2013-14 NBA Season Preview Player Power Rankings for Indiana Pacers

Poch de la RosaContributor IIIOctober 17, 2013

2013-14 NBA Season Preview Player Power Rankings for Indiana Pacers

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    Solomon Hill, Danny Granger and Lance Stephenson
    Solomon Hill, Danny Granger and Lance StephensonJoe Murphy/Getty Images

    The 2013-14 NBA Season Preview Player Power Rankings should give Indiana Pacers fans a better idea where each player stacks up. 

    Could rookie Solomon Hill, who impressed his teammates during training camp, have what it takes to compete for playing time and give the other bench players a run for their money?

    Does Danny Granger, who is in the last year of his franchise player contract, have enough in his tank after a patellar tendinosis injury sidelined him for 77 games last season?

    Will solid veteran power forward Luis Scola be good enough to crack the top five?

    For the purposes of this article, we will rank the players according to their projected value in 2013-14, meaning how much they will be able to contribute by way of their individual stats (points, rebounds, assists, etc.).

    As this writer has emphasized previously, expect each and every player who cracks the Indiana Pacers 2013-14 regular-season lineup to make a solid contribution in what should be another exciting title run for this franchise.

Donald Sloan and Rasual Butler

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    Indiana's Rasual Butler (R) uncorks a jumper during the 2013 Orlando Pro Summer League against the Utah Jazz.
    Indiana's Rasual Butler (R) uncorks a jumper during the 2013 Orlando Pro Summer League against the Utah Jazz.Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    13. Donald Sloan 

    The unknown commodity at point guard. 

    Sloan was an intriguing pickup by the Pacers. In a recent interview with dSource TV on YouTube, he talked about his role with Indiana. 

    Guys are gonna bring it every day, fighting for minutes. My role is getting in the game, you know, kind of speed up the guards. Pick 'em up 94 feet and be aggressive on 'em. Create...leave guys open, and find 'em. 

    Sloan averaged 4.1 points and 1.9 assists per game in 20 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2012-13. As the Pacers' third point guard behind George Hill and C.J. Watson, he figures to put up the same numbers this season.

    In Indiana's preseason games, Sloan has shown some promise in his playmaking skills, which should only get better with more playing time. The knock on him is his spotty shooting (34.6 percent from the field last year). 

    If he can improve this aspect of his game, he should become a bigger asset. 

    14. Rasual Butler

    In contrast to Howard, who has no NBA experience, Butler is the Indiana Pacers aspirant who is the most seasoned pro with 10 years tucked under his belt. 

    During his prime, Butler was known for his outside shooting prowess. He is not really known for his consistency as attested by his .399 career shooting percentage. 

    In spite of his rather-recent strong showing with the D-League's Tulsa 66ers, it would be hard to imagine Butler making the Pacers' lineup, what with the likes of Lance Stephenson, Orlando Johnson and Solomon Hill already around.

    Plus, he has reached the ripe age of 34 and played in only 81 NBA games in the last three years. That being said, his stamina and consistency are his biggest question marks.    

     

     

Solomon Hill and Ian Mahinmi

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    Indiana Pacers rookie Solomon Hill loses possession of the ball in the Oct. 5 preseason game against the Chicago Bulls.
    Indiana Pacers rookie Solomon Hill loses possession of the ball in the Oct. 5 preseason game against the Chicago Bulls.Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

    11. Solomon Hill

    As mentioned earlier, rookie Solomon Hill has impressed the Pacers' veterans, most notably power forward David West and new franchise player George Hill. 

    The early consensus on Hill is his maturity and versatility. Pacers.com's Mark Montieth described his game as "mature" and "complete." 

    George offered a more comprehensive take. 

    He plays the game beyond his years. He can do everything. He can defend, he can shoot the ball, he can create for himself, he can rebound. I think he'll surprise some people. 

    Hill has certainly impressed. The bigger questions looms: can he keep it up? Rookies typically hit a wall around 50 games into the season.

    If Hill consistently contributes around eight points and four rebounds per game while seeing time at both shooting guard and small forward, his star should rise as the season goes on.  

     

    12. Ian Mahinmi

    More than anything else, the 2013-14 season should serve as redemption for Ian Mahinmi. 

    He started off on an okay note in 2012-13 while Roy Hibbert struggled early on. When the latter got his game going, Mahinmi disappeared.

    Hibbert is going to have off-nights like everybody else, and Mahinmi needs to step up as the Pacers' No. 2 man at center. He did spring back to life defensively in the playoffs against the Heat in last year's postseason, which Indiana needs more of.

