COMMENTARY | The Indiana Pacers have begun the season at a very impressive rate and are sitting with a record of 19-3.
Much of their success has been because of the starting lineup that they have thrown out for the most part of the season, so what grades can be given to those individual players through the first quarter of the season?
Roy Hibbert, Center: A-
Hibbert is averaging 13.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game this season, which has been a very underrated key to Indiana's success. He has stepped up his play on the boards and has become arguably the NBA's best rim protector.
Not only has he been putting up the numbers to be a Defensive Player of the Year Award candidate, but he also has been very vocal about his desire to win the prized award. The Pacers aren't asking Hibbert to be a top offensive option, but he has found a way to scrape together very solid scoring numbers by attacking the offensive glass and an improving post game. There are still improvements to be made as far as finishing his shots in the paint are concerned, but he has been one of the most consistent centers in the NBA this season.
David West, Power Forward: B
The Pacers gave David West a very lucrative contract this past offseason to keep him in Indiana for the next three seasons. West was an All-Star caliber player last season and was a true team leader for the Pacers, but he seems to have fallen off this season.
Offensively, he just doesn't seem like the player that he was last year. He's not as aggressive, and he isn't shooting the ball as consistently as he has in the last two seasons with the Pacers. His defense has been impressive, averaging 1.0 blocks but also being a very physical presence inside. It's too early in the season to get too concerned with West, but it's definitely something to keep an eye on as the season continues to move forward. Indiana still looks at him as the emotional leader of its team and a backbone its "smash-mouth" mindset.
Paul George, Small Forward: A+
Paul George has emerged as the new superstar in the NBA and has shown progress in every single aspect of his game from last season. He's able to score the ball in ways that he couldn't last year and his play-making ability for teammates has improved dramatically as well. The Pacers haven't had a guy that they can go to whenever the need a play in quite some time, but that is exactly what Paul George is for this team. His 43-point outbreak against Portland just over a week ago silenced the critics, and he has become a household name for any NBA fan.
Lance Stephenson, Shooting Guard: B+
In addition to Paul George, the Pacers have seen major improvement from their starting shooting guard Lance Stephenson. He has improved his offensive game as far as shooting the basketball and is a much better defender as well. He's still able to impact the game in a big way with his play-making skills as well.
Stephenson is averaging 12.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game, which are very impressive numbers. Not only has he put up great averages, but he has also recorded two triple-doubles this season. If the Pacers win a championship this season, Stephenson is going to be a major reason why.
George Hill, Point Guard: B-
When everything is said and done, George Hill has done a fairly good job of running the point for the Pacers. There have been quite a few times throughout the season where his skills as a point guard have been called into question, but he has done enough to earn a solid grade for his performance. He has knocked down clutch shots time and time again and has made plays as a point guard as well. Obviously, there are areas that he still needs to improve in to become the best point guard that he can be, but he's a good fit with the current starting lineup.
These players have all been playing great team basketball and have exceeded quite a few expectations. The Pacers are backing up all the hype that they received this past offseason and are truly a championship contender this season.
Indiana's starting five have been very impressive through the first quarter of the season, and don't expect them to slow down as the season progresses.
Evan Massey lives in Indianapolis and has followed the Indiana Pacers for the past 16 years. He has written for many sports websites including ProSportsExtra.com, Hoops-Nation.com, ProFootballSpot.com, and NaptownsFinest.com. Follow Evan on Twitter at @massey_evan.
- Sports & Recreation
- Indiana Pacers
- Paul George