(I love dunking mascots...)
Team: Indiana Pacers
Last Year’s Record: 36-46 (4th, Central Division)
Head Coach: Jim O'Brien
Comings: Luther Head, Dahntay Jones, Solomon Jones, Earl Watson, Tyler Hansbrough (No. 13), A.J. Price (No. 52)
Goings: Maceo Baston, Marquis Daniels, Jarrett Jack, Rasho Nesterovic, Jamaal Tinsley
Blogger Thoughts - Jared Wade - Eight Points Nine Seconds
"The Pacers season could go one of two ways. In scenario one, Mike Dunleavy, Jr. plays 60-70 games, performs productively and the Pacers contend for the 7th or 8th seed. In scenario two, MDJ plays fewer than 50 games while struggling with knee problems and the team wins 30 games. This season will come down to Mike's knee. If he doesn't recover fully, things could get ugly in Indianapolis."
Thoughts on the Nets
"I like the Nets future, but the present will not be great. Devin, Brook, Courtney and CDR comprise a good nucleus, Terrance Williams has some promise and Yi may become a decent pro yet. But even while waiting for tens of millions of dollars of cap space to free up next summer, I think the team still has the chance to flirt with 40 wins if all the cards fall into place. (My in-depth look can be found here.)"
Blogger Thoughts Part 2 - Sean Stevenson - Indy Cornrows
"Depending on how much you valued Jarrett Jack and how optimistic you are on the injury status of Mike Dunleavy and rookie Tyler Hansbrough, you’re expectations for the Indiana Pacers season could vary greatly. While it’d be easy to expect another 36-win season behind the helm of all-star Danny Granger, it’s the second-hand, bench players who will make or break the season. The additions of Dahntay Jones, Earl Watson, Solomon Jones and Hansbrough suggests a change in team philosophy to defense. But will it be enough to sneak into the playoffs or are the Pacers headed back to the depths of the lottery? Based on previous years on under coach Jim O’Brien’s lead, the team is headed to 33-37 wins."
Thoughts on the Nets
"Similar to the Pacers, the Nets are a team starting over and on the rise (fingers crossed) in a wide-open Eastern Conference. Stay healthy, find some great team chemistry and get some good luck and teams such as the Nets and Pacers could sneak into the playoffs. The Nets have the future in Courtney Lee and Brooke Lopez, now it’s just finding the pieces to build around them. Seems eerily similar to what we’re feeling in the heart of Indy. Better get your flu shot before this season begins, we're all going to need it."
Comparing the Starters:
Starting PG – T.J. Ford (14.9 ppg, 5.3 apg, 16.63 PER) vs. Devin Harris (21.3 ppg, 6.9 apg, 21.65 PER):
For a couple straight years, T.J. Ford was snakebitten by injuries (scary ones at that), but since he joined the Pacers last year, he was able to stay on the court playing in 74 games. He was pretty productive from a PG standpoint averaging 14.9 points and 5.3 assists. He is successful when he uses his speed to get in the lane. The focus for Ford this year is to make him more of a pure point. As Larry Bird put it, “I think (T.J. Ford) will (become a more of a passer). I think he understands what the coach wants. We want to kick the ball forward if we have the opportunity. Plus, T.J. is a lot more valuable when he gives the ball up, goes out of the lane through the weak side, then we swing the ball to him so he can make his plays.”
Nets. This is going to be a fun matchup to watch during the year, as these two PGs have a similar game, but I think Devin is/will be better. T.J. Ford is seemingly locked to improve his play and his numbers, but so Devin.
Starting SG – Dahntay Jones (5.4 ppg, 1 apg, 9.07 PER) vs. Courtney Lee (8.4 ppg, 1.2 apg, 10.78 PER):
Dahntay's PER was down from two years ago, but the problem with that is PER doesn't really evaluate defense, which is one of Dahntay's strength, as Dahntay has become one of the best defenders in the league. His lack of offense is what kept him on the bench, and despite starting, he only play 18 minutes per game. He made 31.2 percent of his 2s outside the basket area, and his 72.8 percent mark from the line was the 10th-worst at his position.
Nets. In a battle of defensive stoppers, I am going to have to give Courtney Lee the edge here. They both give you something on the defensive end, but Lee gives you more on the offensive end than Dahntay does, with Lee having more upside offensively. Even is Lee's shooting rates go down with increased minutes, they should still be better than Dahntay Jones.
Starting SF – Danny Granger (25.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 21.88 PER) vs. Jarvis Hayes (8.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 10.85 PER):
The man who beat out Devin Harris for the MIP was just as deserving for the award if not more, increasing his 40-minute scoring average by seven points, something that just doesn't happen with starters. Granger ranked second among small forwards in PER, fourth in TS% and third in blocks per minute. Despite shooting a ton of jumpers, he also registered one of the highest free-throw rates at his position and made 87.8 percent of them.
Pacers. Despite all reports saying otherwise, I still refuse to put CDR here (check back Wed. for the reason why). Even if he was here, he would still lose this battle. Danny Granger is turning into a legitimate star and #1 scorer. Like I said earlier, a huge jump in his scoring rate is so uncommon with players who don't see a huge increase in their minutes, so you might expect to see his numbers slip a bit, but still he will have a fantastic year.
Starting PF - Troy Murphy (14.3 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 17.81 PER) vs. Yi Jianlian (8.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 10.98 PER):
Troy Murphy quietly put together a pretty solid season in Indiana last year averaging a double-double. Part of it had to do with his defensive rebounding rate. He was 2nd the NBA in that category with an astonishing 32.4 , meaning one missed shot in three ended up in his hands. On the offensive end, Murphy was a sharpshooter from 3, hitting 45 percent of them. Nearly half his shots were 3s, and because he was so accurate, he finished fourth among power forwards in true shooting percentage.
Pacers. It is interesting, because Troy Murphy of last year is what all of us Nets fans are hoping Yi can turn into. A guy who can hit from the outside and can rebound from the defensive end. Murphy might not duplicate his career year, but he will put up better numbers than Yi.
Starting C – Jeff Foster (6.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 13.00 PER) vs. Brook Lopez (13.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 17.94 PER):
Jeff Foster will be the starter going into the season by default, with the main reason being that he only has Roy Hibbert (48.1% in the immediate basket area) and Solomon Jones behind him (3 PPG/2.3 RPG). Foster is a grinder who built his reputation as a rebounder. However, last season he rated only 40th among centers, and also shot and scored infrequently. He was an effective passer though, as he ranked fourth among centers in assist ratio.
Nets. It has to be Brook here. Even if Foster was at his best rebounding self, I would still take Brook. Despite Jeff Foster being a better passer from the high and low post, Brook Lopez is a better rebounder, a better scorer, and a better defender.
The second unit for the Pacers looks to be a weakness for them. Sure they have Roy Hibbert coming off the bench, but that seems to be about it. Luther Head is a pretty good scorer, but that is the only scoring option off of the bench. Tyler Hansboro is still hurt, but they do have Rod Benson in camp this year! God, I love Rod Benson...
Nets. I am a real big fan of the Nets bench, and we can match-up and overtake the Pacers bench. CDR is better than anyone they have coming off the bench. Terrence Williams is. Rafer Alston, in my opinion, is. Josh Boone could probably keep up with Hibbert. Najera, Battie, and Sean Williams are good options as well.