As I was watching last nights game vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers, I started thinking, what young players really look like they have a bright future in the league, and to be honest, only three guys really stood out to me. I guess you could say guys like Brandon Rush and Tyler Hansbrough could have good careers, but I don’t see them as anymore than bench players. Three guys who have stepped up for the Pacers here in the last half of the season have caught my attention, and here they are.
1. Roy Hibbert
Roy has worked incredibly hard on his post game, going from not being able to score if there was a body on him (last year), and being almost unstoppable when he gets in the paint (this year). Not only has he improved on the offensive end, but Hibbert has drastically improved his defensive game. Last season, all he would do if a player got in the lane, is jump into him and foul him, which meant he didn’t get to stay in the game for any period of time. This year, he gets just close enough to either get a block, or at least make the offensive player change his shot, and then he doesn’t go any closer, and because of that doesn’t pick up fouls.
A part about Hibberts game that has really gone unnoticed by many people is his passion for the game seems to have increased. Hibbert has always been a mild-mannered player, that doesn’t show emotion on the court, but this year he took a leadership role and was pumping his fist, talking on both offensive and defensive ends to help his teammates, and during press conferences he just sounds like he understands and loves the game much more.
2. A.J. Price
To be honest, this kid has come out of nowhere. Being the 52nd overall pick in the NBA Draft, he really wasn’t expected to come in and make an impact, but that all started to change when he impressed coaches and made the team to begin with.
Price showcased his shooting ability during the workouts, and also demonstrated a high-level point guard IQ, something that the Pacers’ starting point guard at that time (T.J. Ford) didn’t have. He also showed coaches his defensive intensity, which has really helped Indiana on their winning surge late in the season.
Overall this season for the Pacers, Price has played consistently well when given the chance. Early on he didn’t play much, because Pacers’ coach Jim O’Brien was going with the two veterans, T.J. Ford and Earl Watson. Finally Price got his break, and O’Brien gave him some decent minutes off the bench. The first thing that I remember A.J. doing in consistent playing time was getting two steals in a row, and taking them the other way for layups, showcasing the defense that he had shown in workouts before the season. After that, O’Brien played Price fairly often, just seeing if the rookie could keep it up, and finally Price got yet another break. Earl Watson had to go tend to a family problem, and because A.J. had worked his way into the starting rotation, he got his first two NBA starts.
I’m not going to go so far as to say he’s the future at point guard for the Indiana Pacers, but he has definitely been a major bright spot for this team, in a season that really hasn’t had many of them.
3. Josh McRoberts
Reading McRoberts’ name might surprise you, but if you’ve been watching Pacers game, then it shouldn’t. This kid has worked so hard over the season to get into the rotation, and he finally made O’Brien see that he deserved some playing time after a very solid game on the road against the Lakers. Since then, he has drawn a few starts, and played some of the most consistent basketball that anyone on the Pacers has played this year.
What makes Josh so good is his never give up on the play attitude. He’s gotten countless offensive rebounds and putbacks, simply from not giving up on the ball, and tipping it away from the defense, and finishing inside. Also as a big man, he can shoot the three, and pass the ball extremely well, something that many people are calling him the next Troy Murphy for. McRoberts is one of the most athletic players I’ve ever seen, as even Pacers’ point guards have been able to lob passes up for him and he’s gone and got them and finished dunking the ball.
There are only two things that I really see that Josh needs to improve in. First, he really needs to get better in his man-to-man defense. Sometimes if your watching him off the ball on the defensive end, he’ll fall asleep and h is man will make a cut and get to the bucket for a layup, but all t hat’s going to take is some work in the gym during the offseason. Second, I really think Josh needs to work on his ball handling. Sure, he’s a big man, but he’s still able to handle the ball fairly well, to the point where he can lead fast breaks, but if he can dribble past a couple people, and get to the rim, no one will be able to stop him.
Those are the three players that I see having a very bright future for the Indiana Pacers. I think if Brandon Rush and Hansbrough really work hard this offseason, they could be in that list, but as of right now that’s really all I see that will turn out to be major players for the Indiana Pacers in the coming years.