Kevin Pritchard Discusses the Pacers' Offseason

Right after today’s press conference officially welcoming back Roy Hibbert and George Hill, Pacers’ GM Kevin Prichard went on 1070 The Fan radio to discuss the team’s recent moves on The Ride With JMV. The following are some of the comments he told the radio audience.

On re-signing Hibbert and Hill: “We spent from July 1 at midnight until today trying to get it done.”

On Portland giving Hibbert a max offer right out the gate: “If you look at the history of the league, usually in the first week of free agency, big guys get the biggest offers and the quickest offers. So we were pretty prepared.”

On Pacer owner Herb Simon’s willingness to spend money to keep Hibbert and Hill in Indiana: “I give a lot of credit to Mr. Simon. He was fully prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure that we kept these two guys. We’re lucky to have him.”

On bidding on recently “amnestied” players: “That won’t be a reality for us.”

On rationale behind acquiring Ian Mahinmi: “When you go against the top teams — specifically in the East — you better have rim defenders. And we needed another rim defender. We felt like when Roy went out of the game, we didn’t have as much size. So we really needed some size.”

On the logic behind trading Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones for Mahinmi prior to signing DJ Augustin and Gerald Green:  “We had to do that to meet certain restrictions in using our cap space. We did it a little bit differently in that we had a pretty good feeling we were going to get a good point guard in DJ Augustin … We had been in contact with his agent. He was [a restricted free agent] but, just the way it shook out, we had a good feeling that we were going to be able to bring him in. So it looked backwards the way it was reported when in actuality it wasn’t like that.”

My take on that last part: It seems as though this was all one big mega-deal in the mind of the Pacers front office.

It sounds as though all the pieces looked like they were falling into place and three players that they had been targeting were all about to converge into their lap around the same time. And given the cap holds and other such realities (namely, the need to expedite getting ink to paper for Hibbert and Hill, most likely at their agents’ requests), the quickest and most certain way to ensure it all went down as it did was to do it as it happened. The time line of how the events were reported likely didn’t mirror the exact happenings in terms of phone calls and verbal agreements, but Pritchard and the Pacers’ front office saw the deal pretty simply: losing two low-salary players on expiring deals who weren’t part of the team’s long-term vision and acquiring two that were (Green and Mahinmi) while also grabbing one more to hopefully guarantee the team didn’t backslide in 2012-13 (Augustin).

Perhaps the franchise could have gotten more back from a Collison/Dahntay package if they manned the phones for another few days and played a few offers against one another. But by that time, all the other components of this multi-transition mega-deal may have either (a) evaporated (in the case of Green signing elsewhere), or (b) become less of a good fit (in the sense of employing Augustin not being really necessary if you retained DC because the demand wasn’t great or Green being superfluous if the best offer for Collison meant bringing back a different wing scorer who was more proven than Green).

Ultimately, based on what they ended up with, we can deduce that the Pacers front office wanted (or settled for) three things:

(1) A true reserve big man (unlike Lou Amundson who filled in admirably behind Hibbert last year after Jeff Foster retired but should never be confused with a center), who can play defense and finish at the rim. Based on that guy ultimately being Mahinmi, they seemed to want someone who will be very satisfied in a reserve role and could grow into that role over several years as an ancillary, but stable, piece of a young, improving team’s nucleus.

(2) a wing scorer to come off the bench

(3) a point guard who isn’t Darren Collison but is very much like Darren Collison

Whether or not those characteristics are what they should have targeted is certainly up for debate. Even more up for debate is whether the players they chose to fill them will work out.

But because the front office’s hand was never forced and they didn’t reach to overpay anyone that they may have been luke warm on just to say they did something this summer, it seems fair to say they got what they wanted. Unless there is something I don’t know about, they did not need to trade Collison. They certainly didn’t need to take a flier on Green. And it’s only because they did trade Collison that they needed the skills that Augustin brought to the table.

So, sure, Prtichard could be talking out his ear here and trying to cover for a move that will ultimately look silly in hindsight.

Perhaps they did just blow their valuation of Collison in the trade market. It’s overwhelmingly possible that they could have gotten a more talented player than Mahinmi in return for Collison if they held out longer. But since they got three guys that they clearly wanted within, as reported publicly, 24 hours, I think it is most reasonable to view these three acquisitions as one mega-deal that could have caved in upon itself had the front office not acted swiftly to ensure that all the component parts came together. It sounds to me like the franchise is viewing it as a “two men left, three came in” free-agency period.

So I’ll ultimately judge them on how that turns out more so than spending time trying to divine the objective value of Darren Collison on an expiring contract in an open trade market. (Although as John Hollinger has noted, the change from DC to DJ does mean that the Pacers have no Bird rights on Augustin if he has a breakout 2012-13 season, whereas they would have with Collison. So if Augustin does play well enough for them to want him to return, it will be more difficult to retain him.)

Lastly, for those wondering “what’s next?” for the Pacers in this free agency and the offseason trade period, its sounds like not much.

Pritchard on that: “There are all kinds of studies out there in the last four or five years that say one of the most important things is keeping your core together — allowing them to grow, allowing them to learn each other. And we feel like we accomplished that.”

While I agree with that sentiment and don’t think Pritchard is trying to be anything but genuine here, I think most of you can predict where this is headed.

“In management, your work is never done so you’re always looking [to improve]. But I don’t see a lot of moves coming in the near future.”

This is your offseason.

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