If you have read anything on this site over the last few years, you know my stance on Josh McRoberts. I hate Duke, he made a horrible decision by going pro when he did, and he had a failed relationship with “The Hills” actress, Lauren Conrad. When he landed on the Indiana Pacers a few years ago, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. He was a throw-in when Indiana traded Jerryd Bayless to Portland for Brandon Rush on draft night. Not many people expected that the Pacers would keep him around, but he has kept a spot on the roster since and even earning a few starts, due to injury, last season. He has made the most of his opportunities. Has he changed our mind?
The only player that has received more negative publicity on this site than McRoberts has been Adam Morrison, so what I’m about to tell you might surprise you. I am a fan of Josh McRoberts. I “liked” his page on Facebook to prove it. You have to like a guy who knows his role. He isn’t going to light it up and take 20 shots a game, his job is to eat up minutes and grab rebounds. He only takes 3-4 shots a game and most of those are put backs on rebounds. It’s something that other Pacers players should relish, because a player like Dahntay Jones, another Duke player on Indiana, has done so far this year too. Jones signed a 3-year deal before last season to become the Pacers defensive stopper, but he ended up trying to become Ron Artest and jacked up ugly shot after ugly shot. It was so bad that the Pacers tried to package D. Jones with Solomon Jones in a 2 for 1 trade, for anybody, so they could keep their 2nd-round pick, Magnum Rolle. They didn’t receive any offers, so they had to keep the Jones boys and cut Rolle loose, who is now doing well in the NBDL.
Going back to McRoberts, he should be a fan favorite. He is from nearby Carmel, Indiana and he’s white as a camera flash. Larry Bird may have went a different route in the draft this year and tried to take the best available players instead of playing it sage. Paul George, Lance Stephenson, and Magnum Rolle were all acquired on draft night. George plays the same position as Danny Granger, but his upside was the highest of any player left on the board. Stephenson was once known as “The Lebron of NYC,” as the best prep player in the city, but bonehead decisions and lack of motivation dropped him into the 2nd round. McRoberts is a player that Bird imagined that he would go out and acquire. A “gritty” and “scrappy” role player that he can plug in and do their job.
No one expects McRoberts to do anything on this team, no pressure at all. Hibbert trimmed down and he’s a beast inside this season, Granger is the leader and will lead this team in points, and Darren Collison is a slasher and can do whatever is left. The Pacers don’t look that attractive on paper, but on the court, they are pulling off some improbable wins.
Within the last week, the Pacers smoked the Heat, pushed the Thunder to overtime, easily beat the Lakers on the road, and dominated the Kings at Sacramento. If you told me that the Pacers would be 9-7 after 16 games, I would have asked you to pee in a cup. This team could easily be 10-6 or 11-5, if a few balls bounced the other way. The production on this team is essentially the same team as last season, minus Troy Murphy and adding Collison and James Posey. Why is this team winning games? You have a few players on contract years (T.J. Ford, Mike Dunleavy) and Jim O’Brien came into this season fighting for his job. Players are accepting their roles and Ford seems to be happy and not sulking on the bench as the 3rd PG option. He has been very productive as the backup PG and looks to be mentoring Collison.
Are the Pacers a playoff team? In an Eastern Conference that looks very top-heavy, absolutely! I project that the 7th and 8th seeds in the East will be 4 or 5 games under .500. If they complete this Western Conference road trip undefeated or with a lone loss, they are setting themselves up for a pretty nice December and January. You can’t win a season this early, but you can definitely lose a season this early. If Indiana headed into January with a horrible record, O’Brien would be a sitting duck and the Pacers would start looking for trade partners to move their expiring contracts for assets. It is setting up to be an interesting season in Indianapolis, if they can make the playoffs without Reggie Miller, maybe the fans can finally move on and accept this team. If I can accept Josh McRoberts, there’s hope for peace in the Middle East.
I leave you with an alley-oop by McRoberts that happened last night against Sacramento, click here to check it out.