Answering the Pacers' Remaining Offseason Questions

From time to time around these parts, we gather up the troops for a little Q&A session to gauge the consensus of 8p9s groupthink. This offseason is obviously a pivotal one for the Pacers franchise, which is hoping to at least continue if not build on the relative success the team has had in their last two playoff appearances. The futures of Roy Hibbert and George Hill remain paramount but other issues — finding guard help off the bench, defining a big-man rotation, the logic of Indiana’s draft-day decisions — are still up for debate.

So we got the band back together to discuss. Answers below.

1. The Blazers have offered Roy Hibbert a max contract that will pay him around $58.4 million over four years. Should the Pacers match that?

Tim Donahue: Yes, I think they have to hold their nose and match it. It’s a bad deal, but they can’t afford to go backwards. Taking some pressure off is the fact that the have almost no salaries committed to anyone beyond next year.

Jonathan Auping: I think that the Pacers are in a position where they have to match the offer sheet for Hibbert. Centers with size, toughness and skills are just too rare to let one go. He also has a good maturity level which we might not be able to say about Mr. Howard or Mr. Bynum. In my opinion Hibbet is the most indispensable player on the Pacers.

Jeremy Comstock: Probably not. To me a max player is someone who could be the best player on a good team. Hibbert is just not that guy. I understand the desire to match because I feel it too, but it doesn’t seem prudent. It is important, however, to keep the feeling of forward momentum that’s been surrounding the team since Frank Vogel took over.

Josh Dhani: Yes, they should. Losing out on Roy Hibbert would be a big loss for the Pacers. 7’2″ franchise centers don’t come along everyday. He is such a valuable player coming off an All-Star season. Although he isn’t worth the money he will be getting, Indiana is going to have to face the fact that they have to overpay him.

Alex Yovanovich: Yes. The Pacers should match the offer because having a true center who is effective is such a rare asset these days. Hibbert’s new deal was always going to be more expensive than you like because he’s a big man with a pulse; most centers aren’t really worth the trouble in the modern NBA. The Pacers are fortunate to have a guy who can garner such interest. 

Jared Wade: They probably shouldn’t but they almost have to. In a way, Portland may be doing them a favor in the sense that they can just match and avoid including a fifth year on the deal. Hibbert certainly isn’t worth as much as he will be paid and the deal will likely be something they grow to deeply regret (remember Jermaine O’Neal?), but this franchise has a lot of momentum in rehabilitating from the mid-2000 doldrums that it would be such a bummer for fans to see Roy leave.

2. It is rumored that Indiana is still on the fence about matching Roy’s offer. If they don’t match, what should they do to fill out the big man rotation?

Tim Donahue: If they don’t match, it creates around $13 million in cap space, but I don’t know that there ear any big free-agent splashes to be made. I’d go after Chris Kaman, but I’d have trouble paying more than $7-8 million per year. Perhaps Washington would be willing to part with Emeka Okafor’s contract.

Jonathan Auping: I think that Chris Kaman still has a lot to offer in this league and he would fit well in the Pacers’ rotation, but it would depend on what the market is for him. It would be very risky to offer a hefty contract to an aging/injury-prone center. I think that the 3 years/$18 million range would be reasonable to fill a need at center.

Jeremy Comstock: Grab as much talent as possible. There’s not a single acquirable player that will give you everything Hibbert does. They should just grab the most talented big(s) they can get and force Vogel to get creative. Pau Gasol, Kaman, Luis Scola, Brook Lopez, JaVale McGee, Ersan Ilyasova, Carl Landry, and Kris Humphries are all talented, gettable guys.

Josh Dhani: Most likely, they’ll probably sign Chris Kaman. Kaman had similar statistics if you look at last season, although Hibbert’s PER was higher. Kaman is older than Hibbert, but he’s the best fit for Indiana if they decide not to retain Roy.

