Indiana Pacers: Are the Pacers Still One Player Away from Becoming Elite?

Ernest ShepardAnalyst IIIAugust 31, 2012

MIAMI, FL - MAY 22:  Paul George #24 of the Indiana Pacers looks on during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on May 22, 2012 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Indiana Pacers have made some great offseason moves, but they are still one move away from being one of the NBA’s elite.

I must admit that signing swingman Gerald Green was a brilliant acquisition. Also brilliant is the signing of point guard D.J. Augustin while still keeping Roy Hibbert as well.

On paper, the Pacers are better than they were last season.

Are they better than the Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics?

Not so fast Pacers’ fans. They are close, very close. There is still one more move to make before they can solidify their position as a true contender.

The Pacers must find a closer.

Of the players on their current roster, Danny Granger and Paul George have the most potential. They both have the talent to be the closer the Pacers sorely lack.

In Granger’s case, he has an NBA All-Star selection on his resume. He is a proven scorer though not very prolific. He scored more than 30 points only three times last season.

It is a clear indication that Granger’s killer instincts are missing.

That is not a knock on him, but players must do whatever it takes to win ballgames.

Whatever it takes requires scoring 40 points when it is necessary. It means getting that tough rebound from LeBron James’ grip. A closer may also have to make that defensive stop in order to send the game into overtime.

If Granger has "the closer gene" in his DNA, he must prove it this season. If not Granger, does George have what it takes to be the Pacers’ closer?  

George is going into his third NBA season. Is he ready to rise to the challenge of closing out games for the Pacers?

He has all of the tools to be a wonderful NBA player. There are only a few players who can match George’s athleticism, but does he take full advantage of this?

He only averaged 9.7 shots last season, and over a third of those attempted shots per game, 3.5, came from the three-point line. His jump shot has improved, but for a player with ball-handling skills of his caliber, George should be taking the ball to the lane more often.

If he, indeed, drives to the lane with more regularity, George would force opposing defenses to collapse down the paint. This would create opportunities for Granger, Hibbert and David West. It would also allow George Hill more freedom to roam the perimeter for spot-up opportunities.

If George would drive to the lane more often the Pacers would be a better team. He would nicely fit into the role of the Pacers' closer, have the ball in his hands and put his teammates in the position to compete with the Celtics and the Heat.

For any answers outside of the Pacers’ current roster, it is too early to speculate on the trading block for a player with a closer's mindset.

Closers can come in many forms. Closers do not have to be full-time players. They, however, must be willing to take the last shot without fear of missing. In essence, they must do whatever it takes to win ballgames.