As it stands, no one in the Central Division is sitting prettier than the Indiana Pacers. They earned the respect of the NBA in taking the Miami Heat to the brink in the Eastern Conference Finals and have to be viewed as the biggest in-conference threat to the looming South Beach dynasty. And with Paul George’s star rising – and thus making him their franchise talent – things are looking bright in Indiana.
This offseason, as it should be for every contending team, was about fine tuning the kinks and improving the team with smart signings and valuable draft picks.
That being said, Indiana made its best move not in signing a vet but in bringing back David West, the bruising power forward – but more on that later. Let’s a take a look at the moves the Pacers made in the draft and in free agency.
NBA Draft Grade: D
Players Selected: Solomon Hill (23)
Hill could turn into an all right role player, but he was a reach at 23. Players like Glen Rice Jr., Jamaal Franklin, Rudy Gobert and even Jeff Withey would have both added depth, fit the culture and be more likely to play right away than Hill. The Arizona prospect does have a versatile game, but the Pacers probably could have traded back 15 spots and Hill could have been there. This pick, the Pacers only pick, was a head scratcher. Luckily for Indiana, they nailed free agency.
Free Agency: A-
I am in love with what the Pacers did in free agency. Most importantly, they were ablewere able to bring back West, who in many ways embodies the way that Indiana plays basketball. He’s physical, has more than one skill and works hard. Plus, even if the two-year deal takes him up until his 34th birthday, his game should age well because he plays below the rim and is a fundamentally sound player. His return means the Pacers entire starting lineup will be back next year. Add Danny Granger to that mix and you’ve got a Pacers team that somehow improved.
The signing of C.J. Watson was another good move. He’s an improvement over D.J. Augustin and he’ll provide solid shooting off the bench behind George Hill. Couple that with the signing of Chris Copeland at a fair price, and you have a winning offseason
The only move I didn’t like was letting Tyler Hansbrough leave for Toronto. He can be hard to watch at times, but he provided energy off the bench that Indiana will have the replace. Statistically, he wasn’t a great player, but I liked what Psycho T brought to the table in Indiana. And even if you aren’t a fan, it’s hard to argue that the aforementioned Hill will be able to play at his level behind West.
Projected Starters: George Hill (PG), Paul George (SG), Danny Granger (SF), David West (PF), Roy Hibbert (C)
Overall Grade: B
Outside of the head-scratching draft, the Pacers nailed this offseason. They brought back their core and solidified themselves as real contenders for the NBA title. If they weren’t before, this team is the 1b to Miami’s 1a in the Eastern Conference.