How is training camp here already???
The Pacers open up camp as one of the top five-or-six teams with a legitimate shot to win a championship. They return arguably the most balanced starting five in basketball, Danny Granger is back from injury, and Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, and CJ Watson are considered huge second-unit upgrades.
So what are the biggest question marks surrounding the 2013-2014 Pacers? Here you go…
Can Paul George take his game to the next level? Last season Paul took the giant leap only a handful of athletes make: from promising talent – to a star. From here on, he’ll be attempting to make a leap even fewer athletes make: the jump to superstardom. While there are always exceptions to rules…one thing is clear when it comes to NBA champions ~> you need a superstar. LeBron, Dirk, Kobe, Paul-KG-Ray, Duncan, Shaq, Jordan, Hakeem, Isiah, Magic, Bird, and Dr. J represent the superstars who have led their teams to at least one of the last 29 NBA titles. The only team to win a title without a superstar during that stretch was the ’04 Pistons.
The Pacers may be the most balanced team in the NBA, but they won’t sniff a title without someone emerging as the “go-to” superstar…and Paul is the only one who has that potential. To Paul’s credit, he welcomes the pressure that comes with being a max-contract player. He’s worked on his ball-handling and one-on-one skills during the offseason, which should help him take his game to the next level. If he fails to do so, the Pacers have little chance to reach the NBA Finals…let alone a chance to win it all.
What does the future hold for Danny Granger? There’s no easy answer to this question. This will be Granger’s last season in Indianapolis…but will he even last the entire season? Can he co-exist with the starters? Can he co-exist with the second unit? Many are quick to say “yes” but we’re talking about a player who had been given the “green light” on every shot he took since the team became his in ’07. Can he handle being a third or fourth option?
Again, there are no easy answers to these questions. Danny is saying all the right things, but actions speak louder than words. We won’t truly know if he’s willing to accept a tertiary role until the season gets underway. If he settles in nicely, the Pacers will be significantly more dangerous. He’s capable of getting 15-20 points on a good night and can stretch the floor with his three-point ability. If he fails to find a comfort level on the floor, then it won’t be long before you hear his name on the trading block.
To a certain extent it makes sense if Danny starts because it’s easy to replace Paul (SG) with Lance Stephenson and Danny (SF) with Copeland during substitutions. But as I’ve stated before, the offense is incredibly slow with a starting lineup of Hill, George, Granger, West, and Hibbert. With Stephenson in the starting five the tempo has the ability to jump in an instant when he grabs a rebound or receives an outlet pass. His acrobatic buckets at the rim energize both teammates and the crowd. It’s a dimension that you’d like to have from the get-go…not six-eight minutes into a game (if he were coming off the bench).
It’s a tough choice for Coach Frank Vogel…but how he handles Granger (and how Granger handles what coach decides) will have a significant impact on the early success the Pacers have.
Will George Hill be/stay aggressive? We all know Hill is not a pure point guard. He’s probably more comfortable being “set-up” as opposed to being a “set-up man”…but whether you agree or not, that’s not a problem. Hill doesn’t need to be Chris Paul or John Stockton in this offense. What Hill needs to do is be more aggressive when he’s the beneficiary of a kick-out pass from the post or a slashing teammate. When Hill looks for his shot, the Pacers are tough to beat…when he’s passive (like Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals last May when he finished with one point and was 0-for-4 from the floor)…the Pacers are vulnerable.
When you’re playing with quality post players like Hibbert and West or capable slashers like George and Stephenson, you’re going to find yourself on the receiving end of a number of high quality looks. Hill has to be aggressive and take them. If he does that and is more committed on the defensive end he’ll make a big difference for Indiana this season.
With the improvements to the bench, those are your most important questions heading into the new NBA calendar year.
Yes, it is hard to believe the NBA season is already upon us…but now that it’s here…buckle up, because a memorable 2013-2014 campaign is on the way.