Eye On the Prize: Or Size?

Written by Nick Huffman

The season has come to a close for the Indiana Pacers, but the process of re-building continues.  While the Pacers failed to reach the playoffs — again — the year was not a loss, a lot was learned and progression was made in select areas.

One of those areas,  the front court, needs to be carefully evaluated when bringing in new players via the NBA Draft or free agency this off-season.  If the organization is serious about playing at a championship level, it will be necessary to get more physical in the paint.

Before going further, go ahead and pretend that Troy Murphy has been moved to relieve cap space, plus Solomon Jones and Jeff Foster get shutdown, those two are dead weight at this point.  When assessing the rest of the front court players on the current roster, there is a lot of versatility and adequate size.

Also pretend that Tyler Hansbrough resolves his phantom medical complications and actually plays a full season (What is the deal with that anyway?  Information where?).

Roy Hibbert and Josh McRoberts have solid shot blocking ability and offensive skills, proving effective at the center position on both ends of the court.  They also excel at finding cutters, picking up several assists.  Oh, McRoberts can also display to Mr. Woody Harrelson how white men are supposed to dunk.

Both Hibbert and McRoberts can man the center roles together, but under one condition: good help. Solid play from the power forward position will be essential in aiding those two to being more effective rebounding and defending the lane.

Hansbrough is no defensive prodigy, but he plays with a lot of energy — like McRoberts — and brings all sorts of intangibles with his toughness.  He can hold his own inside with more time.

Past the players mentioned, the Pacers lack another option at power forward.  It’s unlikely they can obtain that piece through free agency.  It will be another year before the team can really afford to make offers to a player who can impact the team in a big way.  It really hurts to see Chris Bosh on the market soon, yet no chance at making an offer.

With the cap situation considered, the NBA Draft is the best shot the Pacers have at bringing in more help for their front court.  They would have to trade up to get a player like DeMarcus Cousins (keep dreaming) or of course strike gold and obtain the first overall pick through the lottery (wake up!) .  No nightmare here, though.  Cousins isn’t the only big body in the upcoming draft that can be a valuable option for the Pacers to choose when their turn comes.

Just to throw out a few other names that qualify to me as good inside contributors worth a look:  Derrick Favors 6′9″, 215-pounds, Patrick Patterson 6′8″, 245-pounds, Greg Monroe 6′11, 250-pounds.  Each should make contributions early in the NBA, and I wouldn’t be upset to have one of those guys in blue and gold.

My favorite though?  Keep a close eye on Hassan Whiteside.  The 6′11″, 225-pound freshman out of Marshall University can explode to the basket and punish defenders.  His frame would need some work at the NBA level, but ideally, it would be great to hone his skills as an accomplished shot blocker (5.4 stuffs per game in 2010).

The Pacers may not even draft for size with their first pick (point guard is high on the list, too) but it appears if that is the direction chosen, there should be some good options.

Personally I hope it’s the direction they go.  The list of point guards past John Wall do not excite me.  I think a second year of development for current Pacers’ guard A.J. Price is more important (future role as solid backup) and some guy named Tony Parker is on the market in the 2011 off-season.  Chris Paul would be nice too, but that would take some dealing.

Point being, finding a point guard by other means seems the better avenue.

Size is the prize I have my eyes on.

Also seen at Nick’s blog

http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2009/0824/nba_offseason_buzz_576.jpg

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