With a series of small moves, no clarity on where Lance Stephenson will play next season, and speculation surrounding Indiana trading Roy Hibbert, the Pacers offseason is still far from finished.
How is it going so far?
We asked a few of our 8p9s scribes to assess the summer.
1. True or false: This offseason will be a failure if the Pacers do not re-sign Lance Stephenson?
Jalen Bishop: True. Shoring up the bench is fine with C.J. Miles, Lavoy Allen and Shayne Whittington, but they are not replacing Stephenson’s production. He is going to improve quickly as a pick-and-roll ball handler, shooter, and defender over the next five years. It will be a failure.
Ben Gibson: False. It will only be a failure if they do nothing to fill that hole in the lineup. Lance has a lot of potential, but the Pacers can’t bet the house on him.
Jon Washburn: False, depending on how you define the word “failure.” In general, the Pacers have almost no chance to be as good of a team without Stephenson as they were with him. However, in this circumstance, it would be hard to blame the Pacers for not getting a deal done. If Charlotte or some other team were simply able to outbid them, you can’t blame Lance or the Pacers for not re-signing him. It appears that the Pacers are doing everything within their own power to get the deal done. If someone is able to simply do more, it’s hard to say that the Pacers “failed” — no matter how much damage it will do to the team next year.
Tim Donahue:False. I mean, probably, yeah, but the ultimate answer is, “It depends.” There was always a very good chance the Pacers would get outbid with Lance. It was actually much higher back around the All Star break, when examplars like Tyreke Evans’ 4-year, $44 million deal were being thrown around, but it remains a real possibility. In that event, failure or success will hinge on what they do or don’t do to recover.
2. True or false: The Pacers´ reported five-year, $44 million offer to Lance will be enough?
Bishop: False. If that was the case, I believe Stephenson would have signed back with Indiana two days ago. That is a low offer for a player that is pretty good on both sides of the ball. The Mavericks, Lakers, and Celtics have expressed interest in Stephenson. There is a possibility he receives a higher offer over the next 36 hours.
Gibson: False. I think we’re either going to see Indiana go over the tax or a trade happen with Roy Hibbert. That’s just a guess, but I think Stephenson will get more than this offer. Charlotte and any other suitors will give him a small bit of leverage.
Washburn: False. You get the feeling that after all of this LeBron/Carmelo/Bosh stuff dies down, there will be 12-14 teams with cash to spend, and it only takes one team with cap space to be able to lure Lance to another team.
Donahue: False. My best guess is that – if Melo and LeBron re-sign with their own teams – the Lakers are likely to throw more money at Lance, but with a shorter contract – something like two years, $20-24 million dollars – and Lance will take the short-term money over the longer term security. There are other teams out there that may try to get Lance with a four year deal at a higher average. Nobody seems to be stepping up for Lance at the moment, but everybody is holding their breath, waiting for the big names to sign. There may be a rush of offers for Lance a mere day or two away. It has always been difficult to determine what the market would be for Lance. The Pacers have set it at 5/$44. Now, it’s just a question of whether anyone has the will and the space to beat that.
3. True or false: Indiana will trade Roy Hibbert this summer?
Bishop: False. And it won’t be because Indiana still wants to hold on to him. There likely aren’t teams looking to give up assets for a player who is due almost $30 million by the 2015-16 season. As “bad” as Hibbert was in the second half of the season, his defense at the rim is a huge strength for Indiana.
Gibson: True. I think Indiana wants to shuffle the deck. Despite what he said publicly, it seems Bird thinks the issues the Pacers had last year are deeper than the players let on. If it were merely just a funk, I think you stand pat. But no matter what the source of it, doubling down with this roster seems risky. I think one way or another someone is moving.
Washburn: True. But only if Lance comes back. With his other offseason signings, Larry Bird seems to be taking the team in a different direction — one more predicated on floor spacing and a faster tempo. Roy doesn’t fit into that mold. If Lance does sign with someone else, I’m not sure the Pacers can really go where Bird wants to take them, and I think bringing back Roy would give them the best shot at staying reasonably competitive in 2015.
Donahue: Probably false – He’s reportedly being quietly shopped. That’s probably true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Pacers are desperate to move him. Given the way last season ended, it’s prudent to find out what the market is for the Georgetown Big. It’s true that matchups were really bad for Hibbert in the playoffs, but he quite literally played the worst basketball of his career in March and April. Beyond the issues with Roy’s confidence and periodic funks, the longer term concern for the Pacers may be that the league has “figured him out.” It’s easier said than done, but it was proven repeatedly late last season that opponents could turn Hibbert into a massive liability, if they could spread the floor and get to him.
All that being said, I don’t think the Pacers are having a fire sale, and since that’s likely all the market will bear, I expect Hibbert to return next season.
Bishop: As a whole, I don’t believe so. C.J. Miles will be helpful. With Cleveland last season, he shot 39 percent behind the arc, 48 percent on 2 pointers, 41 percent from 10-16 feet and 40 percent from 16 feet out. That shooting production could rise playing next to Paul George and David West.
Gibson: Well, everything looked great at Christmas time last year … but … false. I think they’re fine moves, but not great, and the Pacer bench has been in the same neighborhood for quite sometime now.
Washburn: True. CJ Miles is a better fit on the Pacers than Evan Turner, no matter how you slice it. That alone will make the Pacers’ bench more prolific than it was in 2014. If the Pacers end up cutting Luis Scola, then Rudez, Allen, and Chris Copeland should all get some good minutes, and I think this will be met with positive PR.
Donahue: False – It’s hard to see these signings as looking great, but it doesn’t mean they might not be good. Miles is probably the key, here, but the value will be dependent on Indiana’s ability to re-sign or adequately replace Lance Stephenson. If that happens, then C.J. Miles could be a C.J. Watson-quality signing. Other than some nagging injuries, Watson performed well for the Pacers last year, and Miles could be a very nice wing shooter/scorer off the Pacer bench.
5. True or false: Larry Bird is doing a good job so far this offseason?
Bishop: With limited wiggle room, Bird is doing an OK job of bringing in players who can contribute off the bench. Players that can shoot are helpful. But Stephenson is the priority and Bird must convince him to come back.
Gibson: Incomplete. With Roy and Lance hanging in the balance it’s hard to say either way
Washburn: True. As the saying goes, you have to play with the cards you are dealt. As good as the Pacers are, they had a surprisingly small amount of assets to work with this offseason, what with their lack of draft picks and young bench players. Of course, you could blame Bird for part of that, and if you include all of his moves last summer into this offseason, then it’s a much taller challenge. But as of now, Bird has done a solid job improving the bench and making Lance as large of a priority as possible.
Donahue: Incomplete – I can’t see the whole field, and the math says there is something else cooking in the background. The C.J. Miles signing (above the Taxpayers’ MLE) gives the Pacers an actual hard cap at $81 million. This would usually not matter, as Indiana has repeatedly said it would not exceed the $77 million luxury tax threshold. However, the Lavoy Allen agreement means that the Pacers would have to dump at least $1 million in salaries before they could fit their offer to Lance under the $81 million hard cap. The summer is set up to either be really exciting – with a major, core altering trade – or really disappointing – with Lance gone and C.J. Miles as his replacement. Then, we’ll have a better feel for the job Larry’s done this summer.