After the 2006 season, the Bucks shipped Ford north of the border to Toronto -- straight up -- for Charlie Villanueva. This offseason, the Raptors shipped Ford to Indy (with Rasho Nesterovic) for six-time All-Star Jermaine O'Neal. Toronto decided they didn't need two starting point guards and kept Jose Calderon while the Pacers and O'Neal thought it best to part ways after eight mostly productive, but injury prone, seasons.
In sending O'Neal to the Raptors and by getting Ford and acquiring Jarrett Jack in a Draft day trade, it's clear where the Pacers are headed -- down the floor. With Ford and Jack, the Pacers upgraded at their weakest and possibly the most important position in Jim O'Brien's drive-and-kick, three-point flinging offense.
Late in last season, the Pacers had Travis Diener running the point because the oft-injured, always-mercurial Jamaal Tinsley couldn't be counted on. While he didn't expound as to whether the Pacers will sweep away Tinsely using the lobby pan Tinsley waved during the Palace uprising in 2004 or whether they will trade him, Pacers president Larry Bird made clear (via Pacers.com great, Conrad Brunner) Tinsley's days in Pacers pinstripes have come to an end: "Jamaal will not be on our team this year."
OK then. So, Bird has turned the running of the team over to the new point guard tandem of Ford and Jack, who lost his starting job to Steve Blake last season in Portland. While not as super-charged as Mike D'Antoni's "Seven Seconds or Less" offense, or Don Nelson's "Anything Goes" offense at Golden State, O'Brien's reliance on pushing the ball seems lightning-quick in the walk-it-up, back-em-down-in-the-post halfcourt sets most teams in the East run. Indiana notched 103.9 points per game, second best in the East behind Orlando's 104.4 points per game. But as John Schuhmann noted all season long in his NBA.com Power Rankings, the Pacers may have played fast, but they were inefficient, averaging 107.5 points per 100 possessions, good for only 20th.
It'll be up to Ford, Jack and Diener to push and to slash through opposing defenses to pass to spot-up shooters such as Mike Dunleavy, who had, by far, his best and most consistent season as a pro with a 19.5-3.5-5.3 campaign.
Then there's budding star Danny Granger, who a 6-9 can shoot from the perimeter or bang inside with the best of them.
But as great as Granger and the rest of the new Pacer faces are on offense, the defense left just as much to be desired last season. Their defensive efficiency was 15th in the league, but at 109.1 points per 100 possessions, it was 1.6 points worse than their offensive efficiency. All of this means the Pacers haven't been able to use defensive stops (including blocks and steals) to fuel a fastbreaking offense. If the Pacers can shore up their D, it may make them more efficient on offense. But as it stands now, with no discernable upgrade on defense, the Pacers offense will need to work that much more to score.
-- Rob Peterson