Paul George, Roy Hibbert and other homegrown talent leads Indiana Pacers

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Remember when the Portland Trailblazers were the next up and coming team?

They had budding star on the wing in Brandon Roy, a stable, All-Star level power forward in LaMarcus Aldridge and a defensive stopper at center in Greg Oden.

We all know how that ended: Roy’s knees gave way, Oden’s entire body betrayed him and Aldridge was left to rot on a lottery team.

Why do I bring this up?

Because the Blazers’ brass must be real pissed watching the success of the Pacers.

Indiana is 5-0, the only undefeated team left in the NBA after throttling one of its biggest contenders, the Chicago Bulls, 97-80 Wednesday night.

Today, it’s easy to explain why the Pacers are successful. Indy’s brass built a well-rounded group, with each position providing different qualities on the floor. They have their star wing in Paul George, their All-Star power forward in David West, and their defensive stopper at center in Roy Hibbert.

But when this team was getting constructed with middling picks and second-tier free agents, it wasn’t nearly as clear that Indy would challenge for the title in 2013. 

Paul George, Indy’s bonafide superstar, was the 10th pick in 2010, drafted behind Wesley Johnson (on his third team) and Al-Farouq Aminu (on his second). 

Today, George is playing like one of the top-10 players in the NBA, and his early season numbers put him squarely into MVP conversations if he can sustain them through the season.

In five games, George is averaging nearly 26 points per game, eight rebounds per game, four assists, nearly two steals. He’s shooting 48 percent from the floor — a career high — while also averaging more shots per game than he has before.

He’s averaging 44 percent from 3 — also a career high — while throwing up seven a game. He’s attacking the basket at a greater rate than ever, getting to the line six times a night.

Hibbert, who was drafted 17th overall in 2008, has become a monster defender who can figure out how to play with his body, thus limiting fouls. 

His weak-side defense has improved, the best example being the game against the Bulls, when, in the third quarter, Hibbert came from the right side of the paint to block a speeding Derrick Rose layup attempt. 

With George, West and (when he comes back) Granger carrying the bulk of scoring, Hibbert doesn’t need to worry much about straining on the offensive end. Instead, he can take and make any easy bunnies his teammates may produce for him (think Tyson Chandler) while also holding down the paint on the defensive end.

Hibberts defensive rating (which measures how many points a player allows per 100 possessions) is other worldly. His defensive rating is 76.6, compared to the next closest big man with at least 20 minutes, Tiago Splitter’s 92.1.

Hibbert is averaging nine rebounds per game and over five blocks a night through the first five games.

While West has been steady for the Pacers since they signed him on the cheap coming off a torn ACL, the other homegrown talent to shine is Lance Stephenson, a second round pick who has matured into a 15-point a game scorer.

Stephenson gives this team another dynamic, able to make the 3 enough for defender to respect him and give George more room to work and West more room for mid-range j’s. 

Barring an injury to George, Hibbert or West, this team should have enough to make another deep playoff run. While newcomer Luis Scola is a nice addition, the Pacers could use another big man for insurance reasons.

Either way, Pacers basketball is nothing to take lightly, and I’m sure those in Miami are taking notes, because Chicago just did.

Unoffical 2013 NBA Census (courtesy of Best Ticket Blog)

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Ever wanted to know the average height of players on a specific team? Or how about which states produce the most NBA players per 1,000,000 residents (and if you’re reading this site, those tidbits are for some reason, interesting to you and me).

Thanks to BestTicketBlog.com, those facts and a bevy of other NBA tidbits are displayed in neat graphs. Titled, the unofficial 2013 NBA Player Census, it’s a treasure chest for NBA fans who have nothing better to do than learn that Saginaw, Mich. is a hotbed for NBA talent.

Go waste some time at work or school or wherever you are and take a look for yourself.

The 2013-14 Phoenix Suns Intro Video

Clean, fast-paced, modern graphics. "Joker and the Thief" by Wolfmother. Unnecessary shots of dancing cheerleaders. The Suns are doing pretty well with this year’s intro video (which I can’t embed here, so click the title to check it out). But a deeper look reveals sadness:

  • P.J. Tucker, Goran Dragic and Archie Goodwin are the first three players to appear. Could this core threaten the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ 72-win season?
  • Alex Len’s only apparent skills are palming two basketballs at once and holding one ball at his chin with two hands.
  • Markieff and Marcus Morris apparently play basketball against each other in their uniforms. Did you know that they’re also brothers?
  • For his suit shot, Goran couldn’t be bothered to put on a tie.
  • Slava Kravtsov has no idea what he’s doing.

The Suns are 2-1 now, so perhaps the momentum from this audiovisual marvel will propel them to build upon their hot start. Hot, like the sun. Sun. Phoenix Suns. OK, I’m done.

Drake + Earl Sweatshirt = Michael Carter-Williams.

(Kudos to atstrike for beating me to the punch 8 months ago.)

Russell Westbrook and his wardrobe make season debut tonight

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Russell Westbrook, the enigmatic point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder will make his season debut tonight against the Suns.

Westbrook, one of the most exciting players to watch in the league, tore his meniscus in the first round of last year’s playoffs against the Houston Rockets, submarining the Thunder’s chance of a deep playoff round, given that teams could just hone in on teammate Kevin Durant. In October, the 3-time All Star had another minor surgery to deal with some swelling in that same knee, and his original timetable to return was six to eight weeks from Wednesday’s opening night. 

Instead, Westbrook decided that all he needed was five days into the season to be healthy. Remember, before the playoffs injury, Westbrook had never missed a game in his professional, collegiate or high school career.