Written by Nick Huffman
Last offseason president Larry Bird of the Indiana Pacers made some inexpensive moves to bring in some quality athletes to improve his backcourt. Acquiring both Earl Watson and Dahntay Jones were complete win-win situations. Bird shored up a weak-spot for the time being and avoided spending money the Pacers don’t have.
While the play of Watson and Jones was not the most consistent and both clearly aren’t answers to be starters for the future, they provided a boost to the team and for only a combined price of $5.3 million.
Earl Watson can play a role on this team as a backup if current bench player A.J. Price doesn’t progress. My guess is, though, Price outperforms Watson and when Bird finds a starter, the Pacers will let Watson walk and find a cheaper profile to fill as the third option at the point guard position.
Dahntay Jones on the other hand, he has shown flashes of being capable as a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate in the future. Jones plays with a boat-load of energy and gives the Pacers a great man-to-man defender to come in and frustrate opponents at the snap of a finger. I really like his abilities and toughness, he really fits the bill for what the Pacers need, just not as a starter.
Jones would be a great role player and first man off the bench type of athlete. To be a successful franchise, players like this are necessary. Remember Fred Jones? He at one time gave the Pacers a great option off the bench when they needed it.
So where does Bird go from here? Surely there are some guards that are up for free-agency and worth a look, right? Let’s play with a few names and see if Bird has any good options to play around with as he did when bringing in Watson and Jones.
Remember, we are looking for bargains. I’m aware great players like Joe Johnson will be out there, but the Pacers don’t have the cap space to make players of his caliber an offer.
Tony Allen SG | 6-4 213-pounds
The Boston Celtics are currently in the NBA Playoffs, and Allen has already made great contributions in their two wins against the Miami Heat. His salary is low ($2.5 million in 2010) and there is reason to believe he will still be affordable.
Allen isn’t exactly starter quality either, but much like Dahntay Jones, he can provide great energy and defense off the bench. With Brandon Rush not playing to his capabilities, he may be on his way out of Indiana, and depth could be an issue later. Allen could provide another great option for the backcourt off the bench and at another low price.
Chris Duhon PG | 6-1 190-pounds
The New York Knicks are currently over-paying Duhon ($6 million in 2010) in relation to his production as a starter. He shot well under 40 percent in 2010 and averaged a minuscule 7.4 points per game. Duhan does sport a nice assist-to-turnover ratio, though, at 3.44 A/TO.
I find it highly unlikely that the Knicks will offer a similar contract to Duhon, choosing to find a new starter through the draft or free agency. The Knicks have openly set themselves up to go after Lebron James, they won’t retain players like Duhon.
If other NBA teams decide to approach Duhon with large contracts he isn’t worth, then no go. If few teams show interest, he may be a steal waiting to happen. Duhon would be an immediate upgrade over Earl Watson as a distributor, and can start in the present if Bird can’t find his point guard of the future during the process.
Luke Ridnour PG | 6-2 175-pounds
Ridnour is a smooth player and almost earns all of his $6.5 million contract. Only averaging 21.5 minutes per game, he was a strong option off the bench for the Milwauke Bucks all year and played a key role in helping the Bucks make the playoffs.
In those 21.5 minutes, he managed to average 10.4 points per game making 48 percent of his shots taken. Add to that the fact he maintained a 3.06 A/TO ratio on 4 assists per contest, and Ridnour seems to be a great point guard option. He would also be a quick upgrade over Watson and could start for now.
Ridnour should be available due to the emergence of rookie Brandon Jennings. The Bucks cannot afford to pay Ridnour that type of money to be a backup. As for the Pacers, he should be worth a look. Would the money be right though? Like Duhon, only time will tell.
Jamaal Tinsley PG | 6-3 185-pounds
Just kidding. Checking to see if you’re still with me.
J.R. Giddens SG | 6-5 215-pounds
Another current New York Knick whose contract is about to expire, J.R. Giddens’ future is uncertain. There is no telling on what the Knicks will decide to do with all their expiring contracts just yet, so I’m assuming all could be available.
Giddens does have a troubled past. He was involved in a stabbing incident while playing at Kansas University. The stabbing, with Giddens being the victim, occured during an alledged bar fight, so there needs to be caution involved here.
Giddens has a lot of ability as a scorer, defender and even as a rebounder. He is a solid athlete that has some good potential worth taking a look at. The price shouldn’t be too high, and with a good offer from Bird, Giddens would have a chance to compete for starter minutes against Brandon Rush.
There are several players that Bird could bring in through the draft that may be better than bringing in another team’s garbage. Yet, there is a possibility he sits still and waits to tackle the positions thro
ugh free-agency both this offseason and next offseason.
The few players I’ve mentioned are decent pickups like Earl Watson and Dahntay Jones were last year, and it can’t hurt to find additions that may prove worth keeping around. Above all, the players mentioned are cheap options for the most part, which Bird is all for right now, not wanting to destroy the good position the Pacers are going to be financially in the near future.
Bring in a few more bargain athletes to create some healthy competition. Don’t be surprised if you find a perfect marriage in the process.