After a week of training camp, the 2014-15 Indiana Pacers will get their first chance to measure themselves against external competition when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves in their first preseason game on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers return 10 players from last year’s roster, but this version of the Blue-and-Gold will have a decidedly different look. All-Star forward Paul George is out for the foreseeable future as he recovers from a leg injury, while fellow wings Lance Stephenson, Evan Turner, and Rasual Butler all departed in free agency.
As such, the Pacers will make use of an entirely new rotation of players on the wing this year. The competition for minutes there figures to be the central narrative of the preseason.
Veterans Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles seem to be the early frontrunners to start at shooting guard and small forward, respectively. The Pacers’ two biggest free-agent signings this summer, both players have at least seven seasons of NBA experience and a demonstrated ability to score in bunches (Stuckey earns his money primarily as a penetrator, while Miles thrives from beyond the 3-point arc).
But returning players Solomon Hill and Chris Copeland also are fighting for a starting spot. Hill received sparse playing time as a rookie, but is eager to prove his worth as a lock-down defender. Sharpshooter Copeland has been converted to small forward full-time after playing primarily at power forward last season.
The wing will look different, but the Pacers have plenty of continuity elsewhere. Starter George Hill and primary backup C.J. Watson return at point guard. In the post, David West and Roy Hibbert are back as starters, as are their backups, Luis Scola and Ian Mahinmi.
The Timberwolves also have a significantly different look this season. In a blockbuster deal finalized in late August, Minnesota traded All-Star forward Kevin Love to Cleveland. The T-Wolves also sent Alexey Shved and Luc Mbah a Moute to Philadelphia in the three-team deal.
In return, Minnesota got back guard Andrew Wiggins and forward Anthony Bennett, the top overall picks in the 2014 and 2013 NBA Drafts, respectively. They also added 26-year-old forward Thaddeus Young, who averaged 17.9 points per game for the Sixers last season.
Following the retirement of head coach Rick Adelman, President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders decided to take over head coaching duties. Saunders previously coached the T-Wolves from 1995-2005.
With Love gone, point guard Ricky Rubio and center Nikola Pekovic will likely take on more responsibility for the Timberwolves. Rubio’s 8.6 assists per game ranked fourth in the NBA last season, while Pekovic averaged 17.4 points and 8.7 rebounds despite playing in Love’s shadow.
Pacers: PG - George Hill, SG - Rodney Stuckey, SF - C.J. Miles, PF - David West, C - Roy Hibbert
Timberwolves: PG - Ricky Rubio, SG - Andrew Wiggins, SF - Corey Brewer, PF - Thaddeus Young, C - Nikola Pekovic
Pacers: Paul George - out (rehabilitation, fractured right tibia/fibula), C.J. Watson - out (sore foot), Ian Mahinmi - out (shoulder), Chris Copeland - out (sore right knee)
Timberwolves: Kevin Martin - out (left adductor strain)
"I think we're a pretty good team. I feel like we've busted our butt in training camp so far, and everyone's meshing well together. We're moving the ball very well, help defense is going very good. So, we'll have to see (how we stack up) when the games start." -George Hill
"I think we're all excited just to play a different opponent. We've been beating each other up for the past week or so. It will be good just to go out there and compete against someone else for the first time." -Rodney Stuckey
"It's been pretty good. (We're) just getting used to each other. Everybody's willing to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team." -Roy Hibbert on the team's chemistry so far in training camp
"We're going to have to be a scrappy group. (We're) still trying to figure out an identity, but we've got to step on the floor with confidence." -David West
- Timberwolves forward Robbie Hummel was a three-time selection to the All-Big Ten First Team while at Purdue (2007-12)
- Pacers forward Lavoy Allen was teammates with Minnesota forward Thaddeus Young in Philadelphia from 2011 until Allen was traded to Indiana in February.