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Pacers’ future has lots of questions, starting with where the offense will come from?

Aug 4, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Game 5 Getty Images

All through Team USA training camp in Las Vegas, Paul George talked about the Pacers getting back to the way they played the first half of last season, about being hungry again. The collapse the second part of last season and into the playoffs (they still made the Eastern Conference Finals but never felt like a real threat to Miami) was something that could be put in the past. With LeBron James moving to Cleveland the East was wide open and George thought the Pacers were right in the middle of it.

Then Friday night happened. George is out for the season and the Pacers are left staring at a tough season and some hard choices.

When George does get back on the court, this could be a very different looking Pacers team.

Next season the Pacers should still be solid because they will defend. Last season Indiana had the best defense in the NBA last season allowing jut 96.7 points per 100 possessions over the course of the regular season and their system is not going to change.

That starts with Roy Hibbert protecting the rim — Indiana did a great job of contesting defenders on the perimeter and guiding them into Hibbert and his 7’9” standing reach. He intimidated and owned the paint. He also struggled last season but with George and Lance Stephenson gone (Stephenson signed in Charlotte as a free agent) Hibbert is going to get more touches and be asked to carry more load on the offensive end and when that happens Hibbert is more engaged and active on both ends. The two-time All-Star could put up the best offensive numbers of his career.

But he could be the real long-term problem for the Pacers.

Hibbert can opt-out after next season and become a free agent. If he’s unhappy with the situation in Indiana, or if he just wants longer-term security, he might.

Which leaves the Pacers with the “should we trade him now and get something in return?” question. They quietly have been shopping him this summer with little real interest — he’s coming off a down season and if a team really wants him they know they might be able to get him as a free agent in a year. Nobody is going to give up much. Still, the Pacers have to consider the option, although this is not a franchise that believes in tear-it-down rebuilds.

With that dangling over their heads, the Pacers need to find some offense this season.

Last season Indiana’s 101.5 points per 100 possessions was 22nd in the NBA and that was with George and Stephenson doing most of the shot creation. Now the offense initiation is going to fall to George Hill — look for him to have an improved season, he was asked to be a caretaker/spot-up shooter with George and Stephenson around but now he can go back to being the aggressive player Gregg Popovich didn’t want to part with. But Hill and Hibbert, with David West and a few shooters does not a great offense make.

It will fall to coach Frank Vogel to wring points out of this stone. And his system struggled to do that when he had Stephenson and George.

Indiana could in theory add a piece. Because of the George injury the Pacers can get a “disabled player exception” and add a player worth up to the mid-level exception of $5.3 million. Except the Pacers are just a little over $2 million under the luxury tax line now and they didn’t want to go over that line in the best of times, let alone for this team that likely is not going deep in the playoffs.

Guys like Shawn Marion are still out there and could help, but can they land him.

Expect the Pacers to remain a top 10 certainly (likely top five) defense, but one that is going to fall closer to .500 (or below) because they cannot score enough. Also expect to hear them in a lot of trade rumors as they have a lot of hard questions about the long-term future to answer.

  1. bball242322 - Aug 4, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    Rough season for the Pacers ahead. How disappointing

  2. rrhoe - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    If their offense has to go through Roy Hibbert they are in trouble.

  3. bougin89 - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    Watching George Hill run an offense without Lance or Paul George will be downright horrible. Really, really unfortunate injury for Paul and the Pacers(to state the obvious).

  4. money2long - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    how is shawn marion still available. i know the spurs gotta want him at least.

  5. therealhtj - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    Stupid CBA coming back to bite a cheap, small market team that demanded it this way. Be careful what you wish for.

    • fiyeaglesfiy - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:34 AM

      Paul George has a freak injury, and this is the CBA’s fault how?

      • therealhtj - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:41 AM

        It’s not Paul George or his injury. It’s the ramifications of what happens to a team when a high salaried guy gets hurt.

        They get nothing but the injury exception – roughly amounting to the MLE. Still counts against the cap and tax, which small markets will never exceed.

        PG still gets all his money, much of which is likely paid out by insurance.
        Indy does not gain any cap flexibility, for the duration of his contact, even if PG comes back as a shell of himself. If he retired, today, he still wouldn’t come off the books until the following season.

