Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Pace Yourself: Why You Should Keep an Eye on the Indiana Pacers in 2012
So far this off-season, one team has surprised many by pulling one of the most highly touted free agents, ex-Hornet David West. Many reports linked West heading to Boston. I couldn't have been any less surprised. In my mind, the classic "free agent star-to-LA-Boston-Miami or New York unwritten rule" had held sway (not an official rule yet, but it seems to be trending). Out of seemingly nowhere, reports heralded that not only had Boston not landed West, but he had agreed on a 2-year contract with the Indiana Pacers. I couldn't believe it until the rumor was confirmed by multiple sources. West had picked playing time on a less talented team, over adding himself to an established set of superstars, swimming against the trend of the modern NBA star. To me, this says so much about West as a player and as a person. Instead of joining the multitude of triumvirates that are starting to permeate the league, West chose to see minutes and attempt to build a dynasty from the ground up (cash may have been a factor, but don't ruin this for me people). Not only did I find a new respect for West, but started to examine the Pacers squad as a whole, and liked what I saw.
The Pacers are young, tough and talented. They've slowly accumlated pieces such as, Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert, that they knew down the road would be payoff. This team is packed full of potential and the addition of David West may push them over the hump in order to become a legit presence in the East. Let's take a look at the starting 5 as of today:
PG, Darren Collison
SG, George Hill
SF, Danny Granger
PF, David West
C, Roy Hibbert
Off the Bench: PF Tyler Hansbrough, SF Brandon Rush, SG/SF Paul George
The Bench: Tyler "Psycho T" Hansbrough held down the starting PF spot last year, but will inevitably lose his spot to West, for the better. Hansbrough is an energy guy any team would love coming off the bench. Realistically he's not a starter in this league, but an invaluable sixth man every good squad requires. He's a tough guy with a high motor, high basketball IQ and he'll hit ya' right in the Adam's apple if you look at him wrong. Rush provides shooting off the bench, like he did in the 2011 NBA playoffs, and the second year man Paul George is an athletic slasher to compliment Rush's stroke. Lance Stephenson is a guy potentially off the bench worth mentioning just in case he isn't incarcerated or suspended for most of the season.
The Starters: Collison came over from New Orleans last off-season looking to get minutes and to make his own name in the league, just like fellow teammate David West. Collison is a unique combination of scorer/distributor and perfectly suits this team, as he can put up points any given night but also facilitate to stars Granger and West. George Hill is known as a great defender, but only a decent scorer. He was acquired from the Spurs via trade during the NBA draft. He'll serve as the defensive anchor of the team and will fill a role as a seasoned leader as well. Granger has only one All-Star game under his belt, but in all honesty should probably have more. Expect Granger to do what he's been doing ever since his rookie year, score and play hard. With opposing defenses now having to focus on West down low, look for Granger to explode this year.
West will be expected to play his game, that is, rebound, defend and be consistent on offense. West is a dependable and consistent player who is going to give you 100 % night in and night out. He is already familiar with Darren Collison having played with him in New Orleans, and I expect for them to reconnect with dynamic PG-PF chemistry. Last year I predicted Hibbert to be the Most Improved Player. While he didn't acquire this accolade, he did improve leaps and bounds. Though his numbers only increased slightly, Hibbert found a role for himself and that 7'2" frame on this team. Hibbert was often criticized for his passiveness and lack of effort, last year he showed glimpses of fiery competitiveness and stepped up as a leader. These intangibles only have room for growth.
If West can mesh with the established crew in Indy, this first year may be indicative of great things to come. As many teams continue to accumulate 2 or 3 superstars, the Pacers have done a fantastic job of accruing talent across the board. I love the fact the West chose Indiana over Boston (I'm a sucker for small markets), and I hope that he can prove that you don't need a team like The Heatles or the Boston Three Party to garner success in the NBA. Keep your eye out for the boys from I over the course of the season.
Court is Adjourned