Believe it or not, the NBA's regular season is three weeks away. To get you ready, Crossover Chronicles will be profiling a team each day for the next few weeks. This week is the Central Division. Today is the Indiana Pacers.
2011-12 Record: 42-24, lost Second Round
Key Losses: Leandro Barbosa (free agent), Dahntay Jones (traded to Dallas), A.J. Price (signed with Washington)
Key Acquisitions: D.J. Augustin (signed from Charlotte), Gerald Green (signed from New Jersey), Ian Mahimni (traded from Dallas)
|George Hill||Paul George||Danny Granger||David West||Roy Hibbert|
|D.J. Augustin||Lance Stephenson||Gerald Green||Tyler Hansbrough||Ian Mahimni|
|Blake Ahearn||Sundiata Gaines||Sam Young||Jeff Pendergraph||Luke Nevill|
The Pacers were the biggest surprise of last year's Playoffs. OK, Indiana got out of the first round by defeating an undermanned Orlando team worn down from a long season of rumors and playing without Dwight Howard. The Pacers though surprised many in taking a 2-1 lead over the Heat in the second round and pushing the eventual champions.
What most probably ignored since Indiana was so rarely on national TV was that this Indiana team is balanced, full of solid players many of whom are on the cusp of stardom and they play together.
Frank Vogel did a great job getting his team to buy in defensively and share the ball offensively.
No knock-down 3-point shooters? No problem. No true point guard? No problem. A traditional power forward? No problem.
The Pacers seem to defy the current vogue in the NBA and all NBA logic. This Pacers team is a throwback to the teams that were successful in the late-90s. They have strengths everywhere in their lineup. David West, Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger have all been All stars at some point in their careers. And they still have that capability within them.
This is a team that is young and seems to be on the rise. They climbed from the eight seed in 2011 to third seed in 2012 to likely the Central Division favorites with Rose out for the Bulls this year. Dealing with those expectations to continue to improve will weigh on this team.
It seems like they can. Paul George is growing as a player. David West is still rugged and solid. Roy Hibbert continues to improve as a defender and offensive player. And Danny Granger has continued to improve his all-around game as the team's "go-to" player.
Indiana does have some questions though. They are on the cusp of being one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. But getting to that point is probably the hardest part. And staying there can be hard too.
The Pacers deep bench took a big hit with Leandro Barbosa still out there in free agency. Indiana's bench is full of energy guys, but not guys who are necessarily scorer. The Pacers rely heavily on their starters for scoring and just about everything. Indiana did not have a player come off its bench and score more than 10 points per game.
Tyler Hansbrough got close with 9.3 points per game and George Hill too had 9.6 off the bench as the backup to Darren Collison for most of the season. Hill will step into the starting role most likely this year (and whether he is a true point guard is an issue to be determined this year).
Guys like Hansbrough and Lance Stephenson are in there more for their energy than anything else. So the reshaping of this bench will be a key development for the Pacers this year.
Indiana acquired D.J. Augustin, hoping he can fulfill some of the promise he struggled to live up to while in Charlotte. Ian Mahimni is a defensive option at center to pair up with Hansbrough's boundless energy. And Gerald Green hopes to build off his strong showing with New Jersey last season.
The problem is though that a lot of these guys are unproven and the Pacers have a lot they need to prove as an organization and a team in trying to push forward into the East's select elite.
For a team that claims to be the home of basketball, the fans really do not show up. The Pacers, despite the stellar record, ranked in the bottom third of the league in attendance. In fact, the Pacers have not ranked in the top half in attendance since 2003.
Last year, was better. Indiana has been one of the worst teams in terms of attendance, according to Basketball-Reference. Last year, the team rose to 22nd and the Playoff atmosphere was fantastic for Indiana.
Still, the Pacers are having some minor stadium issues with the beautiful Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the gimmicky Area-55 can only fill the seats with passionate fans for so long. Winning is the ultimate seller.
Perhaps Indianapolis will buy into this Pacers team as an Eastern Conference contender. It is quite possible the Fieldhouse will be rocking like the old Market Square Arena was in the late-90s. The Pacers will believe it when they see it.
Indiana, if it does not get the attendance bump with winning, might be quicker to abandon this building project if a championship is not in the near future to save money.
Have thoughts or predictions on the Pacers? Leave them in the comments below or drop us a line @CrossoverNBA on Twitter or join the discussion by using the hashtag #PacersDay. We will be back with a closer look at the Pacers throughout the day.