Throughout the 2013-14 season for the Indiana Pacers, much of the chatter surrounding their 21-5 start has been about a couple of players. Paul George and Roy Hibbert are the two receiving the most talk, while Danny Granger got his share while he was rehabbing from injury.
Other discussions have revolved around contending for a championship, if Indiana is better than the Miami Heat and the production from the bench.
Yes, the Indiana Pacers are good enough to contend for an NBA title. I think the Pacers and Heat are fairly evenly matched in terms of total team efforts. The bench production thus far this season has already surpassed everyone’s expectations and the upgrade from last season’s second unit is off the charts.
And sure, George and Hibbert could be playing together on the Eastern Conference All-Star team in February. We could talk about all of these things for hours.
For now, I want to take a look at the Indiana backcourt. George Hill, Lance Stephenson and C.J. Watson are the three primary contributors. Stephenson has already notched two triple-doubles this season and has come very close to a couple more in recent weeks. The fact that the game comes naturally for him is priceless. Expect a new contract coming his way in July 2014.
George Hill remains the hometown kid and a fan favorite. Together with George, they share a section of Bankers Life Fieldhouse packed with crazy fans that have their season tickets paid for by the two players. Aside, Hill plays steady. He isn’t one to force shots when he’s frustrated.
Hill is a terrific ball-handler and on-ball defender. He has been an excellent pick up by Larry Bird (from San Antonio) in terms of winning and being a great teammate. Hill knocks down the open shot and averages double-figures in scoring. The floater he has worked on is becoming a great weapon inside when the defensive help shows up.
As far as Watson, he isn’t going to shock the world with his scoring. He isn’t freakishly athletic. But he plays to win and has a very short memory in the sense of moving on to the next possession. Watson hits his open shots – unlike DJ Augustin – and is an excellent passer. Watson has a nice touch around the rim and, most importantly, fits nicely in Frank Vogel’s defense.
These guys may very well be x-factors for the Indiana Pacers down the stretch and heading into the postseason. I believe they will only improve during the course of 82+ games.