COMMENTARY | The Indiana Pacers have put together a 13-1 record through their first 14 games of the season and are the best team in the Eastern Conference.
They have shown a complete team both offensively and defensively, and their bench has proved to be much-improved as well. Through the first 14 games, there are three observations in particular that can be taken away:
1. Roy Hibbert Has Embraced His Role
Roy Hibbert had a huge postseason against the Miami Heat, and many were expecting him to be more aggressive offensively to start the regular season this year. The Indiana Pacers already have many scoring options in Paul George, Lance Stephenson, David West, and George Hill.
With those four players, they certainly do not need Hibbert to scored 20 points every night. Hibbert has embraced the role of defensive stopper and rebounder and he is excelling in that role. His offense has come to him and he has stepped up in games that they have needed him, but he has made it clear that he wants to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
2. Paul George Is a Legitimate MVP Candidate
The Indiana Pacers have not had a true superstar since Reggie Miller retired, but they finally have one in Paul George. Through the first 14 games, he has averaged 24.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game and has improved in every aspect of his game. Offensively, he has improved his mid-range game and his aggressiveness getting to the rim has improved a lot as well. His play-making ability for his teammates has been impressive as well, and his defense is stellar as usual. At this point, he is definitely in contention for the MVP Award.
3. The Bench Is Much Improved
C.J.Watson, Chris Copeland, Luis Scola, Donald Sloan, and Solomon Hill were all brought in to help out the bench this offseason, and they have done just that. Scola has been the biggest addition and has shown the ability to score as well as rebound. His defense has been solid, but it has been obvious that his defense isn't what it used to be.
Watson has taken care of the basketball and made a couple of quality starts when George Hill sat out due to injury. Sloan has played solid in backup minutes at times and has made some big plays in those minutes. Copeland hasn't gotten a great amount of minutes, but has been improving as the season moves on. Solomon Hill has looked like a rookie, but has done a decent job when called upon. Orlando Johnson and Ian Mahinmi have also been very important pieces off of the Indiana bench. Overall, the bench has been a major improvement over last season's bench.
Overall, this team has shown that it has the ability to compete for a championship this season. The season-ending injury to Derrick Rose has made the Pacers' path easier, but they still have some things to improve in to win the Eastern Conference. These are three very obvious observations, but they are exactly why the Pacers are doing so well to start the season.
Assuming they keep working hard, they have a complete team that will make a run deep into the postseason. Larry Bird has built a winning squad and the entire Pacers team knows it.
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.
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- Roy Hibbert
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