    If his play continues to be at the level it was last season, then he will consistently find himself at the tail end of Indiana's player power rankings. 

    Better yet, the Pacers may be better off trading Mahinmi if they feel they're not getting a good return on the $4 million they're investing in him yearly. 

     

    13. Donald Sloan 

    The unknown commodity at point guard. 

    Sloan was an intriguing pickup by the Pacers. In a recent interview with dSource TV on YouTube, he talked about his role with Indiana. 

    Guys are gonna bring it every day, fighting for minutes. My role is getting in the game, you know, kind of speed up the guards. Pick 'em up 94 feet and be aggressive on 'em. Create...leave guys open, and find 'em. 

    Sloan averaged 4.1 points and 1.9 assists per game in 20 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2012-13. As the Pacers' third point guard behind George Hill and C.J. Watson, he figures to put up the same numbers this season.

    In Indiana's preseason games, Sloan has shown some promise in his playmaking skills, which should only get better with more playing time. The knock on him is his spotty shooting (34.6 percent from the field last year). 

    If he can improve this aspect of his game, he should become a bigger asset. 

10. Orlando Johnson

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    Indiana Pacers guard Orlando Johnson goes in for a layup against the Houston Rockets in their NBA Global Games matchup in Manila, Philippines.
    Indiana Pacers guard Orlando Johnson goes in for a layup against the Houston Rockets in their NBA Global Games matchup in Manila, Philippines.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Will Pacers shooting guard Orlando Johnson build on the potential he displayed last season?

    Johnson is one player Pacers fans should keep an eye on. As good a player as Lance "Born Ready" Stephenson is, he has a tendency to play out of control. Solomon Hill has shown some maturity in his game, but he is still a rookie.

    Enter Johnson.

    In a Sept. 6 interview with Pacers.com's Scott Agness, Johnson reveals he lost 10 pounds and is more "explosive" and "quicker." He also said he worked on his pick-and-roll sets and his ball handling skills.   

    More importantly, he's going to compete hard.

    He told Agness, "I'm coming for minutes. I want minutes. I think my work and everything I've been doing this summer is going to show."

    Johnson was still raw in 2012-13, so if he put in the necessary work to refine his game, expect him to improve on last season's averages of four points and 2.2 rebounds a game.

    His 38-percent clip from three-point area should make him a vital cog in Indy's outside game, featuring the likes of Paul George, George Hill, Danny Granger, Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson.  

9. C.J. Watson

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    C.J. Watson (L) faced his former team, the Chicago Bulls, in an Oct. 5 preseason game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
    C.J. Watson (L) faced his former team, the Chicago Bulls, in an Oct. 5 preseason game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    C.J. Watson found himself in Indianapolis after the D.J. Augustin experiment failed. 

    A featured Indianapolis Star article written by Michael Pointer on Oct. 3 features Pacers head coach Frank Vogel lauding Watson's game.  

    I like that he's making plays to the basket. He attacks the rim. He can finish over some big guys at times and obviously, every time he shoots the ball, you think it's going in. He's got a good basketball IQ, too, so he runs the team well.

    Vogel's proclamation certainly makes Watson the anti-Augustin. 

    Pointer also points out Watson has started in just 67 of the 385 regular-season games he's appeared in, making him a perfect fit as George Hill's chief reliever.

    Plus, with Watson around, Vogel can utilize a smaller guard combo with him at point guard and Hill at shooting guard, a luxury he never really had in 2012-13. 

    Expect Watson to be a valuable contributor to Indiana's title run. 

8. Chris Copeland

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    Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland shoots in the NBA Global Games against the Houston Rockets in Taipei, Taiwan on Oct. 13.
    Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland shoots in the NBA Global Games against the Houston Rockets in Taipei, Taiwan on Oct. 13.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Chris Copeland, being only a second-year NBA player, still has a lot to learn.

    Not too many people know it's comeback-veteran Danny Granger who has taken him under his wing. 

    Scott Agness of the Pacers' official website reported on Sept. 6 that Granger has been helping Copeland get acclimated to the culture in Indiana's locker room.

    Copeland said, "Danny's been big for me, helping me understand what the culture is here. He's been around and he's done an amazing job in this league and I'm learning at this point." 

    The main concern about him right now is if he would be able to fully shake off the effects of left-knee surgery he had two months ago when the season kicks off on Oct. 29. 

    If he does, taking into account his decent play last year off the bench for the New York Knicks, he's bound to improve on his averages of 8.7 PPG and 2.1 RPG and contribute immensely as a shock trooper for Indiana. 