Alex Yovanovich: If the improbable happens and the Pacers don’t match, they should go after Chris Kaman. He’s older than Hibbert, but should be able to give ample production.

3. The Pacers re-signed George Hill for $40 million over five years. Did they overpay and will they soon come to regret the contract?

Tim Donahue: Yes, they overpaid, and they may regret the contract, but it will be difficult for them to tell. Unless he gets hurt, Hill should be solid, so it will be hard to understand how the extra $2 million or so per year affects the Pacers. It will get lost in the weeds of all the contracts.

Jonathan Auping: Time will tell if the Hill contract was too high. He may prove to be worth the price a few years into the deal similar to Mike Conley’s contract. But I am a little wary of the fact that $40 million was committed to a player who came off the bench for 90% of the season and, some might argue, was outplayed by his backup at times in the playoffs. It’s one thing to say Hill is better than Darren Collison; it’s another to say he’s worth $40 million.

Jeremy Comstock: Yes, they overpayed, but I don’t think they’ll ever regret the contract. I think everyone (fans, coaches, teammates, executives) will always be pleased with Hill’s effort and production, and I don’t think the contract is large enough to ever be untradeable or to really restrict future moves.

Josh Dhani: Hill isn’t a traditional point guard, but he was big for the Pacers last season. They may regret it if he doesn’t live up to his contract and doesn’t improve. If Hill’s struggles continue like they did, kind of, in the playoffs last season, then the Pacers will definitely regret the decision. However, now that he is the starting point guard and judging off his strong performance last year, I think the price is reasonable.

Alex Yovanovich: Yes, the Pacers did overpay for George Hill. If Hill continues to be a starter, the Pacers will not regret the contract. If he’s a bench player, that’s a different story.

4. Mile Plumlee was not a popular selection for the Pacers first-round pick this year (#26 overall). Was he the right choice?

Tim Donahue: I don’t know. So much of the success of late picks is dependent on fit and opportunity, and both seem there for Plumlee. This may be a case where taking a player the team has destined for a role is better than grabbing the best player available and hoping to shoehorn him in somewhere.

Jonathan Auping: No. If Hibbert is retained then Plumlee will only have a limited impact. Without Hibbert, I do not think that Plumlee will be the answer as the starting center. I believe that Marquis Teague and Draymond Green would have been better fits on the Pacers — not to mention the potential of Perry Jones III.

Jeremy Comstock: No. I understand how Plumlee fills a very specific need and should be ready to contribute. However, we’ve learned this offseason that a talented young team and cap space are not enough to lure top-tier players to Indy. The team needs to be willing to take risks on guys who could be stars. Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller, and Will Barton were available, and, I think, chock full of potential.

Josh Dhani: I think he’s the right choice only if the Pacers re-sign Hibbert. The only reason Indiana drafted for him because they were going for need. The Pacers needed a backup center and that’s what they got. However, if they go the Kaman route, it would not be encouraging at all since Larry Bird could have traded for Kaman last season at the trade deadline. But Bird didn’t want to trade a first-round pick — which ended up being Plumlee.

Alex Yovanovich: Who knows? I did not like the pick at all because the guy wasn’t even a starter at Duke last season. I would have preferred a player who had a lot of college success. By the way, I’m not buying the Jeff Foster comparisons, but I hope Plumlee proves me wrong.

5. The Pacers should have enough cap room to sign one more contributor in free agency even if they do match the Hibbert contract. Who should they be targeting?

Tim Donahue: Still feels like they need a scorer off the bench, and in their projected price range that probably means OJ Mayo or perhaps Lou Williams.

Jonathan Auping: Courtney Lee. Paul George has the potential, but he gets away with very mediocre contributions at times. Lee would provide another three-point threat and he could keep the game at a fast pace. The battle for minutes could also bring George to another level.

