Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
The Pacers are fun, but are they good enough?
The Indiana Pacers have compiled a roster similar to what you'd probably end up with if you allowed basketball nerds to build a team. I mean that in a good way, though. I love Indiana's roster. It's one of the my favorite rosters in the league. That isn't to say I think the roster will be exceptional, or that they have any sort of a chance at the title this season, but it's exactly the type of roster we basketball nerds love. It's full of fun and interesting players, guys whose potential makes us desperately want to ignore their flaws.
Their biggest move of Indiana's offseason was re-signing center Roy Hibbert. As a restricted free agent, Hibbert signed a 4-year, $58 million offer sheet with the Portland Trailblazers. Indiana definitely didn't want to pay Hibbert that much, and he probably isn't worth that much, but I think the Pacers made the right choice in keeping him. While he may never be a truly elite center, Hibbert is certainly an important piece in the middle if the Pacers ever hope to move past simply being fun and towards being real contenders. There are things Hibbert does well, things he does very poorly, and Hibbert seems to be smart enough to have identified which skills fall in each category. By limiting his own shortcomings through good decision making, Hibbert has grown into a solid if not elite center.
The other big move the Pacers made was signing D.J. Augustin, and then flipping Darren Collison to Dallas for Ian Mahinmi. I loved the Augustin signing, and I think the free agent market for him would have been much more lucrative had he not been hidden away on the Charlotte Bobcats his whole career. While he's not a star, I believe him to be an above-average point guard who can help the Pacers. Unfortunately, Augustin is on a one-year contract, so the Pacers may have to open the checkbook or risk losing him if his time in Indiana gives him the exposure he needs. And while Collison is a nice player with plenty more growth potential, I like the addition of Mahinmi to give Indiana added depth. Tyler Hansbrough wasn't great last season, and the Pacers were hurt when Hibbert or David West were on the bench.
The Pacers also picked up last season's feel-good story in Gerald Green. Green was all but out of the league before the then-New Jersey Nets gave him D-league call-up on back to back 10-day deals. Green impressed and managed to stick with the Nets the remainder of the season, finally managing to put it together on the court for the first time since Boston drafted him 18th overall in 2005.
I expect the Pacers to make the playoffs again, and they will once again be a feisty first-round match-up. The problem in Indiana remains the same, however. Danny Granger is a very good small forward, but he's not the star to take the Pacers to the next level. The hope for the future now lies with Paul George, who made an incredible improvement in his second season in the league. If he can continue to improve, Indiana might finally have found the player to elevate them to that next level. I'm just not confident George is ready to make that happen this season.