Website: Donning Craig Sager’s Suit
Author: Sager Savant
Last Years Record: 41-41
Key Losses: Peja Stojakovic (trade), Anthony Johnson (trade), Austin Croshere (trade), Eddie Gill (free agency), Fred Jones (free agency), Scot Pollard (free agency), Jonathan Bender (retired, but sucked).
Key Additions: Darrell Armstrong, Marquis Daniels, Al Harrington, Rawle Marshall, Josh Powell, John Edwards (all via trade), Maceo Baston (free agency), Shawne Williams (first round draft pick), James White (second round draft pick).
1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
In 2004, the Pacers traded Al Harrington for Stephen Jackson. Two years later, Indiana has brought back Harrington to try to rebound from a lackluster 41-win season. The Pacers backed into the playoffs, more or less because most teams in the Eastern Conference finished the year with 30 wins. The trade helps the team move away from the short-lived Peja era, and also allows Danny Granger play at his natural position.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
In terms of size and athleticism, the Pacers might be the best in the league. Any team run by Jermaine O’Neal is going to be good in that department even if Robert “Tractor” Traylor is wobbling alongside him. But the Pacers will spare its fans of a Traylor-esque frontcourt, as the Pacers will be starting rebounding-machine Jeff Foster and scorer Al Harrington. With Danny Granger and Marquis Daniels, this team is all set to run. By drafting Shawne Williams, Indiana added another player who can play an uptempo style of basketball, as well.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
The point guard position is a big question for this team, as they traded Anthony Johnson to the Mavericks for Darrell Armstrong in a mini-salary dump. Johnson was insurance policy for Jamaal Tinsley, who has been injury prone throughout his five-year career. Since playing 153 games in his first two years, Tinsley has played in only 134 in his last three. Larry Bird brought in Armstrong and Orien Greene to play the point, and incumbent backup Sarunas Jasikevicius played well last year, but the Pacers would be quite happy if Tinsley negated the need for three additional point guards.
Another big question surrounding this team is the health of its players. As mentioned before, Tinsley has missed a bunch of games with various injuries, but he isn’t the only one with a history of being hurt. Jermaine O’Neal was hurt last year with a groin injury, and missed some games last year with a right shoulder sprain.
4. What are the goals for this team?
The Pacers are in a very tough division with the Pistons, Cavs, Bulls, and the Bucks. All Central Division teams made the playoffs last year, and the Pacers haven’t exactly made moves that could put them into that upper tier. Al Harrington isn’t exactly going to provide the scoring touch that Reggie Miller took to the senior citizen’s home. While it’s impossible to claim you’re rebuilding with Jermaine O’Neal on your team, this is about the next step above it.
Most importantly, injuries will dictate how this team fares in the 2006-7 season. While the Eastern Conference provides plenty of easy teams to rack up wins against, the playoffs aren’t so forgiving. A first round exit sounds about right, if Tinsley and O’Neal hold up long enough to help the Pacers get to the post-season..
Predicted Record: 43-39