NBA AM: What’s Next For The Indiana Pacers?
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What Is Next For The Pacers: The Miami HEAT were dominant last night as they closed out Game 7 to advance to their third straight NBA Finals. The Indiana Pacers, who had a punchers chance coming into the game, made bad decisions and turned the ball over far too frequently to have a chance to win. Now they enter the offseason facing some big decisions. Here are just a few of them:
What To Do With Danny Granger?: The Pacers are sitting on $56.6 million in salary commitments next season, meaning they won’t have much cap room to play with outside of their salary cap exceptions. The only real and meaningful change the team can make is to explore trading Danny Granger, who will be in the final year of his deal next season worth some $14 million.
The problem with trading Granger is his gimpy knee. Sources close to that situation say Granger has had a knee issue his entire career and it’s gotten progressively worse over the years. The fear is that he may not be able to be counted on because of that knee and that makes trading for him risky. A risky trade means little return for a highly productive player.
Pacer fans often speculate on what Granger could return in trade and the truth of the situation is he may not return nearly half of what he can generate as a player, meaning Indiana may be better off keeping him and seeing what he can contribute next season. They can revisit his trade value around the trade deadline when most of his $14 million has already been paid and there is a sense of where his knee is at.
Despite the emergence of Paul George as a go-to player, the Pacers have said repeatedly that the dream scenario is Granger and George on the floor together. While that might need to change for a number of business reasons, it seems like unless someone offers something real for Granger that he may be on the roster when training camp opens, simply because he may not return enough value to justify the move and teams are not in an hurry to trade for a $14 million player who may not be able to play when they need him.
Can They Re-sign David West?: David West has done well for himself as a pending unrestricted free agent. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement allows for West to earn up to 175 percent of his previous salary from the Pacers, meaning they can offer as much as $17.5 million for West, who is coming off his final year of a two-year deal worth $10 million each. There have already been reports of teams with cap space targeting West in free agency and while he may not be Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, his impact on the Pacers is unquestioned and it has made him one of the more coveted free agents in 2013.
West has said repeatedly that’s he’s found a home in Indiana, but this is a business first and there may be some teams that try and test the Pacers’ resolve on West with a frontloaded offer.
The smart money says Indiana is going to re-sign West, but until his signature is on a contract he is a huge piece of the Pacers’ success and there will be teams trying to pry him out of Indiana.
Almost Time To Pay Paul George: This is the first summer the Pacers can sign George to a contract extension. The question is will they go ahead and give George his money or do they risk messing with his mindset and push his contract into next season?
The Pacers have long operated on a very strict budget in terms of what they can spend on players, and it’s rarely much more than $66 million. With West likely to earn more than the $10 million he earned this season the Pacers cap commitments will likely be pushed over that threshold with West alone and that’s not factoring in other possible free agents like Tyler Hansbrough or D.J. Augustin.
The good news for the Pacers is that an extended contract for George wouldn’t kick in until 2014-15, the year Granger comes off the books so there is a very logical progression. The challenge is will George’s camp entertain any number other than max money and will the Pacers commit max dollars to George this summer or do they wait and do a deal next summer?
Pacers’ big man Roy Hibbert struggled early on in the season to live up to his max contract expectations, how will George respond if he gets his money, but more importantly how will he respond if he doesn’t get it?
Is DJ Augustin In The Future?: Backup point guards are backup point guards, but will the Pacers try and hang on to Augustin or do they let him and his $3.5 million salary walk? The Pacers hold the 23rd overall draft pick and given how the draft looks to be shaping up there could more than a couple of very serviceable point guards available with the 23rd pick.
Equally, given how well the Pacers have become as a team, would a decent free agent guard choose Indiana over say some less successful situations?
The Pacers won’t have a ton of money to spend for all the reasons mapped out above, so keeping Augustin is possible and it’s easy. The question is can the Pacers do better than Augustin in free agency? That’s likely going to determine whether he is back or not.
What Happens to Brian Shaw?: All throughout the television broadcast of the Conference Finals, associate head coach Brian Shaw was talked about and fluffed up enough to wonder if he’ll be back next season.
Shaw has been a critical part of Lance Stevenson and George Hill’s progressions over the last year and he is playing a larger role in the offensive game planning for the Pacers. Shaw is routinely mentioned when coaching spots come open and it seems it’s simply a matter of time before Shaw is calling the shots for another team and the Pacers are left with a huge leadership and mentoring void to fill.
Shaw is said to be in the mix for the LA Clippers job, and sources say that Detroit is also a possibility especially with Phil Jackson advising the team on their coaching hire.
Shaw is not considered the favorite for either job, so that might be a saving grace for the Pacers, however it is matter of time before the Pacers have to try and replace Shaw and it’s possible that could be this summer.
The Pacers had a solid season, and while going out with a thud like they did last night wasn’t the fairy tale ending some had hoped for, the truth is that the Pacers have made the small progressions as a team that are necessary to be elite down the road. The question is can management keep this team together and how much better will Indiana be next year when the field, especially in the Central Division, gets a little healthier and a little stronger?
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Kobe Plans to Be Involved In Howard’s Free Agency: When Dwight Howard sits down with the LA Lakers, Laker guard Kobe Bryant plans to be part of that meeting.
The worst kept secret in the NBA is that pending free agent Howard has eyes for teams other than the LA Lakers, but from Bryant’s chair that is to be expected and he’s not trying to sway Howard back to LA; he believes that comes after Howard has talked to other teams.
“For me, you kind of let him do his due diligence and then move in and talk to him and figure out if this is a place he wants to be,” Bryant said to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “We all want him here. But then that’s when the selling begins [after Howard is courted by other teams]. You don’t start the selling process right before he goes and does all this stuff. You want to get the last word. You want to have the final word and the closing argument.
“I’ll give him a little opening statement, but then I have to make sure I have the final word.”
Bryant says he has been talking frequently with the Lakers front office not only about his rehab from a torn Achilles, but about the plans going forward and while he wants Howard back in LA for sure, he doesn’t think losing Howard to free agency is the end of the Lakers franchise either.
“This franchise is a franchise that you really don’t have to worry about too much,” Bryant said. “No matter what happens, whether it’s a year from now, two years from now, whatever the case may be, they’re always going to find a way to have an impact on this league.”
As their own free agent the Lakers can talk with Howard at any point, however other teams are not permitted to engage with Howard until 12:01am EST on July 1. Howard is expected to meet with more than a half dozen teams including the Houston Rockets, the Dallas Mavericks and the Atlanta Hawks.
There has been tons of speculation that the Houston Rockets are the “front runners” for Howard, however sources close to Howard and the situation emphatically deny that there is a favorite at this point, simply attractive situations that Howard likes and Houston is one of many.
The Lakers are looking at a guaranteed payroll of $68.1 million in 2013-14 before any deal with Dwight Howard.
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