Jeremy Comstock: I see two routes available: (1) grab one above mid-level guy, of (2) grab two below mid-level guys. If they go route one, I’m intrigued by the bigs I mentioned above, and OJ Mayo. If they go route two, I like Courtney Lee, Gerald Green, Ian Mahinmi, Jason Thompson, Jordan Hill, Robin Lopez, and others. I’d also definitely call Houston and inquirer about Scola and Martin — maybe even see if I could get both.

Alex Yovanovich: How about OJ Mayo? After the botched deal that eventually led to David Morway’s departure from the Pacers, I’d like to sign Mayo just to see if he’s worth all the trouble. Besides, the Pacers need much more production out of the two-guard spot. Paul George needs to greatly improve offensively and a scorer off the bench in this slot would be a nice addition.

  • Jack

    Good Q&A. I personally think that signing Hibbert is a MUST for the Pacers, and I don’t think the comparison between him and Jermaine O’Neal is a good one. If the Pacers don’t resign Hibbert, which seems like a huge possibility, I’m thinking that aqcuiring OJ Mayo + JaVale McGee would be the best scenario. If that happens, I wouldn’t be too upset. But nothing about Chris Kaman intrigues me.

  • Jordan

    Real hard to deal with this team when they appear to be overpaying, picking badly, and getting out-classed in free agency. Pacers are going the wrong direction.

  • Ian

    I feel like a lot of this commentary is ignoring everything else going on in the league. Have you seen the prices being paid for largely unproven PGs? Lin and Dragic are both getting Hill money and have played well for part of one season. As for Hibbert, I keep seeing a few people saying we shouldn’t match because its overpaying him. But then not offering any kind of alternative that gives us similar talent for that money. He’s worth it what the offer will bear and what other options are out there. It’s not a simple matter of replacing him with two inferior players that combined are better, because you only have so many minutes to go around. And we certainly aren’t going to get one player of his skill level.

    finally, I keep hearing all this talk about taking risks on these possible ‘future stars’ at the end of the draft. I think the number of late round (high 20s) stars in the NBA can probably be counted on one hand.

  • Jack

    @Jordan.. I think it’s a little too early to be making that comment. The Pacers are title contenders (presuming we resign Hibbert) without making any big free agency/trade moves, considering our talent level and that we’re a unified group, along with the experience we gained last season (including in the playoffs). Making big moves is something we DON’T want to do right now, although I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t go after Nash. We need to keep the pieces we have, and then fill in one or two semi-weak spots in free agency (such as Mayo).

  • tom cox

    In response to Ian…here’s :more than one hand” from the 2ND ROUND in the last 10 years. You talk late 1st round in draft, you’d be amazed at some of the HOF’ers that went that low.

    6. Mo Williams – Drafted 2003, 47th overall by the Utah Jazz. Williams received an All-Star selection in 2009 when he averaged a career-high 17.8 PPG in Cleveland. Throughout his nine year NBA career Williams has averaged 13.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 4.9 APG. Williams lit up the league from three-point range in 2009 (43.6%) and 2010 (42.9%) and is still a deadly threat from beyond the arc.

    5. Marcin Gortat – Drafted 2005, 57th overall by the Phoenix Suns. After toiling in relative obscurity in Orlando for three-plus years, Gortat won the NBA team lottery by pairing up with Steve Nash in 2011 and magically dropping 13.0 PPG on 56.3% shooting with 9.3 RPG in 55 games in Phoenix. In 2012, Gortat has been even better, scoring 16.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG, and 1.5 BPG this season. The Nash effect always inflates stats, but Gortat is legit.

    4. Paul Millsap – Drafted 2006, 47th overall by the Utah Jazz. Millsap had a breakout year in 2011 by averaging 17.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG and shooting 53.1% from the floor. His 2012 has been just as good, and Millsap looks to be a an all-around force in the league for years to come. And unlike Gortat, Millsap is putting up huge numbers without a consistent point guard setting the table in Utah.

