The Pacers were blown away in Game 6 by the Miami Heat – how can they get back to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals next year?
The Indiana Pacers were humbled on the biggest stage last night as they suffered an emphatic 117-92 loss to the Miami Heat and crashed out of the playoffs.
The Pacers have now been elimitated by the Heat in three consecutive seasons, and key decisions must be taken in this offseason if they are to improve next year.
Here are the steps Indiana must take to challenge Miami next year.
Lance Stephenson must leave
Stephenson is clearly a talented, versatile player who brings plenty to the Pacers when he is at his best. However, his antics on the court often take attention away from his game and occasionally backfire – his clothesline of Norris Cole in Game 6 could easily have seen him ejected.
This team must be all about business from here on, and for that reason they should part ways with the polarising guard, who is a free agent at the end of the season.
Roy Hibbert should be traded
One big miss in the playoffs for the Pacers this season is the consistency that saw them finish the regular season with the Eastern Conference's best record. That all starts with Hibbert, who has been a shadow of his former self at times in the postseason.
He can still be a game-changing big man in the NBA, but Indiana cannot win the title if he fades in and out of a series, and four scoreless games in the playoffs this year is unacceptable. Indiana may be wise to shop Hibbert around before the draft to recoup maximum value for the all-star.
Paul George must become a star
George was a frontrunner in the MVP race early in the season, but the forward fell victim to the same inconsistency that plagued his team. George's game is based almost entirely on shooting jump shots, and as a result he will have off-nights when it just isn't falling. The 24-year-old has all the tools to be a top-tier player in the league, but he simply must attack the rim more.
George must also be more of a leader on and off the court. He has come out and criticised Hibbert and Stephenson during the season as well as blaming the officials for losing Game 4 against the Heat. To embrace his role on the team and to become a superstar in the NBA, George must take more responsibility when the Pacers lose.