Everything is in flux for the Indiana Pacers going into next season. Paul George will make a full-fledged return from last year’s devastating knee injury, and the rest of the squad will barely resemble the team that had epic showdowns with the Big 3-era Miami Heat in the not-so-distant past.
First, veteran power forward David West skipped town in free agency to join the Western Conference juggernaut Spurs (arguably the unofficial winners of the offseason). Then, the team finally traded Roy Hibbert after his steep decline rendered him expendable in the organization’s future plans.
Both of those moves left a gaping hole in Indiana’s previously loaded frontcourt, which had been largely responsible for the Pacers’ prowess as a defensive unit. But thanks to the draft, they were able to land 6-foot-11 prospect Myles Turner, who has the natural talent to eventually fill Hibbert’s shoes as a rim protector and can stretch the floor on offense with his shooting.
That still leaves a question mark at the power forward position, and there have been whispers that George might log significant time there if the Pacers – as they’ve indicated is their preference – join the sexy new NBA trend that is the small-ball, run-and-gun approach. Here’s what Pacers president Larry Bird had to say on the matter. Via Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star:
I suppose you have to admire Bird’s candor (if not his cantankerousness), even if it appears George doesn’t have much say in the matter. After all, Bird knows a thing or two about being an undersized power forward in the NBA. Furthermore, the previous incarnation of the Pacers only made it so far, and that was at least partially due to their now-primitive approach to the game in the wake of the pace-and-space movement that has overtaken the league in the past few years.
They’ve made significant strides toward that end of the spectrum this offseason, not the least of which was adding a speedy combo guard like Monta Ellis who can play both backcourt positions and put up points in bunches. Opening up the floor on offense will be good for everybody, but the real punishment for George will be on the defensive end if he has to spend significant time banging against bigger bodies in the paint. Let’s not forget he’s still working his way back from a devastating injury that sidelined him for practically all of last season.
And we haven’t even mentioned the fact that a healthy relationship between an organization and its franchise cornerstone is a must in today’s climate. They’ll need to figure out some sort of compromise if this arrangement is going to be successful.
(via Gregg Doyel)