Indiana is 5th in East Conference betting boards. However, the team has looked quite broken a couple of seasons ago. What needs to happen for them to get back in contention & potentially win the East?
Roy Hibbert Reverts Back To Old Roy Hibbert
The first thing that needs to happen for the Pacers is that Hibbert has to get back to business. This is a man who has fallen off the map the last season-and-a-half and that’s been a big problem. In the first half of the 2013-14 season, Hibbert looked like a franchise player, posting 11.8 points per game with 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. However, his trajectory has been on a steep decline since. It got to the point where in April of last season, he posted 8.9 points per game with 8.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. The biggest concern is that his shooting percentages have dropped significantly as he’s lost confidence. At his peak, he shot 49.7% from the field from the 2011-12 but last season, he shot just 42.6% in the All-Star break. It’s a reach at this point to assume Hibbert comes back to form but if he can, the Pacers will be a problem in the East.
Paul George Return Is MVP-Caliber Again
When the Pacers were competing for the top record in the Eastern Conference, George was playing like an MVP. However, we all know what happened after as he suffered a grueling leg injury that cost him most of the 2014-15 season. If the Pacers are to do anything of significance next season, George has to be back to being a dominant scorer and a shutdown defender. George’s minutes were limited when he came back last season but he only scored 8.8 points per game with 3.7 rebounds, 1.5 threes and 1.3 free throws. The season before, George had scored 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.3 threes, 1.9 steals and a 5.0 free throws per game. Indiana needs that George to get back on the court and be the franchise’s foundational player again.
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They Replenish The Roster
The Pacers are going to lose a number of depth players this offseason, so they are going to have to find some ways to replace that. Remember, they lost Lance Stephenson and never really replaced him. This offseason, Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, C.J. Watson, Rodney Stuckey, Lavoy Allen and Donald Sloan. Between Scola, Stuckey and Watson, that’s about 30 points per game that they’ll be losing as well as lot of depth off the bench. Their payroll is currently slated for $64 million next season, so they don’t have a ton of money to play with.
If the Pacers want to not only be back in the playoff picture but in contention for the Eastern Conference title, they better get some instant help from the Draft. In other words, players who can help right away. If you see them drafting any type of project in the first round, you can forget about it. They need to hit a home run with someone who is capable of starting and contributing to the core of the team right away.