Rivalry Check: Indiana Pacers

Rivalry Check is an ongoing series in which we preview 10 of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Sam Spiegelman

New Faces:
The Indiana Pacers didn’t make too huge of a splash this offseason, only some minor tweaks here and there. The selected forward Solomon Hill out of Arizona with the No. 23 back in the NBA Draft. It was among one of the many unpredictable moves during this year’s draft, with Hill being off many analyst’s radar.

Indiana Pacers v New York KnicksIn need of a backup point guard, the Pacers signed C.J. Watson, formerly of the Brooklyn Nets. Last season, Watson averaged 6.8 points and 2 assists as Deron William’s backup. The team also added Donald Sloan, who last year averaged 4.1 points and 1.9 assists with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Pacers added a player New York Knicks fans are quite familiar with. At the start of the offseason, the team signed forward Chris Copeland to a two-year deal. And sticking with the theme of adding frontcourt depth, the team traded for veteran Luis Scola, giving up Gerald Green, Miles Plumee and a future first-rounder to the Phoenix Suns.

Departures: Gone from the 2012-13 squad is backup point guard D.J. Augustin and reserve forward Tyler Hansbrough, both of whom have since signed a deal to join the Toronto Raptors.

The team also parted ways with guard Orlando Johnson, forward Jeff Pendergraph and swingman Sam Young.

Season Outlook: Many are expecting the Pacers to take another step forward in 2013-14, with the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference theirs to take. Paul George will have another year to develop, while Danny Granger, now healthy, will provide an offensive spark off of the bench.

Biggest Challenge Facing the Knicks: There is no question Indiana poses a unique threat to the Knicks, as we saw during the second round of the playoffs. Indiana’s tough, hard-nosed approach stifled the Knicks offensively, while an injured Tyson Chandler could not slow down Roy Hibbert down low.

If the Knicks want to retain the 2-seed in the East, they’ll have to contend with Indiana, meaning they have to match their toughness, their physicality and their wealth of young, talented players. To do so, it’ll be their defensive enforcers — Iman Shumpert, Metta World Peace and Chandler — to play larger roles, while Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith will have to find ways to get points on the board against a stingy defense.

Follow Sam on Twitter @SamSpiegs