    3. Monta Ellis

    – Drafted 2005, 40th overall by the Golden State Warriors. Ellis was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2007, his second year in the league, when he exploded for 16.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.1 APG, and 1.7 SPG with the Warriors. Ellis finished sixth in the league in PPG in 2010 (25.5) and eighth in 2011 (24.1). Ellis is also one of the league’s best in steals, finishing among the NBA’s Top-10 in steals in 2007, 2010, and 2011. While his individual stats are stellar, Ellis has yet to prove he can lead a team on a playoff run.

    2. Marc Gasol – Drafted 2007, 48th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. Gasol made his first All-Star team in 2012 and has developed into one of the best true Centers in the NBA. Now in his fourth NBA season, the beefy 7’1″ Spaniard is averaging 15.8 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, and 2.0 BPG this year with the Memphis Grizzlies and has proven to be a big man a winning team can build around.

    1. Carlos Boozer – Drafted 2002, 34th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Ten years into his career and Boozer is still solid but not as dominant as he was a few years back. With Boozer mostly making news these day about his spray-on hair instead of his game, it is easy to forget he finished among the NBA’s Top-10 in total rebounds in 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2010. Boozer has also been a great scorer, topping the 20 PPG mark in 2007 and 2008 in Utah. Boozer’s career averages of 17.1 PPG on 53.7% FG’s, 10.0 RPG, and 2.4 APG is the Holy Grail for second round draft picks. While Boozer’s hair may be a disaster, his game has set a standard for all other late round picks to follow.

  • Mike 2

    I actually think McGee is a decent backup plan, especially if we can get him for ~5 mil less than Hibbert. David West would solve the McGee “locker room” or “character issue” in about 5 seconds. Love that Guy. To me either resign Hibbert and get Lee or Mayo or sign McGee and get Lee and a back up SF at around 5 mil. The one thing Hibbert really needs to work on is his endurance and footspeed. He can’t guard well on the high block and gets killed by quicker guys like Al Horford and Chris Bosh who can play outside the low block. If you are looking for a one year band-aid how about Marcus Camby? Big who can block shots and rebound, he may be older than roy but he isn’t much slower, probably wouldn’t average double digit points however. I really don’t like the idea of signing Camen for more than 2 years if at all. Elton Brand is also fresh on the market as well.

  • Chris D.

    Sign Hibbert. Even if he has plateaued as a player, which is likely for any player over 25, we can alway use him as trade bait. Some desperate team in the West will give us way too much for him prior to the trade deadline next season or next summer.

    I have yet to see what is so great about George Hill, but he’s certainly better than Danny, who makes $13 million, so what’s the big deal with 5/40 for Hill?

    Lee is much better than Mayo, but only worth about $5 mil./yr. tops.

    The Pacers are flirting with moving backward to a 4th or 5th seed, if we don’t add some incremental improvement of some sort. Only PG (and maybe Lance) has any real potential to elevate his game since he’s still so young. Lee could be that difference that keeps home court for us.

    As I see it, the Nets just got better than the Pacers, but the Hawks got a little worse. The Hawks would have been better than the Pacers if they had kept Joe Johnson and stayed healthy next season. The Sixers and Celtics seem to be holding steady for now but could easily slip ahead of us. The Wizards will be a contender for the 7th or 8th seed. Who knows with Orlando?

  • tom cox

    As far as Hibbert…He’s a young big man with increasing potential, a team player, not a prima donna that implodes a franchise (aka Howard). Top tier point guards and big men (because they’re a rare commodity in today’s NBA) are going to get overpaid in free agency. …and how can you dispose of Hibbert’s fan base, his block that he pays for that is an energizing force for the taem. Hell, that’s probably worth 1mill a year alone in ticket sales.

  • tom cox

    I thought Barbosa was a needed spark that they picked up at the trade deadline last year. He was a good role player, remember former 6th man of the year with Phoenix. While his expiring contract was too high to resign near that level, is there any talk about keeping him at reduced rate? He won’t get his $7mil a year (I think) in free agency.

