Over the next month, Blazer's Edge will be rolling out season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Continuing this feature, we discuss the Indiana Pacers with Indy Cornrows manager Tom Lewis. (Yesterday's preview: Brooklyn Nets)
Indiana Pacers 2014-15 Season Preview
2013-14 Record: 56-26, No. 1 in Central Division, No. 1 in Eastern Conference
Roster additions: C.J. Fair (rookie, undrafted), C.J. Miles, Arinze Onuaku, Damjan Rudez, Chris Singleton, Rodney Stuckey, Adonis Thomas, Shayne Whittington (rookie, undrafted)
Roster subtractions: Rasual Butler, Andrew Bynum, Lance Stephenson, Evan Turner
SB Nation affiliate: Indy Cornrows
Blazer's Edge: With Paul George's injury and the departure of Lance Stephenson, some outsiders around the league are calling this season for the Pacers a wash. Can Indiana get into the playoffs and make some noise with the current construction of the roster?
Tom Lewis: Getting into the playoffs is one thing, and in the Eastern Conference certainly possible for the Pacers, but making some noise seems like a long shot at best. The Pacers will have to play well to simply be in the mix for a playoff spot which will still rely on a strong, dedicated defensive effort each night. The Pacers have shown some defensive potential in preseason play, but without Paul George, playing at an elite level will be a challenge. Playing good, solid defense may be the ceiling for this group, which may not be good enough.
BE: Roy Hibbert didn't finish the season consistently strong last year...does he have a bounceback season? What does he need to do differently?
TL: HIbbert needs to stop thinking and just play. He was impacted by the league altering their emphasis on the verticality rule which had been called his way for over a year. In the playoffs, he actually appeared to adjust his game to play within the spirit of the rule while avoiding fouls.
The Pacers will need some offense from Hibbert but his priority needs to remain on protecting the rim. The lack of offense can't drag his mind away from being a dominant defensive player.
As for offense, establishing deeper post position for looks around the rim is a point of emphasis Hibbert is working on, along with finishing stronger. He spent quality time with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who tried to help him with the mental part of the game, as well as maintaining balance as a big man.
BE: Can the Pacers still be one of the elite defensive teams in the NBA this year?
TL: As I mentioned earlier, it may be a stretch for this roster to maintain an elite level of defense. C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey will be better defenders under Frank Vogel but they aren't Paul George and Lance Stephenson. The Pacers best-case scenario would be for second-year player, Solomon Hill to become a big factor since he is a defensive-minded player. If he can start and give them anything offensively, the starting defense will remain strong. Regardless, Chris Copeland or Damjan Rudez will be in the rotation, so the reserve defense will struggle.
BE: Where will most of the offensive production come for Indiana?
TL: The Pacers will rely on David West and Roy Hibbert to deliver more offense since they won't be running things through the wings as they have the past couple of years. George Hill and Rodney Stuckey will have more opportunities off the bounce to make plays of pick n' rolls and pin downs with a lineup of wings that a spot-up shooters as opposed the slashers.
[Editor's note: David West sprained his ankle in a preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks Saturday night.]
BE: How do you expect coach Frank Vogel's playing rotation to look?
TL: Through the early preseason it appears, Hibbert, West, GHill and Stuckey are expected to start. C.J. Miles is the most likely starting small forward, but Vogel has indicated he'd like to have Stuckey or Miles coming off the bench to help even out the offensive with the reserve unit. Solomon Hill would then be a good defensive option for the starting unit while Copeland may be an offensive option. Just may be, Vogel continues tweaking the lineup depending on the matchups with other teams.
Three mainstays on the reserve unit remain with Luis Scola, Ian Mahinmi and C.J. Watson playing their same roles from last year. That hightlights the fact that the Pacers still have six of their top eight rotation players returning so they are not exactly starting over from scratch.
Special thanks to Indy Cornrows manager Tom Lewis for taking the time to discuss the Indiana Pacers' upcoming season with Blazer's Edge. Tom can be found on twitter @IndyCornrows. Indy Cornrows has you covered for Pacers news and analysis.
-- Chris Lucia | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter