Roster Reload: Indiana Pacers
Furor over Frank Vogel's job clouds real issue -- a flawed roster
The Indiana Pacers' late-season slide began with a seemingly benign home loss to Golden State on March 4. Before that the Pacers were a league-best 46-13, but proceeded to stumble to a 10-13 finish. The slide nearly became a full-blown collapse when the Pacers fell behind both Atlanta and Washington in the playoffs, but when Indiana beat Miami in Game 1 of the East finals, it seemed like order had been restored.
This is where the Pacers had been pointed all along. Unfortunately, Indiana was so thoroughly throttled for the duration of the series, that the enigma of Indiana's post-All-Star stagger has again taken center stage. Under Frank Vogel, the Pacers have posted their second-highest three-year winning percentage in club history. The best three-year stretch was 1998 to 2000. The coach for those seasons? Larry Bird, who as the Pacers' team president now must decide whether to stay the course with a club that veered wildly off the title-contending path it once seemed to be on.
2014-15 baseline (if all current players returned): 44.7 wins
(from Bradford Doolittle's ATH system)
I. Main assets
Elhassan: Indiana has much of its core under contract; whether that's a good or bad thing depends on your point of view. Paul George started to come into his own this season as an all-round talent, but was ultimately incapable of handling the burden of being the main offensive weapon and "set the table" guy for his teammates. He's still a fantastic talent, and quite possibly the best wing defender in the league, but clearly needs help offensively. Lance Stephenson took a big step forward as a utility offensive player with defensive prowess, but similarly lost focus and discipline as the season wore on. Roy Hibbert started the year almost as the de facto Defensive Player of the Year (and a clear thorn in the side of the Miami Heat), but underwent a massive regression over the second half of the season that gives rise to serious concern about two more years and more than $30 million allotted to him, especially given his limitations versus teams with stretch bigs. Similarly, the money devoted to David West ($24 million over two years) seems to outpace his contributions to the team, no trivial matter for a small-market team intent on staying under the tax threshold.
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