  • little B

    @ Jordan,
    It’s hard to say they are going the “wrong direction” when they appear to be bringing back a team that went 42-24 and was 3rd in the East. If they don’t resign Hibbert, then you can start saying that.
    @ Ian, I’m with you.
    Who isn’t over paid in this league? Lin and Eric Gordon are perfect examples of overpaid FA this summer. The exception of Lebron James is about the only person in this league that is way under paid, but he gets plenty from endorsements. Yes it would have been nice to get some “cheap” deals since we drafted Hibbert and Hill is a hometown boy, but its about business for both parties when it comes down to it. Maybe they would take a cheaper salary if it allowed the Pacers to bring in a couple more guys, but they have the money even if they sign Hibbert a max contract.

    Hill and Hibbert’s contracts are on the edge of being high. 5 year deals, I’m okay with it because for this team to win they will just have to get better together, which will only happen with time. David West is all they have to worry after next year and then Danny and Paul George will be the following year. Veterans win championships and this squad is on the verge of being full of veterans. I would like to wait it out and see how this team fairs. Honestly all it takes is for Paul George to go off and this team will be top 2 in the east.

    Query from Query and Shultz (not sure if either is spelled right) from 1260 AM in afternoon had a good point yesterday on the radio. Everyone says “who needs Centers in this league anyways. Its all about athleticism. Look at the heat, its all about the guards.” Query’s point was, well Miami has a 2 guard combo in the league that can’t be beat. So why try and do that when you can’t beat it? Shouldn’t you try something else, like having some big men down low to stop them from getting to the basket?
    His idea made complete sense to me. Everyone thinking we need to ditch Hibbert and just try to get more guys that can score are just asking for this team to be how it was 4 years ago when they had no defense and got beat 104-120 every night.

  • Jack

    @Chris D — The Nets didn’t just get better than the Pacers. That’s bogus. It will still be a 3 team race in the East next season (Heat, Bulls, Pacers), with the Knicks and Hawks most likely slightly behind. OKC is the clear and heavy favorite in the West. So, I see the Pacers being in the top four teams in the NBA all season long, depending partly on if they resign Hibbert / add a nice piece or two in FA. And one or both of those things are bound to happen. A rivalry between the Heat and the Pacers developed this past season (or at least the beginnings of a rivalry), and I’m thinking the rivalry will only get bigger in the coming seasons.

  • trifecta3131

    I’ve been on the fence about Hibbert like almost everybody else. But I changed my mind when I read Chris D’s point. Trade bait. Hadn’t really thought of that, but it’s a very good point.

    Plan A – If you sign Hibbert, who knows, maybe he keeps on improving & earns most of that $. He’s improved each yr so far…. Plan B – If we assume Hibbert doesn’t tank (unlikely, he’ll probably be about the same as last yr, maybe a bit better) & if we assume Hibbert doesn’t get badly hurt (this part does scare me given his awkward “running” & gangly legs), we can always trade him at a later time & gamble on some up-and–coming players or quality draft picks then.

    If you don’t sign him, then you lose a pretty talented guy & have no Plan B. If Plan B is Chris Kaman, no thanks. I’d rather give Plumlee the extra minutes & hope he’s athletic enough on defense to hold his own (Plumlee has ZERo offensive game however).

    So… might as well match Hibbert’s offer. It’s the lesser of two evils. And like some have mentioned, at least he’s a good locker room guy too. Talented as Dwight & Bynum are, I hate them both & I’m glad they’re not on the Pacers. They are cancers & divas

  • Dwight Meredith

    Given that the choices are basically to retain Hibbert or to give up on this group and blow it up, of course you retain Hibbert.

    Indy had a good year. They have a nice talent base and good team unity. It makes sense to retain your core (of which Hibbert is central), add a piece such as Lee or Mayo (I like Mayo), hope for internal improvement (especially from Hibbert and George), and also hope that LB’s message (“too soft”) got through.

