The Indiana Pacers have a lot of questions going into next season. Coming off a 56 win season and the number 1 seed, they lost Lance Stephenson to free agency and now they have lost Paul George. They did nothing to replace the production of Stephenson and now with George out they won’t have the firepower to compete in the East.
Losing Lance Stephenson was a big blow to the Pacers. He led the team in rebounds and assists. He led the league in triple-doubles and he was a capable defender. The Pacers added C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey to help replace Stephenson but they are not household names.
Alone Lance averaged 13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and 4.6 apg. These are good numbers for a starting shooting guard who is probably the 3rd option behind Paul George and David West. Combined Miles and Stuckey averaged 23.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, and only 3.1 apg. They score more but they don’t bring anything else to the table. Miles is a decent 3 point shooter but he couldn’t stay healthy last season.
Paul George is the best player on the Pacers. David West is the leader but we all look at Paul George if they don’t win. He averaged 21.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.5 apg and 1.9 spg. He is a great defender, he was an All-Star again and he came up big for them during the playoffs.
The Pacers played best when they had their starting five on the floor. Roy Hibbert, David West, Paul George, Lance Stephenson, and George Hill was their best lineup. They did not have much help off the bench. They did not address any of these concerns during the off-season and George’s injury just puts more pressure on those bench players to perform.
Combined Paul George and Lance Stephenson averaged 35.5 ppg, 14 rpg, 8.1 apg and had a win share of 18.2. I know 35 points does not seem like a lot of points but the Pacers were 24th in the league in points per game at 96.7. The Pacers were 2nd in opponents scoring per game limiting teams to only 92.3 points a game and they were tied for 6th in rebounds at 44.7 per game.
Take away Lance by himself and those numbers drop a slightly. When you take away Paul George I don’t know how the Pacers survive this season. The ESPN forecast had them winning 38 games. If you take away the combined win shares of George and Stephenson that leaves the Pacers at 38 wins. I don’t see the Pacers winning 38 games with this team.
The Pacers are a defensive team and they lost their two best perimeter defenders. They don’t score the ball well and they lost their best playmakers. David West is 33 and he won’t be able to carry the offensive load. Roy Hibbert is not an offensive threat and his defense alone can’t save this team. When you look at this roster who really scares you; George Hill, Luis Scola, Ian Mahinmi, C.J. Miles, Solomon Hill, C.J. Watson? These guys will have a problem scoring points.
The terrible bench players will now get more playing time. That can’t be good for this team. 38 wins got the Hawks into the playoffs last year but the East will be much better this season. The Pacers have to decide if they want to try to compete and lose or just play for a lottery spot.
I would look to move Roy Hibbert and his 2 year deal for a young player and draft picks. Find out which young players on your roster can actually play for you and hope you get a great lottery pick. If they are lucky enough they can target Duke’s freshman big man Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky’s big man Karl Towns to replace Hibbert.
The window was already closing for the Pacers and the loss of Paul George speeds up the process. The East has gotten better and they are taking a step back. Even before the George injury, losing Stephenson really hurt this team. Trade Hibbert; get a good lottery pick and when Paul George returns he can lead this team once again.