According to an article by Scott Agness on the official franchise website, team president Larry Bird put the Pacers' bench issue best:
For us to talk about beating the great teams in this league, you've got to have a stronger bench. Our bench didn't produce last year the way we needed them to produce. We definitely got to fix that one area.
An analysis of how Indiana's bench was upgraded should give Pacers fans an idea of how much an asset it will be once it makes another NBA title run in 2013-14.
The 2012-13 Bench: Thin and Unproductive
Last season's bench was a disappointment.
Adding Gerald Green and D.J. Augustin in the 2012 offseason was supposed to make Indiana's rotation deeper. Instead, both suffered through subpar seasons. Green, in particular, saw his scoring average drop by almost six points from the season before.
Big men Tyler Hansbrough and Ian Mahinmi were also so-so. Although Hansbrough did have his moments (particularly when he filled in for an injured David West in late March, averaging 14.8 points and 10.3 rebounds during that stretch), his numbers in 2012-13 were nothing really to crow about.
Mahinmi was just plain average for the most part and was virtually invisible after the All-Star break when Roy Hibbert's game picked up.
Sam Young played decent defense but sometimes looked lost and inept on offense.
Then-rookie Orlando Johnson showed some promise, as did forward-center Jeff Pendergraph. However, both became virtual fixtures on the bench in the playoffs.
This was a bunch that clearly won't be able to help carry the Pacers to greater heights.
The Pacers' New Shock Troopers: Built to Help Contend in the East
Augustin, Hansbrough and Pendergraph are out.
Donald Sloan, Solomon Hill, C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland are in.
Sloan will be the third point guard off the bench. Mark Montieth reports on the Pacers website that he averaged 10 points (on 44 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent from three-point distance) in the recently concluded Orlando Pro Summer League.
Hill, the Pacers' first-round draft pick out of Arizona, should provide versatility and depth at both the small forward and shooting guard spots. He averaged 12 points in Summer League play with a 56 percent three-point shooting clip. Montieth says he "has a complete game."
Watson will be George Hill's chief reliever at the 1-spot. He's a tough competitor who can snipe from the outside. No less than Larry Bird touted him as a perfect fit for Indiana's bench on the Pacers website.
And then there is Copeland. He is a 6'8" shooter with long, dreadlocked hair who should make Pacers fans reminisce about Sam "Big Smooth" Perkins, per Pacers.com's Scott Agness.
The Danny Granger Situation and Then Some
According to Dan Feldman's report on Pro Basketball Talk, Danny Granger said he not only expects to return next season, he also expects to start.
Should he be in full health and take his place in the starting lineup, Lance Stephenson would be one of the main sparks from the Pacers' bench.
Starting Stephenson paid handsome dividends for Indiana in 2012-13, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in a backup role. However which way one looks at it, having either Granger or Stephenson spelling one of the starters (mainly Paul George) should make opponents recoil in fear.
Another piece of good news for Pacers faithful is the progress of Orlando Johnson and Miles Plumlee, who both concluded their 2013 Summer League stint on a high note.
Johnson led Indiana in scoring with 14.6 points per game while Plumlee chipped in with averages of 10 points, 9.5 rebounds and three blocks.
Plumlee, in particular, is viewed by some as a bust. However, Montieth sees him as a potential Jeff Foster who could be a factor on the glass and on defense.
The Pacers' Bench in 2013-14 Should Deliver the Goods
After all that's been said and done, there's every reason to be optimistic about the Indiana Pacers' bench next season.
Sloan, Watson and Copeland will help increase the Pacers' once-woeful bench production. Watson and Copeland's shooting should make opposing defenses pay in case they decide to converge on either David West or Roy Hibbert down low.
Hill is a virtuoso who, by virtue of his Summer League performance, can contribute immediately.
The Pacers also can't go wrong with either Stephenson or Granger assuming the sixth-man role.
Finally, Indiana fans certainly hope the continued development of Johnson and Plumlee carry over into the regular season. That should be a treat to watch.
So far, everything's looking up for the Indiana Pacers and their bench—a development that spells bad news for the entire NBA.
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