Indiana Pacers: A Hard Task To Get Over The Hump

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    Updated: June 3, 2014
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    There has been a disconnect I feel between the typical NBA fan and the reality of the thing called the “NBA player movement.” I’m sure you are familiar with that Los Angeles Laker’s fan who claims the Lakers should ‘just’ trade Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks and Chris Kaman and their 2016 first rounder for Kyrie Irving.

    Well that isn’t so simple. First off, Kaman and Meeks would have to be moved to Cleveland via sign and trade, and Lord knows how much they’d make. Either way, it’s safe to assume with the nine plus million owed Nash, it would make the trade illegal under CBA rules.

    I will also casually remind you that the Lakers are unable to trade their 2016 pick due to the fact the 2015 one is committed (to Phoenix) and you cannot trade picks in consecutive years.
    See how reality rebuffed fantasy there?

    It’s easy to come up with ‘fantasy trades’ that people love to throw out there using the ESPN Trade Machine, only to forget that reality often disagrees with an automated web site program. Sure, Kevin Love to the Boston Celtics for spare parts and a future pick sounds great until you realize that’s a low ball offer at best.

    When trying to theorize what a team can do to improve itself, you must look at financial and basketball reasons, along with long-term ramifications, and how it affects the team(s) moving forward. This is what every team GM worth his salt does.

    With that in mind, I’d like to draw your attention to the Indiana Pacers. Fresh off yet another Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Miami Heat, the Pacers appear to be at a crossroads.

    They boasted the league’s first and second best defense in terms of Opponent FG% and Opponent PPG respectively. It is no secret why they were the top East seed and why they won 56 games, and that was because of defense. Paul George is an elite defender.

    David West is a respectable post defender due to his strength and base. Roy Hibbert was running away with defensive player of the year until a little after the All Star Break. Lance Stephenson has evolved into quite the defender at the two. George Hill is also solid defensively.

    This team added Luis Scola, a one time double-double machine, to add size and rebounding off the bench. They took a flier on Andrew Bynum, the former de facto second best center in the NBA at one point. The Pacers had bodies. It wasn’t lack of depth that killed them, or defense. They simply just were not a good offensive team.

    The Pacers averaged just 96.7 PPG this past season, a dismal 24th in the NBA in rank. They were 28th in both field goals made and attempted, 23rd in offensive rebounding, and 22nd in total three pointers. The Pacers were a gritty, ugly offense, often giving the ball to Paul George to carry them, often to poor results.

    My point is the Pacers need to be able to score. They need guys who can hit jump shots and maybe even create for themselves. I’ve been trying to hammer down this grand point that you have to be able to make open jumpers, and you need a consistent creator to win playoff games.

    A team needs to have at least one of those to realistically stand chance. So I will go ahead and list some theories as to how Indiana can improve upon the success they have had so far. Let’s start with the financials:

     

    2014-2015 Current Salary Total - $64,931,690

    Projected cap space (assuming salary cap is $63,000,000 as has been recently projected) – $1,931,690

     

    Key Free Agents

    Lance Stephenson (Unrestricted)

    Evan Turner (Restricted)

    Lavoy Allen (restricted)

     

    The Pacers have quite a few things to address this summer, namely, what to do with Lance Stephenson. Lance made just slightly over one million last year and is due for a payday. How much he fetches will be an interesting question.

    It is reasonable to assume he will get interest from most teams with cap space like the Los Angeles Lakers or perhaps even the Mavericks. Lance realistically should fetch anywhere from 5M-10M per season, and the Pacers would be wise to use their Larry Bird Exception to resign him.

    Stephenson could even catch a max offer of just over 13M. If that happens, the Pacers might have to rethink their constant stance of staying away from the tax in order to keep this team together.

    The Pacers acquired Evan Turner in what was at the time, a good move; move a player who gives you nothing (Granger) to bolster the bench. However an underrated subplot is how the Pacers effectively killed most of the value Evan had going into the trade, with Coach Vogel apparently not trusting the young Turner.

    Additionally, there was no room for Evan on the roster as the Pacers needed help at one guard or up front. The Pacers should be aggressively shopping Turner in a sign and trade for help at point guard, and/or at shooting. Here are a couple of ideas.

    Dallas gets Evan Turner via Sign and Trade

    Pacers get Jose Calderon

    Dallas could pair Evan and Monta Ellis together in the backcourt for a formidable duo. Dallas essentially trades in an older guy on a 4-year deal for a younger guy on a 4-5 year deal. Since Evan will be given a salary that makes the trade work, it would be in the 6-8M range, which I think is entirely reasonable.

    Evan can even command $8-9M and that’s still not egregious. The kid can ball, he just needs the right atmosphere and system. I think Rick Carlisle can get the most out of him. 

    Indiana gets a capable Point Guard who can pass, hit threes at a surprisingly great clip (46, 37, 36, 39, 40-percentages from three last five seasons) and protects the ball well. This gives teams a reason to not buckle down on George, who is able to get the ball to the open man.

     

    Brooklyn gets #7 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Pacers 2016 first round pick

    Pacers get Deron Williams

    Lakers get Roy Hibbert, Evan Turner (S&T), Pacers 2015 Second Round pick

    You could argue against this trade, and I wouldn’t put up a terrible fuss. Lakers might be able to get better value for the #7 than Hibbert and Turner, and they could sign better talent like Luol Deng (although I don’t currently see it).

    The Lakers really aren’t happy with the pick and don’t see it for what it is; a building block. So of course if they can move it for some solid players, then they do so, reasonably. Lakers also snag a second rounder from Indy here, which isn’t much, but it’s better than having no picks at all.

    The question here is, do they see the potential in Roy/Evan? I’ve ‘leaked’ this trade idea to some Laker fans with mixed reaction. The best feedback I’ve received was the one I already thought of(ironically from a Heat fan and fellow writer), who said that the Lakers could just try to sign better talent than they get in this trade.

    Indiana gets their point guard, and if healthy, Deron can get them over the hill. Pacers trade two guys that are expendable (depending on your opinion on Hibbert). Brooklyn can draft a PG at #7, and get back a pick for 2016. They also free up a TON of cap space with this trade.

    It makes almost too much sense for Indy and Brooklyn. I could see a line of thought if the Lakers hired Kurt Rambis and needed a true center to implement an updated a variation of the Triangle. The Lakers are most likely losing Gasol and they cannot rely on Sacre or Kaman, so the need IS there, but I digress.

    These were just a couple of ideas the Pacers could try to actually improve. The Pacers do have to trade Turner and/or Lavoy Allen to realistically get better though, unless they get all-star talent to replace a member of their core.

    IF the Pacers cannot get creative with Turner or Allen, they might be forced to let both walk and make the Granger deal used to acquire them an utter waste of time. One thing is for sure though; the Pacers are right on the cusp of challenging for a title if they can wade through this murky offseason and emerge with the type of offensive help that has eluded them in their losses to the Heat.

    Follow me on twitter, I answer NBA Cap questions.

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