COMMENTARY | The Indiana Pacers are expected to be championship contenders this season after pushing the Miami Heat to a seven-game series in the Eastern Conference finals last season.
Expectations are high for the Pacers this coming season, and the fans are finally coming back to support Pacers basketball.
While they did make obvious upgrades to their bench this season, there are still areas of concern to keep an eye on.
1. The Health of Danny Granger
The Pacers have been very adamant that they believe the comeback of Danny Granger will be their biggest offseason acquisition. Granger missed all but five games last season due to a knee injury, and wound up having surgery to help get him back on track this year.
While he has looked much better, there are still concerns about how much he'll be able to bring to the table. Indiana's team doctors have cleared him for full contact and believe that he'll be fine, but his health is an obvious concern.
2. The Consistency of Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert received a max contract extension from the Pacers last offseason, but didn't perform up to the level that was expected from him during the regular season. He has shown up in a big way in the playoffs the last two seasons, but the Pacers need Hibbert to be a formidable threat each and every night. If the Pacers want to live up to the hype this season and become championship contenders, they will need the postseason form of Roy Hibbert to show up.
3. Will Paul George Live Up to His New Contract?
Paul George had a big season last year, including an All-Star appearance and received a max contract from the Pacers to keep him in Indiana long-term. While the overall opinion is that the deal will pan out for both sides, there are still concerns about George's ability to become the No. 1 player on the Pacers this year.
There's no doubt that he is capable of scoring the basketball, but he does have some question marks surrounding his ball-handling and play-making abilities. Indiana's championship hopes lie largely on the performance of Paul George.
4. The Bench Production
Indiana's biggest issue last season was the production from their bench. D.J. Augustin, Tyler Hansbrough, Ian Mahinmi, and Gerald Green were not able to get things done consistently throughout the season. There were bright spots here and there, but during the playoffs, especially, the bench disappeared. The Pacers brought in Chris Copeland, C.J. Watson, Solomon Hill, and Luis Scola to help fill that void from last year. While the bench does look good on paper, they will need to show it on the court before this concern is alleviated.
5. Can the Defense Remain as Strong?
The Pacers had one of the NBA's strongest defenses last season, and that is where head coach Frank Vogel likes Indiana to hang its hat. There have been questions swirling throughout Indiana's early preseason performances surrounding whether or not the Pacers will have as strong of a defense as they did last season. If the Pacers want to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, they will have to beat Miami, New York, Brooklyn, and Chicago, and it will take defense to do that. They must play the same level of defense that they played last season to reach their full potential.
Overall, this Pacers team is a relatively solid-looking team. On paper, they are certainly championship contenders, but these five concerns are areas to keep an eye on. The city of Indianapolis is expecting a great season, and rightfully so. Assuming these five concerns are met, that great season is exactly what they will receive.
Evan Massey lives in Indianapolis and has followed the Indiana Pacers for the past 16 years. He has written for many sports websites including Hoops-Nation.com, Pro Football Spot, and Naptown's Finest. Follow Evan on Twitter at @massey_evan.
- Sports & Recreation
- Indiana Pacers
- Danny Granger
- Roy Hibbert
- Paul George