It took the Miami Heat seven games to dispose of the Indiana Pacers in last year's Eastern Conference Finals. The Pacers are physical, imposing and may have the best frontcourt in the league. The likes of Roy Hibbert, David West and Paul George are a lot to manage in the paint for a team like the Heat who lack a legitimate force in the interior. Indiana did not back down from the world champions and are sure to make even more noise with Danny Granger back. Also, the Pacers added 6'10" power forward Luis Scola while the Heat countered by signing a high risk, high reward center Greg Oden. With those acquisitions, both teams made size matter even more when these two teams meet in 2013-14.
Indiana enters the season with high hopes after Miami shattered their dreams in last year's East Finals. Indiana is a really strong defensive team that present matchup problems on a nightly basis. Although, their strength helped overshadow their deficiencies on offense, they played all but five games without All-Star forward Danny Granger who accounts for 18 -20 points per game when healthy. Paul George stepped up in a big way leading the team in scoring with 17.4 points per game along with hitting some clutch baskets in the postseason. Though the team will welcome his scoring prowess back into the fold this season.
On the subject of additions, Indiana named Larry Bird to the role of President of Basketball Operations again after one year of being away from the team. Bird is the only former NBA player to win the MVP Award, Coach of the Year honors and Executive of the Year. He replaced Donnie Walsh who was retained as a consultant. Bird helped construct the current team and will attempt to get the Pacers over the hump in 2013-14.
Bird's transition into the role took place after the draft in which the team took small forward Solomon Hill from the University of Arizona. Hill is a legit 6'7" and has the ability to attack the rim at will, leading to frequent trips to the foul line. His shooting improved in his last year of college especially from 3-point range. It was his ability to be a strong defender that piqued the interest of Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard. Pritchard believes Hill can defend both guard positions along with the small forward.
The Pacers added more depth in the frontcourt with the signings of forwards Luis Scola and Chris Copeland. Scola was traded to the Pacers in exchange for forward Gerald Green and center Miles Plumlee and a lottery-protected first-round draft pick. Scola will add more scoring to team that finished 23rd in the league in points scored last season. The signing of Scola and the return of Granger gives the team more of a punch on both the first and second units. Scola has career averages of 14 points and 8 rebounds, which will be a huge boost to the Pacers bench.
Copeland signed a two-year, $6 million deal in the offseason. He shot over 47 percent for the New York Knicks last season and averaged just under nine points while backing up Carmelo Anthony. He admitted to playing hurt last year before getting left knee surgery in August. Copeland alleges he will be ready for the season opener.
The point guard position has been suspect for the Pacers and they went out and scooped one of the better back up point guards in the league. Former Brooklyn Nets guard C.J. Watson agreed to sign with the Pacers. Watson had a solid season in Brooklyn and an even stronger postseason. He should prove to be more valuable and more consistent than D.J. Augustin, whom he replaced.
Indiana definitely has upgraded their roster and have made necesary changes to contend with the Heat. They have lengthy defenders and depth in the frontcourt that will be tough to match. They were already a solid defensive team but now they could have have Granger back as a reliable scorer in addition to the development of youngsters George and Hibbert. The Pacers are a team to watch in 2013-14 but they may have some stiff competition within their division if they expect to contend with the Heat. There's no doubt they got better just not good enough to be the top contender to Miami in the East.
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