Six Moves the Indiana Pacers Should Make
The Indiana Pacers are ready to spend. With over $20 million in projected cap space for this upcoming season and ten guys already under contract, they inevitably are going to take on two or three medium-to-large-sized contracts to round out the roster. That’s a really, really good thing for a team that looked as competitive in the first round of the playoffs last season as they’ve looked since before Reggie Miller retired and Jermaine O’Neal left town.
The following are six things Indiana could do to spend that money. Not all six will work; assume that some of these are Plan A and Plan B type situations. That said, with money to spend and a respectable crop of free agency frontrunners, there are plenty of interesting directions the Pacers could head in 2011-2012. The challenge, as it always is, is convincing players that Indianapolis is a desirable place to live.
However players may feel about the area, the team is in good shape, with a sharp young coach in Frank Vogel that many underestimate. How will the Pacers add to their promising young core? Here are a few ideas:
#1 – Make a hard run at David West. Finding a legit NBA starting power forward is priority #1 for the Pacers, and David West is pretty easily the best starting power forward prospect on the market. Even coming off of his injury, he’s going to command a pretty penny, especially with New Orleans, New Jersey, and others also vying for his services. Despite that, he’d be guaranteed a starting position on a very good young team should he agree to come play for Indiana, and his style of play would certainly fit Vogel’s system. We all saw some of the monster lines Tyler Hansbrough put up as a starting four last season; imagine what West could do in that same role? It’s probably going to cost them $14-16 million a season (or more) to land him, but it would be worth it.
#2 – Marc Gasol or Nene wouldn’t be bad back-up plans. Despite the fact that the team already has a pretty solid burgeoning center in the 7’2” Roy Hibbert, sources seem to be indicating that the team is still very much interested in a couple of this year’s free agent centers, specifically Nene and Gasol. While playing Hibbert together with one of those guys on the floor means someone probably is going to end up guarding a quicker stretch four (those are becoming increasingly popular in today’s game), that’s a risk Indiana should be willing to take. Getting that level of talent, plus Hansbrough and possibly a re-signed Josh McRoberts off the bench means Vogel will have more than enough big guys to rotate around and cause problems for opponents. Short of getting West, this is probably the best option they’ve got, though ironically West is probably a more realistic option than either Gasol or Nene.
#3 – Bring in Jamal Crawford to round out the backcourt rotation. Depending on what the Pacers spend on their first free agent signing, they could potentially also afford Crawford in the $6-8 million per year range, but if they strike out on those bigger names, they might be able to offer Crawford a bit more than that. This isn’t to say that Crawford is the team’s #1 free agent option, but it’s possible that he could end up that way if the big-name bigs on the market pass on Indianapolis. A backcourt featuring Darren Collison and Crawford in the starting lineup, plus George Hill and Paul George coming in to spell them, would be pretty potent.
#4 – If none of this works out, consider splurging on possible breakout players like Marcus Thornton and/or Carl Landry. Assuming Indiana is able to pull off #1, 2, or 3 (it’s very, very unlikely they’re able to pull of two of those three), they’ll likely turn their attention to a second-tier free agent like Landry or Thornton. A tandem of either West/Thornton or Crawford/Landry is probably the ideal scenario, though that’s asking a lot out of a free agency group that’s going to have a ton of suitors.
It should also be noted that Thornton is a restricted free agent, which means Sacramento can match any offer sheet he signs, but if the money is there, Indiana could be a perfect team to give Thornton an offer high enough to scare away the Kings, who have enough scoring guards already in Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette. Even Thornton and Landry would be appropriate additions to the team, and probably would be less expensive than some of the other options. They’re also both younger players, which fits the current make of the Pacers.
#5 – Shane Battier would be a perfect fit as a mentor for these young players, and might not command a huge price tag. Truth be told, Battier is probably going to be a pretty hot commodity because his asking price is right around the value of the midlevel exception, and plenty of organizations are going to be interested in spending that. The Pacers, however, could really use him, and his intelligence and professionalism would be a huge help for such a young and inexperienced team. Would Battier rather jump on with Miami and shoot for a championship? Perhaps, but if that doesn’t work out, a team like Indy could prove to be a great fit.
#6 – Nail down some depth. With $20 million to spend on only five roster spots, only two or three (four at the most) of which are likely to be active players, there’s a strong possibility that the team drops $12-20 million a season on just two players. That means rounding things out with a few bargain buys, and since the Pacers were already pretty deep even before adding their inevitable new players, they’ll be allowed to take some risks. These names are impossible to nail down now, but it’s the last step in putting together a roster that can compete with the rest of the tough Eastern Conference.
Indiana is in a great place to add some real talent their roster, and truth be told Larry Bird and David Morway have waited years to get to this point. They’re ready to spend some money, and there are plenty of guys out there on which to spend it. The above are just a few of the more likely (or, I suppose, the more optimistic) options out there. Hopefully, for the sake of the Pacers, they’re able to take advantage of the best possible scenarios.