The Indiana Pacers have a bountiful amount of wing players, and what I've been thinking about today, is running down who those players are, and how much they will play. These will be very short reviews of each player's overall skill set, and then a forecast of what role they will play this year. There won't be enough minutes to go around for all of them, but there are some that will play a huge role in the Pacers' season. With that being said, let's get started.
1. Danny Granger
Granger is the first and most obvious wing player on the Indiana Pacers. He's been with the Pacers for quite some time now, and is locked up to be in Indy for a long time into the future as well.
Most people know Granger as one of the premier scorers in the NBA, and that has only improved over his NBA career. The Pacers are really going to need Granger to step up his scoring this year as well, but even more than offensively, they need Granger's presence on defense. Danny has the athleticism to be a very good defensive player, but seems to lose focus on the defensive end quite often.
Overall, Granger is going to be expected to carry the team's load scoring-wise, and be the leader on and off the court as well. I'm assuming he'll probably play most of the game each and every night, and will probably be the Pacers' starting small forward.
2. Mike Dunleavy Jr.
Dunleavy has had a very rough past few seasons. In the 2007-08 season, Dunleavy was able to put up 19.1 PPG, but since then has had two very tough seasons due to injuries.
Last year, Dunleavy made a return from a knee injury that threatened to end his career. Many thought of his year (9.9 PPG) as a huge disappointment, but in all honesty, that is a huge encouragement to the Indiana Pacers. Mike seemed to start to get his feet back under him toward the end of the season, and assuming he comes into this season at full strength, he could return to being the knock-down shooter, and excellent all-around basketball player that he was a few years back.
It's hard to really predict what kind of minutes Dunleavy will play, due to the possibility of him re-injuring the knee if he puts too much stress on it. Assuming he is completely healthy though, I could see him being the sixth man, or even starting shooting guard, and playing a good 30-35 minutes per contest.
Basically, Dunleavy is going to be considered a knock-down shooter in the Pacers' offense, and will probably be given a major role in the passing and ball-handling game as well.
3. Dahntay Jones
Jones is another very interesting player that the Pacers have out on the wing. He started out last season being a solid scorer, normally putting up 15-18 points in a game, but tailed off (10.2 PPG) toward the end of the season.
The reason the Pacers signed him last offseason, was to bring his defensive energy, and he did just that. Dahntay hounded his counterpart when the player had the ball, and even when he didn't. Also, he was getting in the passing lanes, and doubling down to block shots.
Jones' minutes decreased a lot late in the season, mainly because Jim O'Brien wanted to get Brandon Rush an extended amount of minutes to get him ready for this year. This season, however, I expect Jones to get around 20-25 minutes per game, and be asked to defend the opposing team's best guard, and also drive the ball to the bucket and draw fouls.
4. Paul George
The Indiana Pacers selected Paul George with the 11th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, and they are expecting and hoping that he can come in and contribute right away. George comes out of college being considered an excellent scorer, athlete, and also a very talented defender.
During the Summer League, he proved his worth on the defensive side of the ball, but just didn't seem to be able to find his shot. More than likely, George will come off the bench and play around 25 minutes per game, and will also be asked to shoot the three and play hard defense.
In my opinion, I don't think George is ready to put up more than 15 points every night, but you could see him explode for 20 or more every now and then. Assuming he brings the same intensity on defense that he did in college, he will fit in very nicely.
5. Brandon Rush
Rush will probably get the nod to start at shooting guard this season for the Pacers. He's had a very disappointing first couple seasons in the NBA, but according to coaches, he's primed for an outbreak season this year.
Last season, Rush put up decent numbers, averaging 9.4 PPG and 3.2 RPG. Brandon's specialty is his three-point shooting, and he did prove that last season, shooting a blistering .411 percent from behind the arc. If Brandon can continue that kind of shooting, but increase his consistency finishing at the bucket, he could become a very deadly scorer.
Also, Rush has a very good nose for the basketball on the defensive side of the ball. He doesn't put up flashy steal or block numbers, but if the NBA kept track of deflections, Rush would probably lead the Pacers in that category. He has long arms, and he knows how to anticipate the offensive player's pass and at least get a hand on it.
I'm not expecting a huge year from Rush like the coaches are, but I could see him putting up a good 11-12 PPG this year. More than likely he will get a good 30 MPG, if not more depending on his performance from night to night.
6. James Posey
James Posey is one of the newest acquisitions to the Indiana Pacers. He was acquired in the same trade that sent point guard Darren Collison to the Indiana Pacers, and will likely be one of the major X-factors for the Pacers this season.
He's not known for his scoring, but as seen in the past, he can hit big shots. Posey has been a big factor in quite a few teams' championship runs, most recently with the Boston Celtics a couple seasons back. Last year, Posey had a down season with the New Orleans Hornets, only averaging 5.2 PPG and 4.3 RPG, but will probably see his role increased with the Pacers.
If I had to take a guess at how many minutes he will play, it would be in the 20-30 region. He'll be playing shooting guard, small forward, and probably a little bit of power forward as well with the lack of bodies at the 4. Posey will probably be one of the Pacers' main defensive options as well, and you could see him put in to guard opposing teams' best guards as well.
That's all of the wings, except for Lance Stephenson who will likely but cut before the season begins thanks to his off-the-court troubles.
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