Indiana Pacers: Grading Each Pacer Through the First 10 Games

David DietzContributor IIIJanuary 13, 2012

Indiana Pacers: Grading Each Pacer Through the First 10 Games

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    At 7-3, the Indiana Pacers are one of the surprise teams in the East and playing as well as anyone in the conference outside of the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat.

    How have they done it?

    Through great team defensive, offensive balance and a commitment to rebounding. With Danny Granger finally breaking out of a slump, David West working his way back into game shape and the continued development of Roy Hibbert and Paul George, the future is bright in the heartland. 

1. Darren Collison: B-

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    Darren Collison is playing decently for the Pacers and certainly is more than capable of leading Indiana to a deep postseason run, but as with many players on this list, Collison has yet to reach his potential.

    Even on a balanced team with six other double-digit scorers, Collison should average more than his 11 points per game. If not, then he needs to focus on raising his assist numbers above a rather measly 5.5 a game. 

    More importantly, he must cut down on his team-high 2.2 turnovers.

    Overall you don't want to criticize him because he his doing everything fairly well and is leading a winning team, but more should be expected.

2. Paul George: B

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    Underperforming, except when it comes to defense, is going to be a common theme on the list. No exception for Paul George, although in his case, he might not be entirely to blame.

    George was not drafted to be a shooter nor was he ever expected to develop into a three-point threat. But, he has. The second-year guard/forward is hitting .556 of his three-point attempts and has spent much of the year trailing only Ray Allen in both makes and three-point shooting percentage.

    When you are shooting at that clip, you should have a green light to fire away. Yet George remains tentative and unwilling to pop the three. 

    It seems the Pacers are intent on developing George's slashing game. As a natural strength and given his height, that will come. Instead George should be demanding the ball and shooting more often. When he does that, his drives to the basket will begin to open up.

    As far as his defense and rebounding have been concerned, George gets an A for effort.

3. Danny Granger: D

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    That their star player and only All-Star is mired in the worst slump of his career and yet the Pacers are still 7-3 speaks volumes of Indiana's newfound balance and Danny Granger's leadership.

    As soon as Granger gets going, that D will skyrocket into the A range, but it's hard to be too impressed by Granger's production so far given he had been about 10 points off his points-per-game average of the last few years and has been shooting a miserable and career-low .336 from the field. 

    His 24-point effort in Atlanta is a good indication that the slump is over. If so, look out NBA

4. David West: C

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    The Pacers are proof that when players play as a collective unit rather than individuals, good things will happen.

    How else do you explain practically everyone playing at or below their season averages of the past few years and the Pacers are still four games above .500?

    David West is another example. While his rebounding has stayed close to his career average, his 11 points per game is more than eight points fewer than what he averaged his last three seasons in New Orleans.

    So what gives? The Pacers are still 7-3. Like Granger, it is West's leadership that has been invaluable. He'll have to make more of an impact in the scorer's sheet to raise his grade though.

5. Roy Hibbert: B

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    No A's in the starting five, unless you grade them as a collective whole.

    Individually, Roy leads the way with a solid B. Still, Roy should know that a B won't get it done, as it won't get you into his alma mater Georgetown. 

    Why the relative average grade given Hibbert's career highs in points and rebounds? Because Hibbert is a 7'2'' monster that–after much improvement—is legitimately athletic, has good hands, a good feel for the game and a high basketball IQ. 

    With Hibbert's size, talent and smarts, he should be averaging closer to 20 points and 14 boards per game rather than 14 and 10.

    How can Indiana beat Miami in the playoffs? The can if: every time LeBron James and Dwyane Wade drive, they have to shoot over a Hibbert's nine-foot wingspan; each possession, Chris Bosh has to leave David West and help Joel Anthony double down on Hibbert; and if the Pacers dominate the boards.

    Not surprisingly, Hibbert is involved in the execution of all three.

6. Tyler Hansbrough: B-

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    Tyler Hansbrough started the season on fire to the point he had many people wondering if he should start over David West.

    He has since fallen back to earth a little bit. 

    After logging 33 rebounds in his first three games, Hansbrough has only grabbed 29 in his last seven outings.

    Hansbrough's energy, hustle and rebounding will be key to the Pacers' future success. 

7. George Hill: B+

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    Having George Hill come off the bench is an incredible luxury for the Pacers. He's averaging just under 10 points per game and shooting .500 percent or better from both the field and from deep.

    Better yet, Hill's versatility allows him to spell both Darren Collison and Paul George, while giving the Pacers a different look and a lot of options from the guard spot. 

    I know he's getting limited minutes at about 22 per game, but it would be nice to see Hill increase his scoring output by a few points per game.

Jeff Foster: A-

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    Jeff Foster may not fill the stat sheet but he more than makes up for it in his intangibles. A mainstay with the Pacers, Foster has provided energy, hustle and leadership off the bench year in and year out.

    Recovering from an early back injury, Foster plays a key role in relief of Roy Hibbert and has an important and unique role as the elder statesman on the team.

9. Dahntay Jones: B+

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    Dahntay Jones has a small but defined role for the Pacers: make an occasional shot or drive to the basket and play stifling defense on the opposing team's best guard. 

    So far he has filled his role admirably, although it'd be nice to see Jones get to the line more and have more nights like his 12-point showing in Philly than his two-point showings in Boston and Miami.

10. Lance Stephenson: C

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    Lance Stephenson's 12-point output was fantastic to watch, but it was even more fun to see Stephenson's camaraderie with his teammates following Jeff Foster's buzzer-beater three-pointer last night.

    As soon as Stephenson hit Foster with the pass, Stephenson raised his arms and then was the first to join Foster in celebrating his first three in over three years. 

    That spoke volumes to Stephenson's maturity and team spirit. To get a higher grade, however, he'll need to see the court more often.

11. Louis Amundson: F

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    The harsh grade is not a condemnation on Louis Amundson, who has barely seen the court since Foster's return, but rather on the Pacers' front office decision to trade him for Brandon Rush.

    On a guard-heavy Golden State team, the former Pacer has scored double digits four times including a 19-point outburst against the New York Knicks

    For a team that is still struggling to score, the trade still doesn't make any sense.

12. A.J. Price: B

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    In limited minutes, A.J. Price has played surprisingly well, especially on the defensive end where he's racked up six steals. With Lance Stephenson's breakout game against the Atlanta Hawks, however, Price's minutes and impact will likely decline.

13. Jeff Pendergraph: Incomplete

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    He finally got to see his first action of the season against the Atlanta Hawks. Maybe coach Frank Vogel should consider playing him a little more after Jeff Pendergraph pulled in two rebounds in only five minutes.

    It was a nice effort but it's pretty hard to judge someone on five minutes. That being said, he's got some good potential. Let's hope he can continue to learn and progress. 

14. Coach Vogel: A-

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    This grade is more a reflection of the team as a whole. Frank Vogel deserves a lot of credit for turning around the Pacers and in one year taking them from a middling franchise to one of the elite teams in the East.

    The Pacers have bought into Vogel's defense and team-first approach. They are sharing the ball offensively, attacking the glass defensively and playing ferocious defense.

    Better still, the Pacers have been whipped in a few games and come right back by responding with strong wins, a defining characteristic of resilient and mentally tough teams.