The Pacers, owners of the best record in the Eastern Conference, take on the Hawks on Wednesday night. Here to discuss some of the recent rumblings about the Pacers and provide some more background information is Tyler Bischoff of SB Nation's Indy Cornrows.
Question (Daniel Christian): The Pacers just signed Andrew Bynum. What, if anything, do you think he can contribute to the franchise going forward? Was the simply a preventative measure against Miami, or is there a legitimate role for him available with this team?
Answer (Tyler Bischoff): Andrew Bynum has the potential to provide depth and insurance. It is doubtful he’ll be the player that he was in Los Angeles, but Indiana doesn’t need that. A lot of NBA teams have been going small, but Frank Vogel stays big. Bynum can allow that to happen. The Pacers have been very fortunate to not face any serious injuries. If Roy Hibbert or Ian Mahinmi gets hurt, Indiana has a guy with potential to eliminate any drop off.
Q: Roy Hibbert is an elite defensive center piece. That much is obvious. The Hawks haven't had a real, steady defensive rim protector and anchor in quite some time. How important is it for teams without LeBron James to have a strong defensive center? Do you think a team can contend without one? Also, is Hibbert your defensive player of the year so far?
A: The Pacers are built to beat Miami. Obviously, Paul George, Danny Granger and Lance Stephenson can defend LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the perimeter, but having Hibbert as insurance around the rim is why Indiana’s defense is so much better suited to stop the Heat. What Miami (and the Hawks) can do is pull Hibbert away with big men knocking down shots. As far as contending without a defensive center, it is possible, but I don’t see a team beating Miami without taking advantage of the verticality rules at the rim.
Q: Against Miami last year, Indiana's bench couldn't keep up. The Pacers made some intriguing offseason acquisitions and currently sit atop the Eastern Conference. How big of a factor has the bench been this season and how important will it be going into the playoffs?
A: The weird part of Indiana’s bench unit is that Lance Stephenson, a starter, is the one who runs the show. His growth is due in large part to being the main ball handler on the second unit. The combination of Granger, C.J. Watson and Luis Scola has been an improvement, but the real test will be in the playoffs. Assuming Indiana meets Miami again, that will be the test of the new bench unit. Defensively, Granger is another guy Indiana can throw at LeBron. Obviously, all three of those pieces have offensive potential, but all that matters is performing against Miami.
Q: The Hawks ran the Pacers out of the gym in the last match up. Give us a prediction on who wins this one and why.
A: It is the second game of a back-to-back on the road, and Indiana is 3-4 in these games so far. Yeah, the Pacers won a playoff game in Philips Arena last season, but 12 straight regular season losses in Atlanta feels like 100. Indiana has struggled recently against teams that like to run. And Atlanta, even though Pero Antic is out, can take Hibbert away from the basket. So I’ll give it to Atlanta 101-94.