SI's 2008-09 NBA Scouting Reports
Indiana Pacers
Projected Finish: 9th in Eastern Conference
 
A fourth-year pro, Danny Granger is the Pacer with the best chance to develop into Indiana's franchise player.
AP
Fast Fact
 
Last Season
 

The housecleaning nearly complete, they can get back to the business of winning games

When the Pacers dealt Jermaine O'Neal to Toronto for point guard T.J.Ford in July, they became a franchise without a face -- or a single All-Star. "Itcertainly is a new world," says second-year coach Jim O'Brien. "But we have aterrific group of players, and people, who can lead at any given time. I'm notone to believe in the Great Man theory of leadership."

Not that O'Brien has much choice. All the big names that fans grew accustomedto seeing at Conseco Fieldhouse are now gone; only three players survive fromthe team involved in the infamous 2004 brawl in Detroit. (Troubled point guardJamaal Tinsley is actively being shopped and is expected to be traded shortly.)Says O'Brien, "The ownership and [team president] Larry Bird just felt that theycould no longer tolerate anything but the highest character."

Those left are young (nine are under 28) and promising, if not too imposing.Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger have the skills to match any swingman's in theleague. The No. 3 pick in the 2002 draft, Dunleavy, 28, was considered abust before arriving from Golden State in a January '07 trade. "I really likethe freedom here on the offensive end," he says. "I'm still on a high." Granger,25, may be the team's best offensive and best defensive player. "He has achance to be special," says O'Brien.

With Ford pushing the ball and another talented wing in rookie Brandon Rushfrom Kansas, the Pacers will play a fast-paced style that will win back fans.But they still need a low-post presence -- like, say, Jermaine O'Neal -- to makeheadway in the improving East. -- Pablo S. Torre

 

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