The Pacers wanted the best record in the Eastern Conference so they could face the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals on their home floor. They beat teams with defense and rebounding. They struggled scoring the ball finishing 24th in the league. Their defense was 2nd in opposing points per game as they led the Eastern Conference with 56 wins.
Paul George came out the gate looking like a superstar. He couldn’t keep up the hot start but he was still an All-Star. He grew as a leader and playmaker for the Pacers. His running mate Lance Stephenson had a breakout season but was denied an All-Star bid. Stephenson led the league in triple-doubles while averaging career highs in points, rebounds and assists. Roy Hibbert was a solid force on the defensive end and he earned an All-Star bid as well.
Somewhere along the way the Pacers started to stumble. Their lead in the East got smaller and for a brief moment they were tied with Miami. We could not pinpoint what exactly happened to them but they weren’t the same team. They were pushed to seven games by the Hawks in the first round. Roy Hibbert seemed to disappear completely and was benched repeatedly. He was held scoreless twice in that series as he averaged 5.3 ppg and 3.7 rpg.
They managed to get past the Hawks and the inexperienced Wizards. They made the Eastern Conference finals with home-court advantage against the Miami Heat. They won game 1 and were feeling good. They proceeded to lose three straight games and if LeBron did not get in foul trouble they would have lost game 5 as well. As they returned to Miami for game 6 they were blown out and their season was over.
The Pacers only had a second round pick going into the draft and they traded that away to the Knicks. They added undrafted players C.J. Fair and Shayne Whittington. Neither player will contribute right away.
The off-season was devastating for the Pacers as Paul George went down with a broken leg during the team USA scrimmage game. He will be out for the season but hopes to return if the Pacers make the playoffs. Lance Stephenson left in free agency and joined the Charlotte Hornets. The Pacers are now without their two best playmakers for next year.
Losing Stephenson was bad enough but to lose Paul George I don’t see how the Pacers can compete for a title. New additions Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles will have a lot of responsibilities quickly. George and Stephenson contributed 35.5 points, 14 rebounds and 8.1 assists. This team only scored 96.7 points a game. Their defense will also suffer without their best perimeter defenders.
Roy Hibbert was an All-Star last year but he was a shell of himself during the playoffs. I don’t think he will be able to lead the Pacers to a playoff spot. David West is aging and George Hill is not a dynamic point guard. They will have problems scoring the ball and will lose close games. I don’t think they will make the playoffs and they will only win 33-35 games.