NBA Franchise Power Rankings: #21 – Indiana Pacers
#30 - Charlotte Bobcats (+ introduction) #29 - Phoenix Suns #28 - Denver Nuggets #27 - Detroit Pistons #26 - Milwaukee Bucks #25 - Philadelphia 76ers #24 - Houston Rockets #23 - Portland Trailblazers #22 - Toronto Raptors
#21 – Indiana Pacers
Total Trade Value Ranking: #22
Best assets – SF Danny Granger (borderline all-star), C Roy Hibbert (legitimate starter), SF Paul George (young, projects as borderline starter to legitimate all-star), PG Darren Collision (borderline starter), PG/SG George Hill (borderline starter), PF Tyler Hansbrough (borderline starter), SG Brandon Rush (borderline starter), 2012 1st, 2013 1st, AJ Price (bench player)
Other chips: SF James Posey (old expiring)
Bad contracts: SG Dahtnay Jones (2 years, 5.6 million)
Finanical Grade: A+
Managerial Grade: B-
Overall synopsis: The Pacers are a team who’s ranking could change by a month from now because they are prime position for a free agency score once the lockout ends which I’ll address later, but for the purposes of this list they are ranked on their present position. Like teams such as Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Houston, the Pacers have taken a lot of criticism for being “mediocore”, an 8th seed last year without much hope of scoring in the draft to rise on the list. A list based most on total trade value tries to capture this tangibly by counting their draft picks as only marginally valuable compared to other teams near them like Toronto and Cleveland’s. But despite a series of 30 W+ seasons, the Pacers have done an excellent job finding impact players and assets with lesser draft spots. Danny Granger is an all-star albeit already 28 and Roy Hibbert is a fixture at the hardest position to find, Center. They somehow moved Troy Murphy for young PG Darren Collision and SF Paul George has star upside due to his combination of speed, length and shooting ability. The team has excellent defensive fundamentals and commitment, unlike many teams made of young players as of late – they are a model for development and culture of prospects and fitting into a solidified system, maximizing the talent of their draft picks rather than relying on talent alone to sort out the success and failures. Still, even with all their hard work drafting and developing, they are still starting up a long list of 20 teams to surpass on this ladder. It’s hard to see their luck drafting starters outside the lottery lasting that much longer with increasingly lower picks. They desperately need Hibbert or George to become true young all-stars rather than just good pieces.
As I outlined for the Houston Rockets write-up, perhaps they should follow the model of a baseball team who realizes they have a 28 year old star pitcher or hitter doesn’t fit salary and age wise with the rest of the roster -realizing the best move may to move him for prospects, let the now developed prospects take his position in the lineup, and use the assets in return to replenish the rest of the team. This is a 1 step back, 2 steps forward strategy. In this case that 28 year old would be Danny Granger, and Paul George who is arguably a SF, would be the one taking his spot if he does have that potential. The alternative, while not terrible, is to continue building a team like the recent Atlanta Hawks. Good defense and depth, solid offense but no gamebreakers, and enough for multiple playoff spots and 2nd round appearances. The good Pacers teams in the 2000s, 1990s and going back to the ABA champions in the 70s have always been built on depth and balanced starting lineups instead of traditional superstar and co. rosters, so there is a precedent for this type of team building working more than you’d think for this franchise.
Management/Finances: The Pacers are in fantastic financial position because their capspace is lined up this summer to sign one of Nene or David West, arguably the two biggest free agents available. As the Pacers biggest weakness is a lack of a starting PF, both are excellent fits. It is probable they turn to Nene first, who would be a great defensive fit next to Roy Hibbert, passes the ball well in their system, and fits their culture. If they sign Nene this pushes them higher on this list without question, as he’d likely be the most valuable player on the team even over Danny Granger. Management wise, it’s a mixed bag. As mentioned, they do a fantastic job developing prospects and making a culture for their team, but one has to accept the philosophy of gunning for 1st round knockouts is not the most succesful, historically. I do believe their coach Frank Vogel is an excellent fit, the Pacers gameplan on both ends against the Bulls in last year’s playoffs was sound and succesful and he was an animated presence on the sidelines you could tell the players responded to.
Next season: Even without the Nene or David West signing I’d believe their internal improvement and comfort with each other would lead to a 45 W or so season next year. Defensively they are strong with a good interior anchor in Hibbert and athletic rotations outside. Offensively they move the ball around their centerpiece Granger, get contributions inside from Hibbert, and have necessary shooting outside. They are a rare offensive team in that they don’t rely on guard penetrations, which can be difficult to match up against and shut down – Dallas and Orlando have proven this recently. Without a star like Howard or Nowitzki, this is formula for a good, but not outstanding team. But with one of Nene or West, they have a legitimate chance at 50 Ws and a 2nd round appeaarance. I will project their record with Nene because I believe the writing on the wall is fairly clear that they will go for him. Projected ORTG: 13th. Projected DRTG: 7th. Projected record: 50-32
Projection: They will likely rise on this list in the new few weeks with the liklihood of a Nene or West signing and the possible improvement of Paul George next season giving them upside. But it will be very difficult for them to rise past 15th or 16th with the present roster. Projection is upwards overall, but with a wall waiting for them eventually some higher drafting teams may not have.