7. Lance Stephenson

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    Lance "Born Ready" Stephenson
    Lance "Born Ready" StephensonMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    Lance "Born Ready" Stephenson is probably the Pacers' most fearless player. 

    As a first-year starter in 2012-13, he proved to be more than up to the task. He drove to the basket, shot threes, showed some impressive post moves, played tough defense and rebounded the ball. 

    He also broke Tony Parker's ankles and pushed the Pacers past the Knicks in the second round of the 2012-13 playoffs. 

    Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star summed up Stephenson's value perfectly in his Sept. 25 article

    No player on the roster plays with more of an edge. West is the veteran leader, but Stephenson is the guy who really gets under the opposing team's collective skin. The Pacers need that. It gives them energy. 

    If he can only be more consistent, establish a mid-range game, improve his mediocre free-throw shooting (.652 last year) and reduce his propensity for boneheaded plays, he'll be deadlier than ever and be an even bigger contributor to Indy's title cause. 

    Given Granger's return and the signing of a savvy veteran in Luis Scola, Stephenson slides down a bit in the rankings.

    If either (or both) of the two other guys are off to a slow start, expect Stephenson to climb back up.

     

6. Luis Scola

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    Luis Scola muscles his way into the lane against the Chicago Bulls' Erik Murphy on Oct. 5.
    Luis Scola muscles his way into the lane against the Chicago Bulls' Erik Murphy on Oct. 5.Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    After having the likes of Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Ayres (formerly Jeff Pendergraph) and Miles Plumlee on the bench in 2012-13, the Indiana Pacers finally have a reliable big man who can contribute offensively on a consistent basis in veteran Luis Scola.

    His game and David West's practically resemble each other: silky-smooth post moves, decent rebounding and deadly face-up jumpers. 

    Even though Scola is just a mediocre defender, he will definitely help ease the scoring load off West and give opposing defenses fits when his game is on.

    None of the old faces in the Pacers' lineup were more impressed with Scola than Danny Granger, who, by watching Scola go off in scrimmage last month, thought it was a sign of great things to come in 2013-14.

    It's mind-blowing when I think about it. We were playing pickup a couple of days ago, and Luis Scola was making moves and hitting hook shots, and shooting jump shots, and that's our backup power forward. It's really amazing the team they have assembled.

    The 33-year-old Scola has seen his production decline in the past three seasons but still should be able to make his presence felt in more ways than one.

    At this point, he and Stephenson should be neck and neck as Indiana's top contributor outside of the starting five (assuming Granger does start).  

     

5. Danny Granger

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    Will 2013-14 be Danny Granger's final year with the Indiana Pacers?
    Will 2013-14 be Danny Granger's final year with the Indiana Pacers?Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Danny Granger's return in 2013-14 presents several interesting sub-plots:

    • Who should start, Granger or Lance Stephenson?
    • Will Granger's health hold up coming from jumper's knee surgery last April?
    • Just how ready is he to play a supporting role to franchise player Paul George?
    • Will 2013-14 be Danny Granger's last season with the Pacers?

    Mark Montieth of Pacers.com offers his take and an update from head coach Frank Vogel regarding the Granger-Stephenson issue in his Oct. 10 mailbag column

    Really, the answer to the Granger-Stephenson 'issue' will be answered by Granger's knee, which underwent surgery in April. Vogel has stated that if he regains his pre-knee level of playin other words, his All-Star formhe will start.

    I've also thought all along that Granger deserves the first shot at the starting lineup if he's healthy, not only because of his history with the franchise, but the fact he should be a better player than Stephenson at the moment.

    The chemistry between Granger and George on and off the court has been well-documented. They are more than just mentor and mentee. They are like brothers.

    That being said, don't expect any animosity on Granger's part because George is now Indy's new main man. Money is a big consideration in terms of Granger staying on with the Pacers, so we just have to see what his stance on this matter is as the season plays out.

    For now, it's a safe bet that if Granger (who Vogel said was the team's "hardest worker" this past offseason) successfully shakes off the effects of his injury, he will make a difference. 

4. George Hill

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    Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley tries to harass Indiana's George Hill in one of their two 2013 NBA Global Games matchups.
    Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley tries to harass Indiana's George Hill in one of their two 2013 NBA Global Games matchups.Mike Young/Getty Images

    If Granger was Indy's hardest worker this offseason, George Hill has been its most vocal leader.

    Scott Agness of the Pacers' official website wrote on Oct. 2 how much a vocal leader Hill wants to be. 

