With the regular season kicking off tonight in Atlanta, I figured now would be as good a time as any to bring you a position-by-position breakdown of the Indiana Pacers. You can check out a previous Pacers preseason update for more team analysis.
T.J. Ford is the key cog affecting the pace and style of the Pacers offense. When he’s at his best, Ford runs the court at a breakneck speed, and despite his smallish stature, attacks the basket with the presence of someone much larger. When he’s struggling — as he did towards the end of last season — Ford is a questionable decision maker who settles for too many jump shots.
With all due respect to Danny Granger, the Pacers will only go as far as the play of their water-bug point guard allows. Backing him up will be eight-year veteran Earl Watson. Watson’s about as flashy as a 1995 Oldsmobile station wagon, but he’s a hard working, smart point guard who focuses primarily on defense and distribution. He’s an excellent addition as a role player, but if injuries or ineffectiveness send Ford to the bench, Watson’s shortcomings will be magnified on a grand scale.
Travis Diener and second-round pick A.J. Price round out the point guard position. Neither is expected to see significant minutes (and if they do, Indianapolis sports fans who follow Pacers are most likely suffering through another losing season).
After salvaging his rookie year with a very productive last month of the season, Brandon Rush beat out free-agent signee Dahntay Jones for the starting shooting guard spot. The former NCAA Final Four hero averaged a respectable 12.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 steal, and 1.2 blocks per game in the preseason, and if he can keep his confidence high, Rush will endear himself to fans of Indianapolis basketball in his second season with the team.
Jones is a defensive standout who can also play the small forward position. As his 5.1 career scoring average indicates, he’s not much of a threat to score, but his aggressive attitude and “dirty work” style of play will prove contagious for a team that was severely lacking in both areas last year. Consider him a backcourt version of fan favorite Jeff Foster. Newly signed Luther Head will bring a scorer’s mentality and nice shooting touch off the bench.
Granger is the clearly defined face of the franchise, and his 25.8 scoring average last year was the most since Billy Knight posted 26.6 points a game during the 1976-77 season (the Pacers first as an NBA franchise, by the way). A sore heel bugged Granger throughout the preseason, and after aggravating it in the Pacers exhibition game in Bloomington last Friday, he’s doubtful for tonight’s opening game. The injury isn’t considered serious, but no team is more reliant on a single player than Indiana is with Granger, so any slight strain or pain should be greeted by fans with a high level of anxiety. Dahntay Jones would get the start should the “Granger Zone” sit this one out for Indy.
Notre Dame grad Troy Murphy, though not a typical big man, is one of the most underrated power forwards in the league. He became the first player in league history to finish in the Top-Five in both rebounding and three-point field goal percentage last season, and his 48 double-doubles were also a team record. In a frontcourt bereft of provenplayers, Murphy will be counted on to play around 35 minutes a game.
The Pacers drafted Tyler Hansbrough to back him up, but a shin injury’s prevented him from playing thus far, leaving a gaping hole at the big forward spot in the lineup. Foster would likely be the first man off the bench, but too has been derailed by an injury (Foster’s currently in Boston getting treatment on his balky back). That leaves Carmel native Josh McRoberts and Solomon Jones (who’s much better suited at the Center position) as the healthiest options that Jim O’Brien has available to him at the moment. O’Brien also flirted with small ball in the preseason by playing Murphy at center, Granger at the four, Dahntay at small forward, and Rush at shooting guard.
After a dominating Summer League performance and a very encouraging preseason that saw the big fella average 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 blocks a game, expectations are incredibly high for Roy Hibbert. When he gets the ball low on the post, Hibbert uses his massive 7’2” frame to bully his way to basket, and can now finish with either hand, making him nearly unstoppable at times.
Unfortunately, his kryptonite has proven to be an inability to stay out of foul trouble, and with the Pacers perilously thin at the position, “small ball” may in the team’s future more than either O’Brien or Larry Bird care to see. Solomon Jones will provide support off the bench. He’s a strong defender and a nice piece to utilize in spurts, but Jones’ career average of 2.6 points and 2.1 rebounds leaves much to be desired.
For more Pacers news, keep coming back to funcityfinder.com. And if you want to catch the Pacers live in action on a frequent basis this season, check out more information about relocation to Indianapolis.