Coming off a strong season where they pushed the eventual champions Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Indiana Pacers had many questions to answer regarding the depth of the team. While the starting five for the Pacers, featuring George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West, and Roy Hibbert, proved to be incredibly effective, whatever leads that were established were often in jeopardy once they moved their starters to the bench to give them some rest. With Danny Granger injured, the bench would often need to call up players such as DJ Augustin, Gerald Green, and Sam Young — not exactly what one would call reliable backups.
Suffice it to say, the Pacers have done what they can to fix those problems. Although they still lack depth at the shooting guard position, the signings of CJ Watson and Chris Copeland and more recently the trade for Luis Scola, have allowed the Pacers to establish a much stronger bench than the previous season.
Even though he was one of the first players to come off the bench, Augustin proved to be one of the worst backups in the playoffs last year, scoring scarcely and inefficiently, as well as turning the ball over far too many times. With Watson, a more than reliable backup PG, Pacers fans will no longer have to hold their breath each and every time Hill steps off the court. Similarly, the combination of Scola and Copeland as replacements for Tyler Hansbrough is a win. Prior to the Scola trade, the Copeland signing was not enough. Although Copeland is far more offensively capable than Hansbrough, he is also far more of a defensive liability. Scola is by no means a talented defensive player, but he is, at least, better off than Copeland. More importantly, Scola is an incredibly talented big man in the post, with a wealth of post moves and passing skills on the block.
All of these moves matter only in the sense that they give the Pacers an even greater chance to knock off the Heat as the top team in the East. The combination of West and Hibbert proved to be a nightmare for the Heat, who, beyond Chris Andersen, lacked any sort of reliable play from their bigs in their series against Indiana. With Scola, Copeland, and Ian Mahinmi coming off the bench, the Pacers now have the offensive firepower to maintain the leads generated by the starters and, against the Heat’s bench, possibly even extend them.
The Pacers still need a more reliable backup at shooting guard and would probably like to have a stronger starting point guard. Still, these off-season moves were definitely a step in the right direction. Rather than making big splashy moves like the Brooklyn Nets or opting to stay pat with what they’ve got like the Heat, the Pacers chose to focus more on bolstering their bench to support their already great starters. With this spate of smart moves, the Pacers look to go even further than they did last season and, hopefully, win themselves an NBA title.