        The fact they let Lance go over money only compounds the problem. Indiana went from a decent squad with a puncher’s chance, to one that’s lottery bound. That’s how the CBA is hurting the small markets, who pushed for these restrictions.

      • rrhoe - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        @therealhtj: Your comment is the absolute best post I have read on this site,ever. They cannot adequately replace PG but they also cannot use his money to even try,FA market is dry and the restricted FA’s they cannot even make an offer to,so it’s bad all the way around.

      • borderline1988 - Aug 4, 2014 at 1:37 PM

        All of you are missing the entire point of the CBA.

        Of course the CBA can hurt teams in bad situations, such as the 2014-15 Pacers. But that can happen to ALL teams. The point is that there is more equality, more opportunity for small-market teams to compete. If Carmelo goes down for the season with a freak injury, the Knicks would have the same problem. The Lakers have a huge problem when Kobe gets injured. If Lebron was out for the season last year, Miami wouldn’t have been contenders.

        Small market teams shouldnt get more or less opportunity than big market teams. I dont care if it is OKC, the Knicks, or Boston; if you have Harden, Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka, you’re going to have a tough time keeping them all under the CBA.

        Ultimately, I think that under the new CBA, competitiveness in the NBA will increase over time.

    • zoomy123 - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      The biggest myth in the NBA is that the CBA helps small market teams. Ask OKC how they feel about giving up Harden for peanuts.

      • therealhtj - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:02 AM

        It only helps the owners and to a lesser degree the players make guaranteed money.

        The fans? They get an inferior product.

    • beach305 - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:37 AM

      Most fans don’t really comprehend the severity of the new CBA has on teams. This isn’t like anything we’ve seen before.

  6. metalhead65 - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    the only way they score points is if their stubborn coach realizes offense is part of the game to and allows the guys who were brought in for that reason to do it. guys like copeland and scola whose game is scoring need to be on the court and the freedom to do it while there. he needs to adj. his system to fit the players he has and if he doesn’t then get somebody in there who will.

  7. cruzan80 - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Blow it up.

    They’re currently built to win right now & they won’t. West is 33, Hill is 28 & Hibbert is 27 years old. Trade them all for young talent & draft picks while they still have value.

    • pickyouoff24 - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      The Bulls fought through it last year and everything is going to end up fine in Chicagoland. Indy will be no different.

      • sportsfan18 - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        maybe…

        maybe not…

        the Bulls had already fought through the season before without D Rose. They had experience at doing that. the Bulls were scrappy and are scrappy. they were a tough out for folks without D Rose.

        the Pacers, even with a FULL deck blew it last yr and fell apart. their odds of doing well this year without George and Lance coupled with the knowledge that they failed miserably at the end of last yr is going to be tough for them to overcome.

      • antistratfordian - Aug 4, 2014 at 3:49 PM

        The Pacers with a full deck got farther than the Bulls with a full deck. The Bulls weren’t a tough out without Rose. They weren’t even a tough out with Rose. At least not for the elite.

    • cruzan80 - Aug 4, 2014 at 2:29 PM

      @sportsfan

      Brace yourself for this…..I agree.

  8. mungman69 - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Nothing to see in this team. A below .500 record.

  9. ebecks34 - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    If your offense will be in charge of the goose eggs king, you know you are in deep trouble.

  10. 1friendofthepeople - Aug 4, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    Roy opting out? Ahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahhah.

    I’m sure given how consistent he has been teams will be falling over themselves so that they can pay him big money over the long haul.

  11. Wammy Giveaway - Aug 4, 2014 at 5:41 PM

    With the Pacers season in turmoil, one team I could see getting involved in trade talks with Indiana is the Clippers. Both West and Hibbert are superstars who could give the Clippers a true Big 3, and a player who can help Chris Paul finally get out of the second round. But would Doc jump at the idea of trading an up-and-coming DeAndre Jordan and breaking up the core just to get out of the second round, and repair Chris Paul’s tarnished superstar legacy?

    That question will only be answered if the Pacers answer this: do they tank the season?

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