It’s looking more and more as though the Indiana Pacers are going to be serious contenders in the Eastern Conference in 2011.
It’s obvious that as far as Larry Bird is concerned, the time is now.
"I think we're back on the right track of getting quality people in here and people who want to win and get better," Bird said during a press conference to introduce new Pacer George Hill. "We said three years ago we'll get as many core players here as we possibly can, guys that want to be here. We'll continue to build this. Once we get some financial relief, we'll have an opportunity to hand pick some players we want to finish it off with."
With regard to George Hill, Larry Bird said: "He's improved every year. He played with an experienced team with a lot of established players, and now he's on a younger team where we'll get to see him do more with the ball. It will be interesting to see how far he can take us."
Whether it be via the draft, by trade, or through free agency Larry Bird has taken a strong initiative in building a nucleus of scrappy young ball players.
The Roy Hibbert-Darren Collison-George Hill combination could even rival the Miller-Mullin-Jackson-Davis combination of the mid-late 90s.
For the first time in years, Indiana looks to have a legitimate "Big Three."
Here is a bold look at what Indiana’s Big Three will do in 2011.
I'm assuming that the team's best player Danny Granger is dealt, and Paul George continues to struggle from the field.
Season permitting, of course.
Prediction: Collison will average 15-20 points and 10-15 assists per game in 2011.
Drafted: 2009, Round 1, No. 21 Overall
With the right formula, Darren Collison could have the same impact in Indiana that Rajon Rondo has had in Boston.
Rondo has become the center piece in a prolific scoring offense that has yielded an NBA championship in what was only Rondo's second year.
Darren Collison is fully capable of filling that scorer/distributer role that has elevated teams into championship contention across the league.
When DC is on his game, he is nearly unstoppable.
In fact, the Pacers were victorious in every game in which Collison had 10 or more assists last season. More important is the fact that Collison was able to contribute 15 or more points in those games.
Fifteen to 20 points and 10-15 assists a game is not an unachievable stat line for DC in 2011.
Prediction: Hibbert will work into a more dominant Alonzo Mourningesque role for the Pacers in 2011. His stat line will read closely to 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 3-4 blocked shots per game.
Drafted: 2008, Round 1, No. 17 Overall
In the 1994-95 season Alonzo Mourning ranked first on the Charlotte Hornets in scoring, rebounding, blocks, and field goal percentage. The Hornets offense was predominately run through “Zo.”
Mourning led Charlotte to a 50-win season that year as he put the team on his back and carried them into the playoffs.
Roy Hibbert has the skill set to be that guy in Indiana.
It was evident last season that the Pacers made a conscious effort to run their offense through the big man, but without a strong outside shooting presence it was mostly ineffective.
With a stronger supporting cast, Hibbert is capable of Alonzo Mourning-type numbers.
The addition of George Hill should be extremely beneficial to the growth of Hibbert.
Hill is no stranger to running an offense through the post—he studied extensively in San Antonio under Tony Parker, refining his ability to incorporate future NBA Hall of Fame forward Tim Duncan in the Spurs offense.
Hill will be asked to do the same in Indiana with Hibbert.
The 2011 NBA season will be remembered for the arrival of Roy Hibbert.
Prediction: Following the Granger trade, Hill will move to a shooting guard/small forward position, and will make the 2011 Eastern Conference NBA All-Star Team.
Drafted: 2008, Round 1, No. 26 Overall
College: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
When you think of George Hill, three things come to mind: athleticism, strength, and defensive ability.
Hill is a direct product of veteran leadership from his years in San Antonio—it’s evident in nearly every aspect of his game. It's almost as if someone took Bruce Bowen's defensive aggressiveness, Tony Parker's ball handling and court vision, and Manu Ginobili’s drive and created George Hill.
Like Bowen, Hill is a shutdown defender and is routinely matched up with some of the greatest players in the league. Hill's 6’9" wingspan and relentless nature make him a nightmare for opposing guards.
His ability to drive to and finish at the basket is on par with some of the best guards in the league.
On top of that, George Hill has proven time and time again that he can be a lights-out shooter on the perimeter.
Hill came into the league out of Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis NBA ready.
With Darren Collison already fully entrenched as the Pacers’ point guard of the future, I believe that Hill will be moved to either small forward or shooting guard.
I’m going to say it now: If the Pacers move Hill to shooting guard he will be selected to the 2011 NBA All-Star game and will lead the Pacers into the playoffs.
Prediction: "Psycho T" will finish the 2011 season top three on the team in points.
Drafted: 2009, Round 1, No. 13 Overall
College: North Carolina
Tyler Hansbrough is nightmare for opposing teams—his combination of high-motor hustle and a relentless desire make him a force for the Pacers.
Psycho T showed great promise in the month of February last season, averaging a career high 16.8 points per game.
In a game for which I was present, he scored what would be a season-high 30 points in a 119-117 win over the New York Knicks.
Hansbrough’s aggressive style is his most impressive ability and a key reason that the Pacers picked up their 2012-2013 option on the former Tar Heel.
At this point, it looks as if Hansbrough is poised to be the Pacers' starting power forward in 2011.
I believe that if Hansbrough is capable of maintaining his aggressive style of play during the course of an entire season, he will be a safe bet to finish top three on the team in points.