Draft Reaction Part 2: State of the Pacers

The beauty of the NBA offseason is that you never lose. I am an overly optimistic type and I take anything I can get and just run with it. And the best part is nothing can tear the optimism down in June, because there are no losses.

I texted my Pacer fan friend this morning, “Dude, I love Paul George! Next McGrady!”

He quickly responded, “He was 2nd team all WAC”

Ok, so maybe I’m overly optimistic, and this isn’t a time for overoptimism(is that a word?) if you’re a Pacers’ fan. The draft added new pieces to a broken puzzle which still needs an overhaul.
Even though I’m fully on board with Paul George I want to take a balanced view of where the Pacers stand right now. So I’ll be listing the pros and cons. But seriously, look at this kid.

Pros
1. No Bad Contracts
This can’t be stressed enough. If you watched the draft last night, you quickly realize one thing every team wants to avoid like the plague: a bad contract. One mistake can put you in a bind for several years in this league (see O’neal, Jermaine). The Hornets, Warriors and Sixers are all trying hard to unload big, ugly contracts and are having a hard time doing it.
Every player the Pacers have is either appropriately paid (Granger), is cheap (D Jones, Hansbrough, Rush, Hibbert, Price, McRoberts, and rookies) or has their contract expiring (Ford, Murphy, Dunleavy, S Jones, Foster).
So while the roster isn’t ready to win now, the Pacers will have the freedom to work, because they don’t have any bad contracts.
2. Didn’t settle
With all the rumors of the Pacers and dealing for any team’s point guard, it started to feel like we would just settle on whatever the best available deal was at the end of the day. I honestly thought a deal would have to get done, because sitting back and just picking at #10 and ending the day with no significant changes would look like a failure.
I don’t think it does, and I’m happy with where we are. It is easy for fans to get impatient, and I’m glad the front office didn’t get as impatient. If they settled on a deal that brought in a back-up point guard, we’d be in no better shape than we are now. Better to add talent when possible and keep working to fill needs.
3. Paul George
The Pacers went against their draft strategy of the past few years and took a guy with big potential. I couldn’t be more excited. George is long, very athletic and can shoot. I watched a lot of his interviews today and he seems like a very good kid who will work hard. He is also confident and I like the attitude he will bring to the team. Great pick.
I also like that he already has a relationship with Danny. That should make his transition to the team a little smoother, and also shows that Danny probably had good things to say about him, which would help lead to him being drafted.
Obviously there is a chance he is a bust, but in the position we were in, the best thing we could do was get the kid who has a chance to be a big time scorer.
4. We have options
This goes hand in hand with the no bad contracts. When you have no bad contracts, you have options. The Pacers have made it very clear they are looking to trade for a point guard. They can offer expiring contracts for teams who are looking to get some cap space for next summer. They have an excess of wings, and Brandon Rush could be expendable now.
They also have the option which no Pacer fan wants to see: they can go into next season with basically the same roster as last year and just let their contracts expire. Then they would have all kinds of money for next summer to go after free agents or make trades and take on salary. More on this later

Cons
1. Point Guard?
The Pacers point guard depth chart, top to bottom right now looks like this: TJ Ford. Yes that is all, the same TJ Ford who was benched for a good portion of last season. Something has to happen. Jim O’Brien clearly doesn’t see TJ bringing the Pacers what they need, and again, they asked every team in the NBA three times if they could have their point guard.
A deal needs to get done but…
2. Trading won’t be easy
If the Pacers were unable to get a point guard they wanted when they were shopping the #10 pick, they have to be realistic about what options they will have in trades in the rest of the summer. To make a trade work, the other team has to have a reason to do it. Obviously.
Well, what do the Pacers have that another team might want? Brandon Rush? Maybe, for his potential, but his trade value is really low right now, and nobody is going to give up much to get Brandon Rush. They just aren’t.
Besides Brandon, we have Danny , Hibbert and George, who I’ll just assume we’d prefer to keep. After that it is, you guessed it – the expiring contracts. The problem with that is, nobody is going to trade their young cheap point guard for an expiring contract. Nobody is going to trade their young cheap point guard (if he’s any good) plus an expiring contract for an expiring contract. How does that help them?
The only way to move Troy Murphy is to take back a big contract over 2, 3 or 4 years.
An example would help. Let’s say we want Darren Collison from the Hornets. So we offer them Brandon Rush. No, why in the world would the Hornets want to do that? Ok, we’ll offer Brandon Rush and Troy Murphy. First, how does this help N.O.? Second, the Hornets would have to send back enough salary to make the money match up.
So what they would do is add Emeka Okafor’s monster contract, which pays him through the next three World Cups. This is where the value of the expiring contract is a bit deceiving. You can get the point guard you want, but you have to take back a bad contract.
This is what it comes down to. The Pacers will have to overpay for someone eventually. It could be in a deal similar to the example above. It could be next summer when we have money to spend. You can’t just get cheap, good players to come over. You have to pay something to get something.

So what is the state of the Pacers?
Depends how you look at it.
View 1: The only point guard on the team is a guy who nobody wants on the team. We have 14 swingmen, one is a 20 year old who was 2nd team all WAC last year, one is on his way out and has no knees, and one is, well, Brandon Rush.
In the frontcourt we have a lame duck PF who hangs out around the 3 point line, and another PF who missed almost the entire season with an inner ear infection.
But don’t worry we have a bunch of money coming off the books. Have you seen next year’s free agent class?! Oh, wait…
View 2: We have a franchise guy in Danny Granger, a 3rd year center who is blossoming and we just drafted the next Tracy McGrady. We have expiring contracts and freedom to pull off some deals for a nice point guard and some front court depth.
I prefer view 2.
Hey it is the offseason right? Glass is always half-full.

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Tags: Brandon Rush Danny Granger Indiana Pacers NBA NBA Draft

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