The Indiana Pacers addressed some of their most glaring needs during the offseason, and a better record in 2013-14 shouldn't be too far-fetched.
The team enjoyed its most successful run in almost a decade during the 2012-13 NBA season, and it's not going to be content with just a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
A key analysis of last year's team, the lineup changes made for the 2013-14 season and a brief look at competition in the East should give us an idea of what next season's Indiana Pacers will produce in the win-loss column.
The 2012-13 Indiana Pacers: Great Defense and Rebounding, Below-Average Offense and Playmaking
Last year's Pacers were a defensive and rebounding juggernaut. Indiana ranked second in points allowed and first in rebounds.
However, as great as Indiana was in these areas, it was just as bad in scoring (23rd) and assists (28th). The Pacers also relied heavily on their starters to carry the brunt of the offense, as their bench was the second worst in the league with a 24.1 points-per-game average. Only the Portland Trail Blazers fared worse in this department.
Indiana pushed the eventual champion Miami Heat to the brink in the Eastern Conference Finals, but too many turnovers and too much LeBron James were more than what the Pacers could handle in their Game 7 blowout loss.
Clearly, some holes needed to be plugged.
Changes That Were Made for the 2013-14 NBA Season
The Indiana Pacers will take on a slightly different look next season.
Gone are Jeff Pendergraph, D.J. Augustin and Tyler Hansbrough. Unrestricted free agents Sam Young and Ben Hansbrough have yet to be signed to a contract, with only one slot remaining on the roster.
Young had his moments in the playoffs. However, with the drafting of Solomon Hill and the impending return of Danny Granger, Young's return seems to be bleak at best.
Hansbrough hasn't had much of an impact in summer league play and could find himself being edged out by the likes of 34-year-old Rasual Butler or journeyman Micah Downs for a potential roster spot.
Furthermore, the acquisitions of Donald Sloan and C.J. Watson may very well mean the younger Hansbrough's days with the Indiana Pacers are over.
Indiana also addressed its need for more scoring off the bench by signing Chris Copeland to a two-year deal. Copeland, Watson, Hill and Sloan will look to make an immediate impact in the Pacers' blue and gold.
Scoping Out the Eastern Conference in 2013-14
With the exception of Mike Miller getting waived, the Heat will be relatively the same team the Pacers took to a deciding Game 7 in last season's conference finals. Indiana proved it can match up well with Miami, and with an improved bench, it should give the Heat fits.
The additions of Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace should help keep the Knicks competitive. However, New York still lacks young players who can help out on the boards. As a top-notch rebounding team, Indiana will certainly take advantage.
Brooklyn's starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez will be one of the most daunting the Pacers will ever face. It should be an interesting matchup.
Finally, even without Derrick Rose, the Bulls have always given the Pacers a hard time. Rose claims to be 100 percent, per ESPN. With him coming back into the fold next season, Indiana may find trying to avenge its 2011 postseason loss to Chicago easier said than done.
Fearless Forecast of the Indiana Pacers' Win-Loss Record Next Season
The Indiana Pacers, for all of their deficiencies in playmaking and offense in 2012-13, still managed to win 49 games.
They were also one game away from the NBA Finals.
Expect the Pacers to be in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference for several reasons. First, Roy Hibbert, Paul George, George Hill and Lance Stephenson form a solid, young core that earned its stripes in the postseason and should only get better.
Second, they re-signed David West to a three-year deal. With him on board the past two years, they made it to the second round and then the Eastern Conference Finals, respectively.
Third, Danny Granger is expected to be back in 2013-14. As a matter of fact, he said he expects to be in the starting lineup once the season kicks off.
Fourth, the bench is much improved with the presence of Watson and Copeland. Hill should also contribute. If Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee (who had a decent Summer League stint in Orlando) can turn things around, all the better.
As competitive as the Eastern Conference is expected to be, the Indiana Pacers should still be able to build on last season with more than 50 wins and another deep run in the postseason.
2013-14 Win-Loss Prediction: 54-28