Just two Pacers among SI.com's top 100

A year ago, five Pacers made the list. Now that Paul George is out with a broken leg and Lance Stephenson departed as a free agent for Charlotte, Indiana has just David West and Roy Hibbert on the list of top 100 NBA players for 2015.

In another indication of how the Indiana Pacers have dramatically changed from last season, just two players were named to SI.com’s list of Top NBA players of 2015 posted Monday.

Forward David West and center Roy Hibbert were the only Indiana mentions, and they dropped from higher rankings in 2014. The enigmatic Hibbert, who struggled last season especially late in the year, fell from No. 23 to No. 52 while West appeared at No. 47, 16 spots later than before.

The Pacers had five players on the previous year’s list — guard/forward Paul George was No. 25 but excluded this time because he broke his leg and is expected to miss the upcoming season. Forward Danny Granger came in at No. 72 previously, but was traded last season. Guard George Hill didn’t make the list after being ranked No. 79 before.

Former Pacers guard Lance Stephenson, who signed as a free agent with Charlotte, appeared at No. 73 after being unranked in his last season with Indiana.

The rankings are based on three categories: player efficiency rating, win shares (estimate on how many wins the player contributes) and regularized adjusted plus-minus.

West’s brief explanation reads, “Please forgive West if he feels like the rug was yanked from underneath him this offseason.”

Writer Ben Golliver further explains West’s ranking: “What do you mean Paul George is out for the year? What do you mean Lance Stephenson walked for nothing? What do you mean Roy Hibbert may or may not rebound from a puzzling decline? What do you mean the big offseason additions were C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey? What do you mean everything fell apart for the Pacers at the same time the Heat’s Big Three finally separated?

“None of this is what West had in mind when he re-signed with the Pacers for three years and $36 million in 2013, but the steady 11-year vet has been around the NBA block long enough to know that it’s his job to roll with the punches. If Indiana’s offense is to operate at anything above a disastrous level this season, it will be because West, a two-time All-Star power forward who can effectively score from both the block and the elbow, steps up as the No. 1 option. That’s asking a lot for a 34-year-old, but there just aren’t any better alternatives.

“Pacers fans dreading life without George should take heart in West’s tenacity and pride, plus the fact that his pairing with Hibbert will give coach Frank Vogel’s interior defense some valuable continuity. Whether Indiana winds up falling apart or hanging tough, West will almost definitely be the best thing it has going.”

Hibbert’s fall was expected after he didn't play well in the playoffs.

Golliver writes: “Even acknowledging that his postseason performance was atrocious, the vitriol sent Hibbert’s way was excessive; he is still a very good, very valuable player. The Pacers center made his second All-Star team in 2014, has been one of the top candidates for Defensive Player of the Year in each of the last two seasons and was the most important defensive player on the league’s No. 1 defense last year. Although his lack of quickness requires schematic accommodation on both sides of the ball, Hibbert is fundamentally-sound and unafraid when it comes to guarding the paint and protecting the rim, and those skills regularly bear game-changing fruit. It was also easy to miss the fact that Indiana finished with the East’s No. 1 seed and came within two wins of the Finals despite the firestorm that surrounded Hibbert’s struggles. His play wasn’t pretty, to be sure, but it didn’t singlehandedly sabotage his team’s title shot either.

“Going forward, the trickiest thing to determine is what exactly happened to him down the stretch. Was it fatigue? Was it mental? Was it locker room politics? How is it possible for an All-Star to post zero points and zero rebounds twice in the playoffs? How is it possible that Hibbert went scoreless on six separate occasions in April and May? Why did Hibbert struggle to shoot a career-low 43.9 percent – one of the all-time worst shooting percentages for any player 7-foot-2 or taller? Right now, it’s unclear whether the answers to those questions will ever be known or if the 2014 playoffs will prove to be a blip on his career’s radar. What is clear: Hibbert is being set up for a tough 2014-15 season without Paul George and Lance Stephenson around.”

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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