2009-10 Indiana Pacers Season Preview
It has been five years since the Indiana Pacers (36- 46) put up winning numbers. Still, last season even though they suffered from numerous injuries, the team almost made the post season. The big blow to the team was the loss of top wing player Mike Dunleavy Jr. (15.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.4 APG) for almost the whole season. After that just about every key guy on the team missed a chunk of time. In fact, no Pacer played more than 74 games in 2008- 2009. What kept the team competitive was the fact that small forward Danny Granger (25.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.4 BPG), in his fourth season put his game in high gear, averaging six more points per game than he did in the prior season. Granger also proved to be a tenacious defender and a solid three-point and free throw scorer. The team was also helped by the fine play of power forward Troy Murphy (14.3 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 0.5 BPG).
The play of Granger and Murphy will be essential this season. Granger has fine range and can hit from inside and outside. Murphy, who put up the best numbers of his eight-year career last season, was a double-double machine. Last year, his rookie season, center Roy Hibbert (7.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.7 APG), who suffered from the foul bug, showed good improvement. If he can step up his game, that will be a big help. One question is how good will rookie Tyler Hansbrough be? A fine player in college, he looked very good in summer league play. He could be an important player off the bench.
Dunleavy, who missed 68 games last season and underwent major knee surgery, is a chameleon who can play in the back and front. If he can stay healthy, the Pacers will have a weapon that’s just about unstoppable. T.J. Ford (14.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5.3 APG) will get the nod at the point, taking over the starting spot from Jarrett Jack, who has left town for greener pastures. The primary shooting guard will be second-year player Brandon Rush (8.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.9 APG), who started to really throw major numbers up on the scoreboard near the end of last season.
The brightest spot on the court concerns the Pacer’s outside shooting. The triumvirate of Dunleavy, Murphy and Granger can be lights out. It’s especially helpful that the trio, each of whom hits threes at 40% or better, ranges in height from six-foot-nine to six-foot-eleven. That means that they can launch the ball over defenders time and again. The major problem for this team concerns depth. There’s precious little coming off the bench for Indiana. They are especially lacking when it comes to bench scoring. Another concern is the fact that the starters, who can certainly put points on the board, lack defensive chops.
Although Dunleavy is back and healthy important pieces are gone including Rasho Nesterovic, Jarrett Jack and Marquis Daniels. The replacements aren’t that hot. Head coach Jim O’Brien has his guys shoot from unusual spots on the court, keeping opponents off-balance. Two other concerns are whether Murphy can repeat last year’s performance and if Granger can find consistency. Also, salary cap issues will hamper their ability to pull off any meaningful trades. The Pacers won’t be contenders this season, but they will be interesting to watch.