For the Indiana Pacers (32-50) the 2009-2010 season was a case of not setting the pace. The team was pretty much deficient on both end of the court as they finished fourth in the Central Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers missed the postseason by nine wins. They brought in some new blood that did not pan out, lacked offense, and had to deal with numerous injury problems. It was a season to forget. Can they move up the ladder in 2010-2011?
Looking upfront, you’ve got to wonder about this team’s chances of contending in the East. This was a team that took down just 21.6% of their first-time misses. Only Golden State had a worse offensive rebounding mark. Plus, they tended to shoot from the perimeter, missing more than 65% of those tries, and then they were unable to grab the rebound. That rebounding problem looks to be still present.
At center, Roy Hibbert (.495 FG%, .500 3PT%, .754 FT%, 5.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, 11.7 PPG) has been a decent defender, blocking 1.67 SPG, but his ability to pound the boards and command the paint has been disappointing. And power forward Josh McRoberts (.521 FG%, .348 3PT%, .500 FT%, 3.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 4.3 PPG) and small forward Danny Granger (.428 FG%, .361 3PT%, .848 FT%, 5.5 RPG, 2.8 APG, 24.1 PPG) have not been much help. Granger offers point production and good defending skills as he notched 1.52 STL and .82 BLK last year.
Point man Darren Collison (.477 FG%, .400 3PT%, .851 FT%, 2.5 RPG, 5.7 APG, 12.4 PPG) had a topnotch rookie year with New Orleans, proving that he could certainly compete in the big league. He’s now a Pacer and his contributions are greatly needed. Along with having a laser shot, he was a solid defender stealing an average of 1.03 balls per game. Backing up Collison is NBA vet T.J. Ford (.445 FG%, .160 3PT%, .770 FT%, 3.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, 10.3 PPG). Ford offers experience but he’s less productive than his young counterpart.
The shooting guard spot could go to Mike Dunleavy (.410 FG%, .318 3PT%, .842 FT%, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 9.9 PPG ) or it go to Brandon Rush (.423 FG%, .411 3PT%, .629 FT%, 4.2 RPG, 1.4 APG, 9.4 PPG) . For the first time since 2007, Dunleavy appears to have a healthy right knee. He’s an exceptionally smart player who can slash to the hoop, find an open spot or toss up a three.
Brandon Rush, who is entering his third NBA season, might be a starter if he ever matures. Rush is a very fine shooter and defender, but he needs to grow into the starting spot. Additionally, off-court behavior, which specifically relates to violating the NBA’s drug policy, has him suspended for the first five games of the season.
For a team with a Pace Factor of 99.4, which was second highest in the NBA, Indiana’s Offensive Efficiency was dismal, ranking 26that 101.3. The skinny is that they took shots but most did not connect. Granger was the club’s anchor, posting a team best PER of 19.85. If Granger, who missed 20 games last season, can stay in the mix for the entire 2010-2011 season, that will be a big help. The same is true of Dunleavy, who has the ability to make a myriad of good things happen on the court.
Although not stellar, the Pacer defense was decent last year, earning a 104.2 efficiency rating, which was 15th. And although they offered very good first shot defense, forcing teams to miss a lot and garnering a ranking of fifth in 2-point field goal defense, they were rated 29th overall in rebounding. That means that although team’s missed on their first shot, they often got a second shot off against the Pacers. The rebounding issue is a major one, especially for a team like Indiana that plays a perimeter game.
One major problem for the Pacers has to do with the fact that they traded their best rebounder, Troy Murphy. Murphy, who is now a Net, had a rebound rate of 17.2, and he played 60% of Indiana’s minutes. Last season the team’s rebound rate was 71.4, and it looks to be even worst this season.
Head coach Jim O’Brien (286-300) had a winning record before he came to the Pacers three years ago. Don’t look for him to get this team in the plus column this season. Along with all of their other problems, the Pacers are dealing with salary and luxury tax issues. This is a third place Central Division team and a eight or ninth place team in the East.
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