COACH: Jim O'Brien | 2007-08: 36-46
Indiana Pacers

Ford and Jack look to add more consistency to the Pacers' point guard situation.
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
By NBA standards, Indiana's new point guard, the 6-foot (maybe), 165-pound (possibly) T.J. Ford is small. Yet, the diminutive Ford has twice been a part of trades that have shattered the maxim: never trade big for small.

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

Visit Pacers.com's Ticket Central for single-game and season tickets.

Granger
Now that O'Neal is gone, the Pacers man on the spot is the ultra-talented Granger.

Don't believe me? Well, then, let's go to Conrad Brunner of Pacers.com for confirmation. He notes Granger will be the player the Pacers build around on the floor and off:

"Granger is far too important to the franchise's future to be allowed to slip away. Almost immediately after Jermaine O'Neal was traded, Granger became the face of the franchise. On a team devoid of superstars, he's the next-best thing. As importantly, he's a class act."
So Granger has the double burden this season of improving the Pacers on the floor and its image off it. Granger seems to have taken care of his end on the floor. Just check out his digits here. Each year, Granger has improved his scoring and rebounding average and his three-point and free throw percentage. Last season, his 19.6 points per game was 11th best among small forwards, while his 6.1 boards per game put him sixth among his fellow "threes". Only three small forwards had better combined numbers than Granger last season: LeBron, 'Melo and Josh Howard. Or three All-Stars.

Off the floor, Granger, the New Orleans native, has taken in relatives displaced by Hurricane Katrina, donated money to his alma mater, and has begun to win over those around Indy -- even the notoriously skeptical blog community -- with his community appearances.

So far, so good.

THE STAT
2 Number of players on current Pacers roster who have played nine-plus seasons in the NBA: Rasho Nesterovic (10) and Jeff Foster (nine).
The addition of speedy point guard T.J. Ford gives Jim O’Brien the type of quickness that he has been looking for to make his up-tempo offense more productive.
With O’Neal gone it should also open up the middle allowing Ford to penetrate and kick the ball to the various shooters the Pacers will put on the court
If T.J. can keep his ego in check and simply be a solid distributor this team could win some games with their offense alone.
Unfortunately, over the long haul, defense wins games and the Pacers’ lack of commitment to that end of the court last year could be their Achilles heal again this season.
But if Roy Hibbert can be any kind of a defensive presence this could change their defense dramatically.
-- NBA Scout
In Jim O'Brien's fast-paced offense, the multi-talented Granger has a chance to put up the sort of numbers that made Antoine Walker a valuable fantasy asset during his Boston days. Only with far better shooting percentages.

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NBA.com Fantasy Index

Record: 29-53, 15th in Eastern Conference
Playoffs: No postseason
Scoring Leader: T.J. Ford, 18.0 PPG
Rebounding Leader: T. Murphy, 8.0 RPG
Assist Leader: T.J. Ford, 7.0 APG

Simulated Season Details
PLAYER/2007-08 STATS PPG RPG APG
PG T.J. Ford 12.1 6.1 1.1
SG Mike Dunleavy 19.1 5.2 3.5
SF Danny Granger 19.6 6.1 2.1
PF Troy Murphy 12.2 7.2 2.2
C Jeff Foster 6.4 8.7 1.7

G Jarrett Jack 9.9 2.9 3.8
G Marquis Daniels 8.2 2.9 1.9
G Travis Diener 6.9 1.7 3.9
F Austin Croshere 3.9 2.4 0.7
G Brandon Rush Draft
F Roy Hibbert Draft
C T.J. Ford Trade
G-F Rasho Nesterovic Trade
F Jarrett Jack Draft
C Josh McRoberts Trade
G-F Maceo Baston Trade
G Kareem Rush Free agent
G Flip Murray Free agent
G Jerryd Bayless Trade
F Ike Diogu Trade
G Jermaine O'Neal Trade
F Jamaal Tinsley Waived
PPG Danny Granger 19.6
RPG Jeff Foster 8.7
APG Jamaal Tinsley 8.4
SPG Jamaal Tinsley 1.6
BPG Jermaine O'Neal 2.07
Points Scored 103.9 (7th)
Points Allowed 105.4 (26th)
Field-Goal Percentage .444 (23rd)
Opponents' FG% .454 (10th)
Rebounding Diff. -2.34 (23rd)
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