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NBA Preview: Pacers and Bucks


Record:  35-47, 4th in Central Division, 9th in Eastern Conference

Statistical Comparisons:


30th in field goal %  
4th in blocks
27th in turnovers


24th in the league in scoring (95.6 ppg)
12th in opponent scoring (98.0 ppg)
20th  in ppg differential (-2.4 ppg)
13th in opponent field goal %
9th in three-point %  
19th (tie) in assists
11th in steals
8th in opponent turnovers
Good offensive rebounding team
Average defensive rebounding team

Significant Additions:  
Kareem Rush, Travis Diener, Stanko Barac (R)

Significant Subtractions:
Darrell Armstrong

Key Players

PG:  Jamaal Tinsley, Travis Diener
SG:   Mike Dunleavy, Kareem Rush
SF:  Danny Granger, Marquis Daniels
PF:  Troy Murphy, Ike Diogu
C:  Jermaine O'Neal, Jeff Foster

Comments:   I used to really enjoy talking about the Pacers.  They were a balanced team, well-constructed, with offensive firepower, good defense, and plenty of grit.  Best of all they were perpetually underrated as a team.  They were one of those teams you could predict to "overachieve" and really look smart.  What the heck happened?  They got into ring territory for a while but got knocked off stride by a player with giant talent but even worse attitude problems.  After they just missed it got worse as they tried to compensate by adding good players with even more baggage.  When that didn't work they had to dump all of their problem children for lesser talents with enormous contracts.  Now they look like a crazy-quilt compilation of old and new, healthy and injured, veteran and inexperienced, running and plodding, all with mismatched skill sets and no clear direction.  And they're still having troubles with the law and in the papers.  To Blazer fans this seems eerily familiar.

When you look at the Indiana roster there are a lot of players to like.  They've got one A-level star in Jermaine O'Neal, though he has consistently dealt with injuries and waves of discontentment to boot.  Then you have some good young guys in Murphy, Diogu, and Granger.  Marquis Daniels and Mike Dunleavy are looking to find their way still but more than one team thought they had talent.  That seems like a decent (though not overwhelming) talent base.  But here's the thing...everybody we've mentioned so far is a forward, or would be if they weren't all crammed on the same team.  And that's six of their top seven guys.  I have always like Jamaal Tinsley and considered him one of the most underrated point guards in the league but his game and attitude have both gone south.  Everybody else on the team put together couldn't be traded for one first round pick.  Put together this all spells trouble.

Fortunately the Pacers play in the still-weak East, so they're not likely to reach abysmal levels anytime soon.  If you could get some grit, coordination, and commitment out of them you could even see this team sneaking in the playoffs.  But right now grit, coordination, and commitment are in short supply.  This is a team on the way downward, not up.  The persistent Jermaine O'Neal trade rumors seem to indicate that management knows this is the case too.

The reality is you're probably going to have to blow this team up.  The only question is whether you do it now or later.  Best guess is that the office wouldn't mind sooner rather than later but the contracts almost mandate later instead of sooner.  Either way there are likely to be some dim years ahead for Pacer fans.  I'm guessing a minimum of three good draft picks and two beneficial trades before we talk about the team being on the upswing again.


Record:  28-54, 5th in Central Division, 14th in Eastern Conference

Statistical Comparisons:


27th in opponent scoring (104.0 ppg)
27th  in ppg differential (-4.4 ppg)
29th in opponent field goal %
30th in blocks


10th in the league in scoring (99.7 ppg)
9th in field goal %  
9th in three-point %  
12th in assists
15th in steals
17th  in turnovers
7th in opponent turnovers
Average offensive rebounding team
Very Poor defensive rebounding team

Significant Additions:  
Desmond Mason, Michael Ruffin, Jake Voskuhl, Samaki Walker, Royal Ivey, Yi Jianlian (R)

Significant Subtractions:
Ruben Patterson, Brian Skinner

Key Players

PG:  Mo Williams, Charlie Bell, Royal Ivey
SG:   Michael Redd, Desmond Mason
SF:  Bobby Simmons, David Noel
PF:  Charlie Villanueva, Yi Jianlian
C:  Andrew Bogut, Dan Gadzuric, Jake Voskuhl

Comments:  In the previous review I admitted my respect for the Pacers a few years ago.  Here's a darker confession:  in my earliest days of fandom teams like this would have looked good to me.  Michael Redd is a fantastic shooter and scorer.  If Bobby Simmons can return healthy he will be a great Robin to Redd's Batman.  Charlie Villanueva is an up-and-coming forward.  Charlie Bell just came off the best season of his career.  Andrew Bogut is a #1 overall pick entering his third year.  What's not to like?

Well, putrid, awful, stinky, deplorable defense for one.  And even worse rebounding for another.  Bucks fans will probably be hoping that last year's injuries were the reason for the team's demise.  That's true in a way, but even Simmons and Villanueva returning full strength won't alleviate the weaknesses that most hurt the team.  The Bucks' talent almost to a man is like those life-sized cardboard cut-outs you see in the trendy mall stores.  They look great from the right angle, but as soon as you step sideways it's obvious they're not three-dimensional.  Oh, and Yi Jianlian fits right into this pattern too.

Here's the sad news:  it doesn't matter how much Michael Redd scores, how much Andrew Bogut develops, how quickly Yi adapts to the NBA, how well Desmon Mason fits in, or how long Charlie Bell can sustain his level of play.  This team just isn't going to work right together.  They're too soft, too offensively-oriented, too thin in the starting spots, and either too young, too old, or too untalented off the bench.  Even if this team overachieves like crazy they're not likely to make the playoffs.

--Dave (