by John Miller
The Indiana Pacers kick off their 2010-11 campaign on Wednesday when they head west to San Antonio to take on the Spurs. Indianapolis is still going to be the Colts town, but the start of the NBA season always gets me excited, because with baseball coming to an end, there will still be sports to watch during the week.
The Pacers have been busy this offseason trying to improve the team and acquired some nice young players in the process.
The big deal of the offseason was made in a four way trade in which the Pacers were given the rights to Darren Collison from New Orleans while shipping off big man Troy Murphy to New Jersey. Collison is the PG of the future for the Pacers and is just 23 years old.
Last season, after the injury to Chris Paul, Collison averaged 18.8 points, 9.1 assists, and 1.4 steals per game in 37 starts. While Collison can be explosive on the offensive side of the ball he struggles on defense, much of which can be attributed to his small size. His arrival brings excitement to a position that has been all but missing since the departure of fan favorite Mark Jackson.
The other addition from the trade with the Hornets is veteran wing man James Posey. Posey is a solid defender and a good shooter, the exact type of player coach Jim O’Brien loves to utilize. This Pacer team has a plethora of wings and most likely at least one and possibly two will get moved in the near future. Most notably on that list are Dahntay Jones, Brandon Rush, and/or Mike Dunleavy.
The Pacers drafted three players in the 2010 draft, all of which already signed contracts. The selections were top 10 pick, SG Paul George, and 2nd rounders PG/SG Lance Stephenson and SF/PF Magnum Rolle. Another face back to the rotation is second year big Tyler Hansbrough. Tyler is finally recovered and ready to go after dealing with the head problems and vertigo that sidelined him for most of last season.
Rookie Paul George is a super athletic wing who has as much potential as anyone in this past year’s draft class not named Wall or Cousins. The big question is whether he will be able to turn that talent into a high quality NBA level. He is known for his ability to shoot the basketball and he has the athleticism to become an elite defender. I am really excited to see how he will progress because he seems like a great young man who could be a cornerstone of the franchise.
The other two main pieces in the rebuilding process along with Collison and George are household names in Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert. Granger had a great Summer as part of the gold medal winning USA team in the World Championships. I look for him to bounce back from last season’s lower shooting percentages and continue his All-Star form of 2008-09. He is one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA and he could average around 25 points per contest this season now that he has a PG to create plays for him.
The new fan favorite in Indianapolis is lovable big man Roy Hibbert. Big Roy plays the game with enthusiasm and has really showed his hard work this offseason by dropping weight and making himself more agile and durable. With the departure of Troy Murphy, look for Hibbert to really prosper by getting more touches down low and by playing with an athletic PF that will better compliment his skill set.
Roy also came up with the great idea this year of buying season tickets for 55 fans, his number, and calls the group “Area 55″. He had auditions that people came to in an effort to find the craziest and most passionate fans to give the tickets to. The hope is to create a college style atmosphere that will get the whole crowd pumped up and create a real home court advantage. His interaction with the fans is exactly what the city needs, a team they can be proud of again.
My hope for this team is continued progress. They have loads of young talent and should be very exciting to watch. The Pacers are still a little thin at PF and need to work on their defense, but they will score loads of points. I will be in attendance for the home opener October 30th, and am excited to see how the team plays together (and also to witness “Area 55″). While this team will not compete for a title this year, the future is very bright. There are just a few more pieces that need to be filled to make the Pacers a playoff regular once again.
Predicted Rotation: PG – Darren Collison SG – Mike Dunleavy SF – Danny Granger PF – Josh McRoberts C – Roy Hibbert 6th Man – Tyler Hansbrough
Follow me on Twitter @JWM_IndySports or shoot me an email at email@example.com