    A little more talent, some internal improvement, and enhanced toughness should give the Pacers a decent shot at the conference finals where they can hope to catch lightning in a bottle.

  • Chris D.

    @Jack. I appreciate your opinion, but in the NBA, if you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse. There’s a lot still to unfold, but the Pacers silence and lack of serious involvement in any major player movement is worrying. The Pacers are good, but we benefitted a lot from slow starts by PHI and BOS and injuries to ATL. (The short season seemed to favor our youth and we had no injuries all season.) No way can we make a definitive case we are better than those teams. As long as BOS has Rondo, Garnett, and Pierce, they are better than we are. PHI and ATL are close to parity. ORL with Howard whooped owned us during the regular season last year. If CHI loses Rose for an extended period then we might be better than they are, but it would be close even without him.

  • Dwight Meredith

    As to the issue of Courtney Lee or OJ Mayo being the prime target for the Pacers, I would choose Mayo because I think his particular skill set fits the team better.

    Lee is a good player and one I like a lot. He is a quality D and three wing. He can guard on and off the ball, and can make the corner three at an efficient rate. As much as I value those skills, I just think the Pacers have those skills already in the form of Hill, Granger and George.

    Mayo will play hard on both ends and he is capable of creating off the dribble for himself and others. While his efficiency in that role is not great in an absolute sense, it is better than Hill and George, and, perhaps, Granger. Having less pressure on Hill, George and Granger to create when the shot clock is at 6 seconds, should allow each to improve their own efficiency.

    I think Mayo fills the need of a scorer/slasher coming off the bench, and I would certainly offer the mid-level and perhaps more to him.

  • NoLookPass

    OJ Mayo is one of the most overrated players in the league. He shoots a ton and misses even more and is the ultimate playoff choke artist. He cost Memphis countless games and is the main reason they got bounced in the 1st this season.

    I’ve seen Pacers fans talking about how he was misused In Memphis and that’s pure comedy. He was given the freedom to do what ever he wanted off their bench, so if he sucked playing his game! How do people expect him playing good when reeling into a team concept and taking away shots all while not having that Memphis swarming defense getting TO leading to easy Mayo buckets.

    Last two Years for Mayo on a winning team:
    40.8% in RS and 27.4% in PO this year
    40.7% in RS and 38.8% in PO last year

    OJ Mayo is the most hated player by Memphis fans and has been for years when allowed to play how OJ wants, Juice will be disliked here as well when his numbers drop with his PT and shots get reduced.

  • gregor t.

    Mayo is still looking for a 4yr 32mil contract from Dallas. The Pacers will never give him that. Courtney Lee has playoff experience guarding Kobe in the finals as a rookie, is a much better defender, has better stats as a shooter, and as far as i know, has never stabbed a teammate over a card game. Allegedly!

  • Joe B

    Good Q and A. I would agree with most of your comments. For me, I am high on Roy. I think he changes the way teams have to play when they meet the Pacers. Because of that, and his increased production each year, he is worth the contract for me–the character and fanbase plusses aside. And for Plumlee, I hope he reads, or at least gets wind of, the majority of comments questioning him, which are fair questions. Motivation to perform when doubted, like Reggie, pushes true NBA players. It will be interesting to watch him in the summer league. I think the Pacers have their backup center for the remainder of Roy’s contract…and for value late in the draft, that works for me…

  • gregor t.

    It’s a good point. The Pacers paid Foster and Lou bout 7mil last year to back up Hibbert. Love those guys, but they combined to produce nothing in the playoffs. Plumlee cant be any worse, and he makes 1mil. Thats good value. If Plumlee can block a shot and get a rebound against the Heat, that would be a huge success. Pacers can build on that. The draft of Plumlee was definitely a value pick. Even crap back-up 7footers in the NBA make major dollars. Thats exactly why Hibbert is gonna get 14mil. And he is a true 7footer with work ethic and no history of injury.