The Indiana Pacers Approach the Trade Deadline - Part 1

With the trade deadline fast approaching, I’d like to run a quick series of articles to look more closely at some of the names being bandied about and how they’d fit in with the current Pacers’ roster.  Let’s start off by identifying some of my underlying assumptions and the holes I see on the current roster.

Assumptions

1. The Pacers (and probably not any other team in the East) are not going to defeat Miami or Chicago in a playoff series.

Let’s face it, the gap between the Bulls, the Heat, and the rest of the Eastern Conference (or the NBA outside the state of Oklahoma) is insurmountable barring some unforeseen cataclysmic happenstance.  Any realistic season goals for the Pacers are going to stop at winning a first round playoff series, continuing to evaluate the talent on hand, watching that talent develop, and somehow divining a way to move past also-ran status.

2. The Pacers will not make a major move and cannot afford to trade talent for talent.

Keeping the above in mind, the team needs to figure out how to improve without sending out much more than picks and cap space.  Since, as Jared referenced yesterday, the starting lineup is playing at an elite level, and George Hill has been pretty great as well, it seems unlikely that the Pacers will be able to improve upon any of the top 6 spots in their rotation.

3. Depth is good, especially if Frank Vogel is your coach.

So far this season, Vogel seems intent upon using a 10 man rotation with clearly defined positional roles.  It’s hard to know if this is his true preference or a tactic for dealing with a condensed season. Since it’s been his M.O. so far, it would seem that a way forward would be to improve the 7-10 spots on the roster.

4. I am not a GM, and neither are you.

NBA decision-makers, thankfully, operate in a different realm than even the most rabid fans. You and I have no idea what it would take to pry Rajon Rondo away from Boston.  I refuse to speculate on such things. I will not even speculate on what it would take to get any of the players I discuss in future columns. Instead, I will focus on the player and the fit with the roster and leave the trade negotiations to someone else.

Roster Holes

I’m not going to do a complete analysis here.  I’ll just point out, rather quickly, the types of players I think we should be looking for.  This will necessitate a bit of discussion of current players, but, in most instances, I’d like to shy away from saying things like “Player X needs to be replaced/upgraded.” These are presented in no particular order (other than the order they’re in):

1. A big who can do two of the following four things: facilitate the offense, score, block shots, play above average on-ball defense.

Of course, the Pacers have one of these guys (Jeff Foster – excellent defender, screener, and passer) who dresses in a suit nearly ever game.  Neither Lou Amundson nor Tyler Hansbrough can do more than one of these things. Of the four mentioned skills, facilitation may be the most important and noticeably missed. Roy Hibbert and David West are both good passing bigs and our guards get a lot of good looks because of their abilities.  Foster’s ability to facilitate is the reason that our offense does not noticeably suffer when he enters the game.

2. A back-up small forward.

One of the under-mentioned issues for the Pacers this year is that there are only two SF’s on the roster (and one of them is the starting SG). Dahntay Jones has been impersonating one, but when it comes down to it, he’s a 6’5” defensive specialist who’s most memorable performance was turned in guarding Chris Paul during a playoff series. When matched with a big SF, Jones gets overpowered quite easily. When looking at possible playoff opponents, you have to consider the idea that Jones will be asked to guard guys like Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Hedo Turkoglu, Joe Johnson, and Andre Iguodala – all of whom are bigger and stronger than him. When you combine this with Jones’s atrocious defensive numbers – only Jeff Pendergraph (127) has a worse defensive rating than Jones (104.6) – you begin to see some definite room for improvement.

3. A shot-maker/creator.

This guy can be at any position.  George Hill is the only bench player who is currently putting any pressure on opposing defenses. Whether help comes in the form of a drive-and-kick PG or a back-to-the-basket big man, it doesn’t matter.  There needs to be someone else off the bench whom opposing teams worry about.

That’s all for now.  I’d love for this process to be a bit interactive, so if there’s a player who’s rumored to be available and is realistically acquirable, let me know in the comment section and I’ll take a look at them and let you know my opinion.

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Tags: Possible Deals

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