It may be difficult to argue that a 25-16 team—including 15-5 over its last 20 games—that sits in first place in its division and sports the game's best defense hasn't already reached its full potential.
Difficult, but not impossible when you're talking about the 2012-2013 Indiana Pacers.
There are still key areas in which the Pacers as a whole and certain players within the organization can improve.
In the following pages, we will take a look at those areas and see what if anything can be done to help the Pacers realize their full potential for the rest of the season.
Stats current as of 01/20/2013
Paul George is a beast at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Within the comforting confines of home, George averages 21.5 points while shooting 48 percent from the floor. Perhaps most impressively, he is shooting nearly 50 percent (49.6) from three-point range.
When the Pacers venture onto other teams' courts, however, things change dramatically for George. His points per game drop from 21.5 to 13.9. His field-goal percentage? It drops from 48 to 37. But the most glaring and inexplicable difference of all: His three-point shooting percentage drops from 49.6 percent at home to an astoundingly low 26.2 percent on the road.
So, which Paul George is the real one?
If we consider the overall upward trend to George's game, it stands to reason that that trend will continue and will eventually expand into his road performances. He has proven that he has the skills. Performing on the road takes a different level of fortitude, one that the 22-year-old George evidently lacks. It's just a matter of maturity; he will get there eventually.
"Eventually" is going to have to come sooner rather than later if the Pacers are going to bring their fans an NBA championship trophy in 2013.
Against the Houston Rockets on January 19, Roy Hibbert took 12 shots, and made six of them. With two exceptions, Hibbert has shot no less than 44 percent in the month of January. With four exceptions, he hasn't shot less than 50 percent.
The problem is not Hibbert's offensive ability, it's that he's not taking many shots.
On the season, when Roy Hibbert has taken 10 or more shots, he is shooting 49 percent from the floor—exactly the same percentage he had in his All-Star campaign last year.
His 2.7 blocks are .7 more than he averaged last year, and his assist and rebounding averages are close enough to make no difference to being the same as his All-Star season.
His offensive production is down because his attempts are down, it's as simple as that.
There were some early-season games in which Hibbert took more shots but had trouble getting them to fall. In one late-November five-game stretch, he took no fewer than 10 shots in any game but only shot better than 33 percent one time.
He followed that up with a couple of solid performances before falling off again, shooting 23 and 30 percent in consecutive games with 10 or more shots.
January, however, has seen a turnaround.
Disregarding the aberration that was the Miami game, Hibbert has shot 45 percent or better when taking 10 or more shots in games this month.
The road to playoff success runs through Roy Hibbert. Fans can only hope that his recent turnaround has set him on a path from which he won't soon veer away.
Every team takes far more jump shots than any other type of shot. The problem for the Pacers is that they don't make enough of them to justify the amount they take.
The Knicks convert on 49 percent of their jump-shot attempts, the Warriors 46. The Pacers only convert on 43 percent.
There are teams that shoot lower than 43 percent, but none of them take more jump shots than 69 percent of their overall shot total.
In watching the games, one can't help but notice a lack of ball movement from the Pacers, a willingness to give up too early on the offense and just chuck up a jumper. Gerald Green, one of the NBA's worst three-point shooters, is perhaps the worst offender for the Pacers.
One of the best ways to go about facilitating change would be through the play of point guard George Hill.
George Hill's 4.9 assists per game rank him 26th in the NBA.
Granted, this is HIll's first season of playing the point guard position exclusively, and he is still learning and developing at the position.
If the Pacers are going to perform to their full potential, they will need Hill to become more of a facilitator, a point guard who can get penetration with his dribble. If he can do that, and the rest of the team can move effectively without the ball, Hill's assist total will go up along with the Pacers' field-goal percentage.
One of the great things about sports is they allow us as fans to have an outlet for all of our emotions, some of which don't have a place—or would be counterproductive if they were allowed out—in other areas of our lives.
If you paid for your ticket, you can yell at the referee. It's OK, they're used to it.
Incredulous that some post player is using his elbows more than he should? Call him a bum with enough venom to let him know just what you think of him.
Then, of course, there are the great moments, those that allow us to raise our arms in ecstatic delight as our team or favorite player does the same on the court, field or diamond.
We as fans don't have to worry about keeping our emotions in check during the game because we are not performing, we don't need focus. The players, on the other hand—especially those elder statesmen whom the team needs to act as leaders—must keep an even keel if they are to be effective in their role.
Sometimes, body language speaks volumes. To see a 32-year-old man make the faces that David West makes when he feels he has been wronged by a referee and then to watch him saunter back down the court like a child with a freshly reddened rear end is disappointing at best, laughable at worst.
That is not what the Pacers need from West. They need him to set the example for their younger players. They need him to understand that making goofy faces and acting like a pouting child is not going to affect the outcome of the game—getting back down the court and channeling those emotions into a defensive effort will.
West needs to grow up. The Pacers young players need an on-court example of how a man is supposed to play the game.