Solving Problems: Attracting Free Agents
There is such a thing as a good problem. They do exist, and we know this is true because the Indiana Pacers have one: cap space.
Whenever the players and owners finally bang out a deal, free agency will be soon to follow, and the Indiana Pacers will have more money to spend than almost any other team in the entire league. That seems like it’d be a wonderful thing, especially for a young group like the Pacers that have showed plenty of promise yet still suffer glaring roster holes at a couple of really important positions—shooting guard and power forward.
So what’s the problem, you ask? Convincing the top free agents in the 2011 class that Indianapolis is an ideal city in which to live and work.
In truth, the Pacers are actually in a pretty good place right now. They’ve spent the last five years playing out bad contracts, trading away what they could and hanging in there with what they couldn’t. In the meantime, they’ve actually put together a pretty attractive group of young, promising players. With so many young kids coming into their own at right about the same time, now is the perfect time to add some veteran help and make a real postseason push.
What might end up proving problematic is finding veterans who’d rather come to a quiet, blue-collar city like Indianapolis to play for a team full of young’ns when there will be sturdier “win-now” situations out there for similar money.
Pacers brass has a couple of ways they can approach this. The first is to offer more than a player is likely to get anywhere else. If, for example, Indiana is serious about getting David West, they might not have to offer the max to get him into navy and gold, but they’ll probably have to come pretty close to it. A new collective bargaining agreement will be put in place at that point to strictly discourage teams from overspending, but getting new guys to head to a small market in the modern NBA ain’t easy. To bring in a big name, whether it be West or Jamal Crawford or somebody else, the money will matter.
The other consideration for free agents is the fact that Indiana truly is right on the cusp of becoming a perennial playoff team, maybe even one that could push towards the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. The way they played the top-seeded Bulls in the first round of last year’s playoffs was pretty valiant, and young bucks like Darren Collison, Paul George, and Roy Hibbert could all exhibit All-Star talent at some point in their careers.
Actually, the Pacers are in a perfect situation to feed a star’s ego—“We’re right there. We’re so close to being right in this thing every year. The only thing we need is… you.”
There’s talent in place and there’s money to spend. That should be enough to lure in a top-level free agent and probably someone near the top-end of the mid-tier, too, but “should be” and “definitely is” aren’t exactly the same thing. This is a sell job, and it’s not an easy one, but if Larry Bird and David Morway do their jobs, they’ll find a good way to spend all that cap space. Hopefully, they’ll turn a good problem into a good solution.