The third installment of the Detroit Pistons season breakdown sees them matched up against the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers last season made it to the Conference Finals and had the mighty Miami Heat on the ropes, pushing them to a Game 7. The Pacers have been revamped by a massive and powerful front line that features center Roy Hibbert and power forward David West. The team has also seen 23-year-old Paul George blossom into a potential superstar.
The team plays a roughneck, bully-ball style under head coach Frank Vogel, who’s entering his third full season as the Pacers head honcho. Last season, the Pacers took all four matchups in convincing, blowout fashion against the Pistons.
Can the Pistons find a way to handle the bruising Pacers style and turn the tide on the series?
Let’s break it down.
Projected starting lineups:
Detroit- Brandon Jennings
Indiana- George Hill
Jennings has the definitive talent advantage in the matchup against Hill. But, Jennings throughout his career has been inconsistent matching up against Hill. Last season, Jennings went off for 34 points one game against Hill and the Pacers when he was with the Bucks, but the next two matchups Jennings went for a combined 16 points on 5-30 shooting.
Looking at the history, Hill has also had the same inconsistency issues against Jennings. In the battle of inconsistent starting point guards, I will take Jennings in this particular matchup due to a higher talent level. Jennings needs to take over against the Pacers offensively to give the Pistons a chance in the season series.
Detroit- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rodney Stuckey, Chauncey Billups?
Indiana- Paul George
George is a budding superstar at the small forward position. It seems like the Pacers will more than likely use George at the two guard spot since former All-Star Danny Granger will be back in the lineup.
George will have a distinct advantage on just about every player he matches up with at the shooting guard position: he’s 6-foot-9. Not only does he have a height and length advantage, George can really play. Throughout his three year career, George has improved his shooting year by year and shown he can put it on the deck, even at his size.
But, the Pacers must solve the George-Granger situation. Much of George’s growth a year ago hinged on the absence of Granger. If the Pacers can find a way for the two of them to play at a high level together, the Pacers ceiling will reach extraordinary heights. George should own this matchup against the Pistons even though he’s out of position. The Pistons need to find their starting shooting guard and I believe it will be, without a doubt, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Caldwell-Pope will match up best against George in terms of size and athleticism, but George will be a handful for the rookie.
Detroit- Josh Smith
Indiana- Danny Granger
Granger is coming off knee surgery and the Pacers pushed deeper into the playoffs and seemed to play better without him. George became the go-to-guy for the Pacers…at Granger’s position.
For these reasons, Granger may not be part of the Pacers future plans and could see himself on the trade block. Josh Smith has a new home, a fresh start, and most importantly is healthy. Smith has made a career with his athletic ability and should give Granger, coming off surgery, all he can handle. Granger and Smith can play both the three and four spot, so I expect them both to play against an array of different players. Head to head, I like Smith’s athleticism and overall health.
Detroit- Greg Monroe
Indiana- David West
I said before that I think Monroe will be the best power forward in the Central Division this upcoming season and that statement was made knowing that the Central included David West. West is coming off another terrific year (17.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and is one of the league’s most unheralded performers. West, who signed a three-year, $36-million deal this offseason, has a hefty contract to live up to. Monroe is in a contract year and has said that he would love to stay in Detroit. Monroe has to prove he can match up with the best in the division and that’s West. The Pistons’ success against the Pacers will come from their ability to handle the Pacers’ frontcourt and this matchup in particular.
Detroit- Andre Drummond
Indiana- Roy Hibbert
Drummond has his young hands full with this matchup. Hibbert is a prototypical, old school NBA center. Hibbert, at an already substantial 7-foot-2 and 290 pounds, has become even stronger this offseason and is primed to have a monster season. Drummond, at 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds, is no slouch himself and has also become much stronger this offseason.
Drummond will see more playing time this season and should see a lot of minutes against Mr. Hibbert. Hibbert and Drummond are both shot blocking, rebounding machines and this matchup will be like watching Goliath against Goliath’s protege. But, Drummond is young and will struggle initially against Hibbert. Keep an eye on the maturation of Drummond throughout the year and especially how he plays against Hibbert.
The Pistons have one of the deepest benches in the league and the Pacers have one of the worst benches in the league. The Pacers’ bench averaged only 24.1 points per game last season, which was ranked second worst in the league. The addition of forward Luis Scola should help in that department, but the Pistons still hold a distinct advantage.
Detroit- Maurice Cheeks
Indiana- Frank Vogel
Vogel has improved his record with the Pacers substantially year to year. This season, it will improve once again. Vogel is one of the league’s best young coaches with one of the league’s best starting fives. He brings a toughness to this Pacers team that could help them reach the Finals. Cheeks needs to bring this same toughness to the young Pistons. He needs to get higher production from the Pistons’ guards, which has been a weak point for many years. Cheeks was the right man for a roster overhaul, but he has a lot to prove with a team that has seen its overall talent pool improve drastically.
The Pacers will take three out of four matchups against the Pistons this upcoming season. Although the Pistons’ overall talent has improved and they have a deeper roster, the Pacers starting five and frontcourt will be too much for the Pistons to handle once again. I see the matchup between these two teams becoming nasty and overly physical. Over the next few years expect a rivalry to brew similar to the Pistons-Pacers rivalry in the early to mid-2000′s.