Danny Granger and the Pacers were up 2-1 on the Miami Heat in the playoffs last season, and it seemed like Indiana was a franchise ready to take that next step and maybe reach the NBA Finals. Derrick Rose was hurt, and Indiana had Miami on the ropes!
Then LeBron put on a show in Game 4, the Pacers went soft, and Indiana was left wondering about the direction of the franchise. Was there enough “star power” for Indiana to compete with Miami in the East?
In the offseason, Indiana elected to let backup PG Darren Collison walk, and also lost reserve Lou Amundson. They decided to give the core another year to make a run in the East.
A week into the season, and the Pacers have been hit with nothing but bad news: Collison’s replacement, DJ Augustin, is shooting 23 percent. Roy Hibbert can’t get the ball (8.8 shots per game; 8.8 ppg, both down from last season), and Danny Granger’s knee has kept him off the court.
That problem just became a nightmare: He’s out for three months.
So the Pacers, so close last postseason, will probably play until around the All-Star break without their leading scorer from last year. Will they get enough offense from David West, Paul George and George Hill to contend in the East? The guess here is no.
We’re only a week into the season, but playing half the season without their top scorer probably means Indiana will be fighting with the likes of Cleveland, Atlanta, and maybe Milwaukee or (gasp!) Toronto for the final couple playoff spots.
An adjusted guess at the top 8:
3. New York (it’s early, they’ll falter, I know)
6. Philadelphia (will improve once Bynum arrives)