Pacers Might Trade for Jamal Crawford

The Pacers tried to sign Jamal Crawford when he was a free agent last summer. And apparently, Larry Bird is now considering bringing the potent-scoring guard and former Sixth Man of the Year Award winner to Indiana via trade.

A league source with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com later Thursday that reported talks between the Blazers and Pacers are “legitimate” and have included a scenario that would send Crawford to Indiana for guard A.J. Price and a 2012 first round pick. Indiana has sufficient salary cap space to absorb Crawford’s contract without matching salaries.

Obviously, AJ Price isn’t a ton to give up. Nothing against the guy — he is a decent little backup point guard and all — but nobody is going to cry over spilled apple juice. (So, so sorry about that.)

The question then becomes whether or not Crawford is worth a pick, which for the Pacers in this year’s draft is unlikely to be any better than around the 20th overall.

Indiana, the source said, is hesitant to part with a first round pick, given the quality and depth of this year’s draft pool as well as Crawford’s contract situation. Indeed, trading for Crawford and his $5 million salary amounts to a low-risk 2-month rental.

Crawford’s player option for 2012-2013 — and the uncertainty that goes with it — could be hurting his value during early trade talks.

“The first team to give Portland a first round pick for Crawford will have him,” the source predicted.

Bird is obviously in a position of strength at this year’s trade deadline. He has a enough cap room to take on a sizable contract without sending any contracts back — something that many GMs looking to dump salary and rebuild should covet. There will likely be multiple options available to him.

At this point, I see this one as less than ideal.

Big man help is probably more critical to the current roster than backcourt scoring. A starting guard lineup of Paul George and Darren Collison with George Hill coming off the bench isn’t the worst option in the world even if it still means one of Dahntay Jones, Lance Stephenson or AJ Price will need to play some significant minutes in the playoffs. The front-court, however, is essentially a trainwreck behind the starters. Tyler Hansbrough has been bad (to put it kindly), Jeff Foster seemingly can’t stay healthy, and while Lou Amundson seems to be a fine chap, he is Lou Amundson.

Building a roster requires looking further down the road than the current season, of course. But to add Crawford, who reportedly might opt-out of his contract this summer, along with restricted free agents Roy Hibbert and Hill, you really aren’t adding any long-term roster certainty.

Then again, if Bird goes ahead and makes a larger, more-long-term-oriented deal that nets, say Rajon Rondo or Eric Gordon, then I suppose anything would be in play. We shall see. Should be an interesting deadline.

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