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Future Looks Bright, According to Experts

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

March 21, 2011

( Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

So how is it that a team with 10 losses in its last 14 games, battling to hang onto the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, is climbing the rankings?

These rankings aren’t about the present, they’re about the future. And according to Insider’s Future Power Rankings, things look pretty rosy for the Pacers.

Produced by experts Chad Ford and John Hollinger, the rankings project a franchise’s likelihood for success in the next three seasons, and list the Pacers as seventh in the NBA.

Last summer, the Pacers were near the bottom, ranked 26th in the league. They improved to 17th in August and 11th in December. The March rankings show them climbing four more spots.

"Yes, we're saying the Pacers have the seventh-brightest future," the report said, "ahead of teams like the Celtics, Magic and Mavericks."

Though the team has a strong nucleus of young players including Tyler Hansbrough, Paul George, Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert, the key factor in the rankings is money. The Pacers will have unprecedented salary cap space this summer.

"Pacers executives Larry Bird and David Morway have set this team up for future success by drafting well, building depth and staying away from bad contracts," the report said. "Owner Herb Simon is considered one of the best in the business -- despite an unfavorable market and financial situation, he has remained committed to spending the money it takes to be competitive.

"Going into the summer of 2011, the Pacers have the second-most salary cap space, behind only Sacramento, even though the Pacers aren't likely to lose any core players."

The report referred to George as "the steal of the 2010 draft," and praised the development of Hansbrough and Collison, and pointed out some of the cap space undoubtedly will be used to give Hibbert a contract extension.

The report said the Pacers "should be a more legitimate factor in the next three seasons. With the right additions and the development of George, Hibbert, Hansbrough and Collison, Indiana has a shot at being one of the better teams in the East for the next half-decade."

Hansbrough getting noticed

Hansbrough's post-All-Star break surge has attracted some attention from The Worldwide Leader, as well.

Hollinger named the young power forward to his All-2012 Team.

"One thing new Indiana coach Frank Vogel did was give Hansbrough a consistent role, playing him about half the game off the bench at power forward," Hollinger wrote. "That strategy has allowed Hansbrough to play more freely on offense, and he's averaging nearly a point every two minutes on the season and proving adept at drawing fouls. But to be a long-term starter, he needs to raise his shooting percentage."

Hansbrough is working on that. In the last eight games, while averaging 22.4 points, he has shot 56.5 percent from the field.

Murphy's happy landing

Two things you may have missed from last week's 92-80 loss in Boston: the driving reverse dunk by former Indiana forward Troy Murphy, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers' reaction to the stunning move after the game.

Asked if he was surprised by Murphy's dunk, Rivers said, "I think he was surprised. I was worried about him getting hurt coming down, because I don’t think he’s jumped that high in quite some time. It was a slow-motion reverse-dunk. It was terrific."

After spending most of the season in purgatory in New Jersey, it appears Murphy has indeed experienced a happy landing in Boston.