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Versatile New Bench Gives Vogel Options

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

July 30, 2013 | 3:30 PM

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Frank Vogel loves to tinker, immersing himself in the sort of mixing and matching of lineups and matchups that can keep a coach up 24 hours a day if his eye balls can stand to watch that much video.

Oh, man, is he in basketball heaven or what? His bench has been drastically remodeled with mostly proven and versatile talent that brings endless strategic possibilities.

“My own little laboratory,” he said Tuesday, smiling broadly.

Forgive Vogel if he coaches this season while wearing one of those white lab coats. If he wants to experiment, he'll never get bored. He went with a tight playing rotation in last season's playoff run, usually giving three reserves slightly more than 10 minutes per game and another one or two some scraps of playing time. Now, he'll have the possibility of using more players. He'll also have the opportunity to rest starters more during the regular season if he wants.

Above all else, he can play just about any way he wants to play. Big, small, fast, slow – pick a style, any style, and he'll have a lineup for it.

The latest acquisition, Luis Scola, has been a starter throughout most of his career, and can play power forward or center. He has a clinch's worth of post-up moves, but also can step out and hit mid-range jumpers deep into the night. He can back up David West, as he'll do most of the time, play with West, or replace West if West is not available.

Related: Scola, Bird Were Meant To Be »

Free agent Chris Copeland is primarily a three-point shooter, but has enough of a post-up game to take smaller defenders into the lane. He can play small forward or power forward.

Free agent C.J. Watson is primarily a backup point guard, but shoots well enough (41 percent from the 3-point line last season) to be used as a shooting guard, and can play with George Hill.

Rookie draft pick Solomon Hill is best-suited for small forward, but also can play around the basket.

“And there's the Danny Granger-Lance Stephenson dynamic,” Vogel added.

Granger also can play either forward position, and Stephenson can play either backcourt position, and perhaps some small forward as well. One of them is expected to start, but who?

“Just a ton of different options,” Vogel said.

That also was the unit of weight measurement that came to mind when Vogel was asked about the summer's bench overhaul. Last season's reserve unit consisted of D. J. Augustin, Gerald Green, Ben Hansbrough, Tyler Hansbrough, Orlando Johnson, Ian Mahinmi, Jeff Pendergraph, Miles Plumlee and Sam Young. Mahinmi and Johnson are the only holdovers, joined by Copeland, Scola, Donald Sloan, Watson and either Granger or Stephenson.

How much better is that group?

“A ton,” Vogel said, laughing softly. “It's a ton better, quite frankly.”

The bench strength will depend heavily on the health of Granger, who missed all but five games last season because of left knee issues that eventually required surgery. Vogel reiterated the team's stance that Granger should be ready to go by the start of training camp.

“We expect a full-strength Danny Granger this year,” Vogel said.

Granger stated his desire to return to the starting lineup in the locker room following the Pacers' Game 7 loss to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals, while Stephenson said he wouldn't mind going back to the bench after starting last season. Vogel, however, sees no reason to make a decision now.

“I want to see how it plays out,” he said. “I want Lance Stephenson fighting to not give up the starting spot but willing to play off the bench if he needs to. And I want Danny coming back thinking he's going to come back as our best player.”

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