Sunday , Oct , 18 , 2009 Oly Sandor

Can Danny Granger and the young Indiana Pacers make the playoffs?

But the young, athletic, and high-scoring Indiana Pacers, even with a budding superstar in Danny Granger, could again find themselves golfing when the NBA’s second-season kicks off next April. After all, executive Larry Bird mostly stood pat in the off-season, while several Eastern Conference rivals underwent the kind of makeover that would wow Dr. Phil, leave Oprah speechless, and have Tyra Banks snappin’ those pretty fingers …


Can Danny Granger and the young Indiana Pacers make the playoffs?Every day until the regular season begins, HoopsVibe the Blog will ask and answer an important question facing each of the NBA’s thirty teams. Weigh-in with thoughts on our ‘Key Questions’ feature in the comment box below.

Today’s team: the Indiana Pacers.

Key Question: Can Danny Granger and the young Indiana Pacers make the playoffs?

The Answer: Last year, they were just a win shy of the playoffs.

But the young, athletic, and high-scoring Indiana Pacers, even with a budding superstar in Danny Granger, could again find themselves golfing when the NBA’s second-season kicks off next April.

After all, executive Larry Bird mostly stood pat in the off-season, while several Eastern Conference rivals underwent the kind of makeover that would wow Dr. Phil, leave Oprah speechless, and have Tyra Banks snappin’ those pretty fingers.

To be fair, there are positives. It starts with Granger -the athletic swing is on the verge of joining the game’s very best, especially since he extended his range past the three-point line this off-season.

Already possessing an explosive first-step, Granger’s improved shot will prevent opposing defenses from backing off him. Closer, on-the-ball coverage will allow the three-man to use his tremendous physical gifts to blow by defenders and attack the basket.

There is also a nice mix of young and established players. Last year, Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert showed enough to be pencilled in as opening day starters in 2010. If healthy, Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy are useful players, while T.J. Ford solidifies the one-spot.

Dunleavy aside, the bench is a little thin. And being a smaller market, Indiana lacks the resources to add talent, so Jeff Foster, Tyler Hansbrough, Dahntay Jones, and Earl Watson will have to make-do when the starters need a rest or get hurt.

They must get stops. Last year, the Pacers had the fifth worst defense in the NBA, conceding 106 points per game. Jones, who made a bit of a name for himself as a lockdown guy with Denver last year, should help, but this young side must collectively commit to playing defense.

Their biggest problem is that the Eastern Conference is better. Much better. Boston, Cleveland, and Orlando all improved over the summer, while next tier teams like Atlanta, Miami, Toronto and Washington also upgraded. This means Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Indiana, New Jersey, and Philadelphia will duke it out for the eighth and final playoff birth.

Indiana should enjoy last year’s push for a playoff spot because the same success will be hard to duplicate in 2010.

Prediction: Out of the playoffs.

Sound off; Where do you see Indiana finishing in 2010? Get at us in the comment box below and follow Oly’s work on HoopsVibe The Blog and Twitter. Photo courtesy of Chris Isherwood.