with him from th so called "experts"? That he ran funny. In all honesty compared to Roy Hibbert he ran like a gazelle. There will be some growing pains for sure- but the expectation is that he will be the starting center by the all star break. Some concerns obviously are foul trouble and inexperience, although the only cure for inexperience is to get the guy on the floor. The future is now- that is why you should expect to see him playing a major role for Pacers this season.
- Ian Mahinmi is one of the few familiar faces left. As the ever consistent back up center behind the ever inconsistent Roy Hibbert, he showed great flashes of what a back-up big is supposed to give you. He brings great energy and athleticism to the floor and is a strong finisher around the rim. Though prone to foul trouble- he has showcased to ability to remain a rim protector. That enabled the Pacers to stick to their defensive scheme even when Roy Hibbert was off of the floor. With career averages of 4.3ppg and 3.8rpg he will look to impact the game now that he will be seeing more frontcourt rotation minutes. He will play a key role in providing leadership to the younger big men and helping maintain the defensive effectiveness the Pacers have become known for.
- Lavoy Allen came to the Pacers as an afterthought in the trade that sent Danny Granger away for both he and Evan Turner. Little did everyone know that he would become a contributor. Now he after signing a 3 year 12 million dollar deal he will now become a staple in the Indiana frontcourt. Although he will never "wow" you with his offensive ability, it is guaranteed he will play hard. He created numerous second shot chances because of his tenacious effort on the offensive glass. He also showed himself to be a consistent finisher around the rim. At just 26 years old he is still developing and can offer much needed depth to a inexperienced Indiana front line.
- Shayne Whittington is somewhat of a mystery. He played very few minutes for last year's team and chances are he won't see much time this season as well. At 24 years old, he is still young and has time to develop and he has shown the potential to possibly become a back-up stretch four. His soft shooting touch is his biggest asset and he also always seems to make the hustle plays and be in the right place at the right time. After his average showing in the Orlando Summer League and his glaring weakness of having a lack of athleticism- fans should expect him to also see some time with the Mad Ants sometime this season.
- Rakim Christmas made an extreme statistical leap in his senior season at Syracuse. He went from averaging 5.8ppg and 5.1ppg his junior season to 17.1ppg and 9.1rpg his senior year. As one of the older players drafted in this years draft he seems to be showing signs that he is a late bloomer. After al,l his first year of playing basketball was in 8th grade. Known mostly for his rim protection, offensive rebounding, and ability to finish (thanks to his 7' 5.25” wingspan) with the Orange, Christmas scored in a variety of ways in pre-draft workouts. The 2nd round pick Indiana gave up for him seems to be worth the risk if he can continue to develop at his recent alarming rate. Despite the upside don't expect to see a ton of Christmas out on the floor throughout the course of the season. Most likely he will look to develop his talents in the NBDL as a member of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
There it is- the breakdown of the 2015-2016 Indiana Pacers. The Pacers have now shifted from an older experienced team to an up-tempo team who's oldest player is just 30 years old when the season starts (Monta Ellis). There will be growing pains for sure. With a team with 7 new faces on it there should be some time needed to develop the on the court chemistry needed to win games. With questions in the front court and youth all over, the question is what can the Pacers accomplish? Of course there are tons of variables that come into effect, but the true answer lies in Paul George. If he becomes the leader of this team and returns to his top tier level, this team could make some noise in the weak Eastern Conference. Will they be hanging banners at the end of the year, most likely not. But the truth is this team could be really fun. It could be a team that the community and fan base rally around. Things are changing in Indiana and it will definitely lead to more excitement, question is will it lead to more wins? Only time will tell, but for now sit back and enjoy Pacer fans. The future is starting to look a whole lot brighter.