2013--14 RECORD: 56--26 (1ST IN CENTRAL) COACH: FRANK VOGEL (5TH SEASON WITH PACERS)
Watching the gruesome scene from his living room, David West was devastated when Paul George broke his right leg during a USA Basketball scrimmage in August. The Pacers had already lost their starting shooting guard and an all-around contributor, Lance Stephenson, to conference rival Charlotte, and now their leading scorer and a third-team All-NBA selection was likely out for the season too. "It was like a punch to the gut," says West. "It changed everything."
For Indiana, a conference finalist in each of the last two seasons, expectations must be recalibrated. "We can't be talking about competing for a championship," says West. George and Stephenson were instrumental in the team's top-ranked defense, but even more worrisome is replacing their combined 35.5 points per game. A healthy share of the burden falls on West, 34, one of the few Pacers capable of creating his own shot. The 6'9", 250-pound power forward remains a force on the block (he was 26th in post-up efficiency last season, according to Synergy Sports) and as a perimeter shooter; West converted a career-high 52.1% of his attempts from 16 feet to the three-point line.
At the end of last season West and coach Frank Vogel discussed finding ways to reduce the 11-year veteran's minutes. With two new starters on the wing, though, those talks will have to be tabled if the Pacers are to compete. "We've got a challenge in front of us," says West.
10.3 PPG; 3.5 APG; 44.2 FG%; 36.5 3FG%
13.9 PPG; 2.3 RPG; 2.1 APG; 43.6 FG%
9.9 PPG; 2.0 RPG; 43.5 FG%; 39.3 3FG%
14.0 PPG; 6.8 RPG; 2.8 APG; 48.8 FG%
10.8 PPG; 6.6 RPG; 2.2 BPG; 43.9 FG%
7.6 PPG; 4.8 RPG; 1.0 APG; 47.0 FG%
6.6 PPG; 1.7 APG; 43.7 FG%; 36.6 3FG%
Hibbert gets back in the groove; George's recovery proceeds without any setbacks.
With fewer players who are able to improvise, an offense that ranked 22nd last season bottoms out.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE PACERS
Despite rotation changes they can continue to defend well because of their size. But where will the offense come from? They relied on Paul George and Lance Stephenson to attract so much attention. The Pacers will isolate less and try to move the ball more. And they will work Roy Hibbert and David West hard.... Hibbert got out of rhythm late in the season and stopped concentrating on what he does best; his offensive rebounding, in particular, became less of a weapon. He also has to recommit to establishing deep post position. Otherwise he's too easy to guard.... West is so strong and smart that he can overpower smaller fours in the post. Age shouldn't be a big factor with him because athleticism and quickness don't define his game.... George Hill depended on George and Stephenson to help create his spot-up threes. Hill will have the ball more now, and he will have to make the plays and increase his scoring. It's a difficult situation because those aren't his strengths.... The main wing replacements, C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey, are come-and-go players: Some nights they're really good and some nights they're not, and neither has turned the corner in his career. Miles spreads the floor with his shooting. Stuckey is a ballhandler with great size [6'5", 210 pounds] who can be effective in the pick-and-roll. Hill won't have to run things as much when paired with Stuckey.... Chris Copeland and Luis Scola are both guys you attack defensively. Copeland is a dangerous shooter with a quick release.
GLENN JAMES/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
West has to take on a larger role.
RON HOSKINS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
THE BITTER END Hibbert made the All-Star team last season but slumped down the stretch, averaging only 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds in his final 29 games.