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  • Sam Churchill

The Pacers Finally Take On Their Moniker

*Photo via Getty Images

Just three years ago, Indiana’s core was formed and fierce. They had grown in confidence and experience and seemed ready to pose a legitimate threat to King James’ throne. They had the top ranked defense in the league (99.8 rating) and allowed just 90.7 points per game (second in NBA). Indiana was that close. Then, as things seem to go, the stalwarts that had come to personify the mold of the squad in Roy Hibbert, David West, and Lance Stephenson moved on. The leadership on-court moved on from the passive-aggressive Danny Granger to the personality-enigma that is Paul George (PG13). The heart and soul of the Indiana Pacers themselves dating back to the early 90’s of the Davis’ brothers, gritty Rik Smits, and Reggie Miller has been completely made-over within one offseason.

Reports come out almost daily about Indiana’s new starlet Paul George being disgruntled about his new role of playing power forward. Let’s put this into perspective; George is 6’9, around 220-225lbs. President Larry “Legend” Bird and coach Vogel have made their desire to shift to the new-age of small ball apparent and moving George to 4 is their goal.

Just three seasons ago, Vogel was rolling out the menacing lineup of bruisers of Roy Hibbert (7’2), David West (6’11), Danny Granger (6’9), Paul George (6’8ish), and George Hill (6’3). That was easily the biggest lineup in the NBA and as for Paul? He was playing shooting guard.

Things could not be more opposite now in Nap Town. The projected starting lineup going into late October looks something like George Hill, Monta Ellis, CJ Miles, Paul George, and Ian Mahinmi. As venomous and up-tempo as this small and agile lineup looks, the defensive and rebounding deficiencies are obvious.

*Photo via AP

Some of this massive shift in ideology was forced upon the team when one of the captains and leaders of the team in David West left town. With Hibbert and Scola leaving as well, it left a void that GM Donnie Walsh and Bird had to fill one of two ways; stay big and find subpar replacements or scrap everything and go small and fast (like most of the Association). When the proposition of Monta Ellis became a reasonable alternative, the gears began turning full speed ahead.

In the past five or six seasons, the backcourt has been the Achilles heel that bogged the Pacers down in their quests to defeat the “Evil Empire” down in Miami. George Hill and Lance just couldn’t pack enough punch when they were called upon to out-produce Dwyane Wade. Now it seems as if the strengths and weaknesses of the team have reversed completely. The backcourt of Monta Ellis, George Hill, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, and Paul George (sort of) now seem very promising going forward. On the flip side, the front court of Jordan Hill, Myles Turner, Ian Mahinmi, Chase Budinger, and Solomon Hill seem quite pedestrian… at best.

​*Photo via Getty Images

To say this will be an interesting experiment is a great understatement. This Pacers team will be the most unpredictable bunch of good (and not so good) players the league has seen in the past few years. X-Factors like Glenn Robinson III, whom President Larry Bird has high hopes for, and draftee’s Myles Turner and Joseph Young will bring a fresh buzz to a team most over recent years would proclaim were about as boring as it gets.

The addition of Monta Ellis will surely put the pace in the name of the organization as well as if George stays at the power forward. The question will remain that if the team starts out slow (and gives up a TON of points), how quickly will Vogel revert back to his tried and true ways of defense and low-post guile. The problem is he does not really have any options on the bench left to do so.

Indiana could be great. They could be electric and high-octane and run teams out of the gym like their forefathers did back in the 70’s during their ABA dynasty. Indiana could also be pretty bad like they were last season, though a healthy Paul George would have something to say about that. Odds are that this experiment will take time and the team will be decent as it adjusts to its new identity. A fifth or sixth place finish seems pretty fair for a team with a former MVP candidate leading the way. However they do, it most certainly will be more fun to watch these more pacey Pacers.

#SamChurchill #NBA #Pacers

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