The Pacers of the 2000’s will always be remembered for their brawl at The Palace, but they were also a pretty darn good team for most of the decade. They rattled off six straight playoff appearances to begin the decade and while never making it all the way to the NBA Championship they were taken anything but lightly by their opponents. The streak of postseason appearances was stopped in the 2008 season and the Pacers have yet to get back there. They are always right there in the middle of the race for the final couple spots in the Eastern Conference, but seem to fade off the grid at the end. The Pacers have had a lot of talented guys come through the system during the past ten seasons, but Danny Granger is the lone top five player that currently graces a Pacers’ uniform. Here are the best five Indiana Pacers from 2001-2010. (Only accomplishments and stats while playing for the Indiana Pacers from 2000-2010 were considered.)
1. Jermaine O’Neal
O’Neal was drafted by Portland in the 1998 NBA Draft straight out of high school and started to look as though he could be a bust until he joined the Indiana Pacers for the 2000-01 NBA season. In his first season with the Pacers, O’Neal averaged 12.9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots per game and was again looked at as one of the most promising young big men in the NBA. He then rattled off six straight seasons of averaging at least 19 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocked shots a game, giving the Pacers one of the best big men in the game during that time. He was named to 6 NBA Eastern Conference All-Star Teams while with the Pacers.
2. Reggie Miller
Is it wrong to just call this guy Mr. Indiana Pacer? He wasn’t quite as good as Jordan, but he was Michael Jordan to Indiana Pacer fans. He is currently the career leader in franchise history in games played, minutes played, field goals made, free throws made, points scored, assists, steals and pretty much anything that includes three pointers or free throws. Miller played with the Pacers from his rookie season until he retired after the 2004-05 season. The Pacers made it to the playoffs in all five of his seasons with them in the 2000’s, and every year he was on the team before the 2000’s for that matter. Stats alone tempted me to put Granger ahead of him on this list because the 2000’s were the tail end of his career and Granger has become a scoring beast. When it came down to the end though, I thought there was too much on the court that couldn’t be measured by stats and Miller had all of that. Miller meant so much to the Pacers on the court and as a leader that if it wasn’t for the fact that Jermaine O’Neal had played in three more seasons for the Pacers in the 2000’s, I would’ve found a way to sneak Miller all the way to number one.
3. Danny Granger
Granger was drafted by the Pacers in the 2005 NBA Draft with the seventeenth overall pick and has since evolved to the Pacers go-to guy. Granger didn’t make a huge impact for the Pacers right away, but was able to contribute 7.5 points per game in twenty minutes per contest. He made a leap from role player to one of the team’s main scoring options in his second season by scoring 13.9 points per game. He again made huge leaps in scoring in each of the next two seasons, scoring 19.6 points per game in 2008 and 25.8 points per game in 2009. In 2009, he won the NBA Most Improved Player Award and was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star Team. Granger is a name that is seldom thrown around when talking about the best scorer’s in the NBA, but as I have mentioned, in the article, Indiana Pacers Foward Danny Granger: The NBA’s Forgotten Elite Scorer, he is one of the NBA’s top scorer’s and I’m betting that in the next decade that he will become a household name for any NBA fan.
4. Ron Artest
Artest’s time in Indiana is known more for how much his passion and temper controlled him than for how good he was on the court. Even though he was one of the instigators in the fight at the Palace in what was one of the ugliest spots on the NBA’s resume, he still did some good things for the Pacers during his time with them as well. Artest was dealt to the Pacers in the middle of the 2001-02 season and remained a Pacer until he was traded to the Kings early in the 2005-06 season. While he was with the Pacers, he was not only one of the main scoring threats, but was one of the elite defenders in the game. He was recognized for his great defense in 2004 by winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.
5. Jamaal Tinsley
The top four players on this list could make for an incredible line-up if you teamed them all up together at the same time, even if they would be a little undersized. It wouldn’t even matter much who was chosen as the fifth starter to go with them. That’s kind of the same case when it comes to picking the fifth best player in the 2000’s for the Indiana Pacers. Nobody really stood out. So after debating between Troy Murphy and Jamaal Tinsley as the final two choices for this spot, I pretty much flipped a coin. Congratulations, Mr. Tinsley, you are the winner! Tinsely spent seven up and down seasons with the Pacers and at times teased us with his triple double potential. His best season with the Pacers very well might have been the last season he spent with them, as he dished out 8.4 assists while adding in 11.9 points per game in the 07-08 season.