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.