Indiana Pacers: Another year, another defeat to the Miami Heat. Now what?
After the disappointment of once again getting eliminated by the Miami Heat last year, the Indiana Pacers were determined to make the third time the charm in the 2013-14 season.
As such, they had a relatively simple plan to finally get over the hump:
Step 1) Go out and stock pile some talent to improve the woeful bench and add to the core
Step 2) Get the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference
And step 3) Beat the Miami Heat
Sounds simple enough.
During the 2013 offseason Larry Bird, the Team President, stock piled the talent to finally get over the hump. In came Luis Scola from the Phoenix Sun with Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green and a first round pick going the other way. In came C.J Watson to be the back-up point guard after some solid play behind Deron Williams while with Brooklyn. In came Chris Copeland after showing flashes of brilliance as a shooter with a work horse mentality with the New York.
And yet it didn't bring the desired result for the Pacers. The new players failed to make much of an improvement and the bench continued to fail to produce as the team ranked 27th in points per game with just 26.4 points per contest.
That pretty much forced Bird to make a couple more Hail Mary trades by exchanging the former No. 2 overall pick, Evan Turner from the Philadelphia 76ers, for veteran Danny Granger who was providing just 8.3 points a night.
Turner was having a career season in Philly, with a 17.4 point average. However, that figure shrunk to just 7.1 points and he failed to make an impact on a contender.
Yet despite their struggles from the bench and mid-season turmoil, Indy managed to lock up the top spot and home court advantage in the East. Meaning if there was to be a Game Seven against the Heat, it would have to be at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse this time around.
Too bad Miami closed the series out in six Games in South Florida and sent them on an early summer vacation. Now the question is where do the Indiana Pacers go from here?
The most pressing issue this offseason will be getting Lance Stephenson re-signed on a long term deal. He was by far their second best offensive player behind Paul George and he essentially ran point, with George Hill failing to make much of an imprint in the playmaking department.
Instead, Stephenson led the team in assists per game (4.5) and Indiana cannot afford to lose him because without his services, they would be a lot closer to being the worst offensive team in the NBA than they are right now – sixth worst at 96.7 ppg.
Unfortunately, Stephenson has most likely played his way out of their price range.
After three years of mediocre play, he finally had his break out season and could have been an All-Star this season in addition to leading the NBA in triple-doubles (5), during his contract year. He will be after a big pay day, which someone will no doubt offer him, and the Pacers likely wouldn’t be able to afford him.
George signed a max-deal so he and Roy Hibbert will be receiving roughly $15 million next year. However, don’t expect Lance to demand that kind of money. Instead, look for him to try and get something between David West’s $12 million a year and Hill’s $8 million.
Odds are the final figure will be closer to West’s money because he simply played better than both players. Although, Indiana may not even be willing to go anywhere near that ball park. According to ESPN.com’s Mike Wells and Brian Windhoarst:
“Sources said there are many in the organization who don't think it's a good decision to give him a rich, long-term contract, given the way he has acted during the season."
If that’s the case, then perhaps the Pacers could go with Turner whose stock would have no doubt plummeted after struggling so much in Indy. He would be a cheaper alternative that does the similar-if not the same- things. Plus, that way at least they would still have some money left over to add some veteran help. Maybe one or two desperate for a championship ring, to end up with a similar set up as the one in Miami? Or even get several versatile shooters at a cheap price like the San Antonio Spurs have done for their core players.
Indiana will also need Hibbert playing up to his All-Star status and George at a level worthy of $ 8million per annum. As for Paul George, he will have to stop falling in love with the 3 pointers so much.
It’s all well and good if you’re hitting them. But if you’re not quite on point with the accuracy, it usually helps to start driving towards the basket. You may get easy lay-ups or end up at the free-throw line.
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