    At media day last week, Hill said the one thing the team needs is a vocal leader and he wants to be that guy. Because of the personality of this team and the number of guys that can contribute in different ways, that may not seem necessary.

    Yet already in camp, Hill has raised his voice and clearly been one of the leaders on the floor.

    Hill established career-highs in points (14.2), rebounds (3.7), assists (4.7) and steals (1.1) in 2012-13his first full year as the starter at the 1-spot. 

    In spite of a mild ankle sprain he suffered in the Pacers' preseason game against the Houston Rockets in Taiwan, Hill is on course for a breakout year if he builds on last season's on-court success and becomes an even more assertive leader, which is what point guards are supposed to be.

     

3. Roy Hibbert

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    Roy Hibbert posting up against the Chicago Bulls' Carlos Boozer.
    Roy Hibbert posting up against the Chicago Bulls' Carlos Boozer.Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Apparently, there's more to Roy Hibbert's offseason workouts with San Antonio Spurs great Tim Duncan.

    Much more. 

    Brian Windhorst of ESPN wrote an interesting piece about the two on Oct. 10. It is not just about how they've been training together during the summer since 2011, it is also about how the two big menwho have a ten-year age gap and are polar opposites in terms of demeanorhave gotten to know each other much better. 

    Duncan, a four-time NBA champion, gushed about Hibbert's work ethic and desire to get better. 

    During the lockout (in 2011-12), everyone was looking for someone to work out with. I saw quickly that he's got a good work ethic.

    He had a great year last year, and I was proud of him. He wants to improve every year, he wants to come here and he wants to put the work in. I've always been excited to have him.

    Since then, we've seen how much better Hibbert has become. He can finish in the paint with either hand and is reviving the seemingly lost art of the hook shot. 

    More importantly, he's become a better defender. 

    It will be interesting to witness how the extra muscle mass Hibbert put on will affect his play, but if his Instagram photo is any indication, he's in for another banner season and should hold steady in any of the top three spots in the Pacers' player rankings. 

2. David West

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    David West warms up prior to tip-off for the Pacers' game against the Houston Rockets in Manila, the Philippines on Oct. 10.
    David West warms up prior to tip-off for the Pacers' game against the Houston Rockets in Manila, the Philippines on Oct. 10.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Had David West not re-signed with the Indiana Pacers, they would have kissed their title hopes this season goodbye. 

    West is the glue that holds this team together. While Paul George may be the franchise player, Roy Hibbert the anchor on defense and George Hill the extension of head coach Frank Vogel on the floor, David West is still the heart and soul of this team. 

    Take it from Mark Montieth of Pacers.com, who makes this clear in his Oct. 1 featured piece about West.

    West averaged 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds for the Pacers last season. At age 33, he has enough left to have convinced team president Larry Bird to reward him with a three-year, $36 million contract that will take him to the end of his career.

    He's not likely to lead the Pacers in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots or assists this season. But his teammates will tell you that nobody is more important to their success.

    West is the perfect example of a veteran who is not afraid to stand up for his teammates and get on them if he feels they're slacking off. 

    These intangibles, together with his solid on-court stats, are what make David West such an invaluable asset to the Indiana Pacers. 

1. Paul George

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    Paul George slips behind a Luis Scola screen during the 2013 NBA Global Games in Asia.
    Paul George slips behind a Luis Scola screen during the 2013 NBA Global Games in Asia.Mike Young/Getty Images

    Who else?

    Paul George's coming of age in 2012-13 and his various accolades that include 2013 NBA Most Improved Player, 2013 NBA All-Defensive Second Team member and 2013 All-NBA Third Team member prove that he's the real deal. 

    Was it just a one-year fluke? Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird doesn't think so.

    I think he's going to be one of the top players in the league. Right now, he's in the top 15 or 20 players in the league. Do we think he can be a first-teamer? We do, and if he is, we both benefit from that.

    You always hear about players letting up after they achieve the money they always dreamed of. Not this kid; he's the real deal. 

    I don't worry about Paul George. He's an extremely hard worker. He's dedicated to his craft, and he'll be fine. 

    We all know he can do a little bit of everything on the court. With the work that he put in and if he reduces his turnover numbers (2.9 last season), he should be even better. 

    It's not a far-fetched idea to imagine George copping at least All-NBA Second Team honors this year. With the amount of talent that the Indiana Pacers have, George and his teammates may find themselves hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy in Indianapolis. 

    As far as these rankings are concerned, it is without question that Paul George, Indy's franchise player, is No. 1.