Larry Bird has done a tremendous job in building the Indiana Pacers back to a contender in the Eastern Conference. The team was very active last off-season in signing free agent David West and trading for George Hill. Even though the Pacers are experiencing a bit of a front office shake-up, they have some in-house business to take care of this off-season by re-signing Hill and Roy Hibbert.
2011-12 Season Summary:
The long-term plan the Pacers put into effect a couple of seasons ago is starting to pay off. By building through the draft, not overpaying free agents, and make smart transactions, Indiana has become a relevant team in the Eastern Conference. For the first time since 2004-2005, the Pacers finished with a winning record and advanced past the opening round of the playoffs.
Though not nearly as productive as he was when he averaged almost 26 points per game four years ago, Danny Granger remains the alpha dog for Indy. His scoring dropped to less than 19 points per game but that’s because of the better supporting cast surrounding Granger.
Paul George improved from his rookie season, being that all-around threat due to his versatility. Darren Collison was solid, though not spectacular in running the point while first-year Pacer George Hill provided a huge lift off the bench, eventually replacing Collison as starter. The team also stole Leandro Barbosa from the Raptors prior to the trade deadline, only giving up a second round pick for a gifted bench scorer.
Roy Hibbert continues to make strides as he is developing into one of the better centers in the Eastern Conference. The former Georgetown Hoya even made his first All-Star Game appearance this season. Free agent acquisition David West returned from a season-ending injury the prior year and added experience and leadership to the young Pacers team. He was solid on the floor as well though his numbers didn’t near match his output when West was with the Hornets.
The frontcourt depth (and overall depth in general) was an area of concern. Tyler Hansbrough was solid off the bench and Louis Amundson brought solid energy and hustle to the floor. Neither guys possessed a whole lot of size so the Pacers ran into trouble against bigger, more physical teams. Prior to Barbosa’s arrival, guys like Dahntay Jones, A.J. Price, and Lance Stephenson were seeing significant minutes off the bench but failing to produce at a high level.
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: *Roy Hibbert
PF: David West/Tyler Hansbrough/Jeff Pendergraph
SF: Danny Granger
SG: Paul George/#Dahntay Jones/$Lance Stephenson
PG: *George Hill/Darren Collison/*A.J. Price
NBA Free Agents:
*C-Roy Hibbert (RFA)
*PG-George Hill (RFA)
*PG-A.J. Price (RFA)
#SG-Dahntay Jones (TO)
$-SG-Lance Stephenson (PO)
SG-Leandro Barbosa (UFA)
F/C-Louis Amundson (UFA)
C-Kyrylo Fesenko (UFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: approximately $34.8 million
1. Re-sign Roy:
Roy Hibbert is a restricted free agent and has certainly outplayed his rookie contract. He is due a long-term extension and since the Pacers have the right to match any offer he signs with another team, expect Indiana to open up their wallets and re-sign their center even if it costs them in excess of $10 million per year.
2. Extend Hill:
George Hill is in a similar position as Hibbert in that he is a restricted free agent and due for a pay raise. Since Hill overtook the starting point guard position from Darren Collison in the postseason, Indy will likely pony up the cash to keep Hill and then possibly use Collison as trade bait to help upgrades other positions of need. If the Pacers are confident in Collison being their starting point guard, they could let Hill walk or just to sign-and-trade him and get some assets in return.
3. Wing Scorer:
With Leandro Barbosa being a short-term rental since he is a free agent, the Pacers need to find a serviceable replacement who can provide the same kind of scoring punch off the bench that Barbosa did. If the price is right, Indiana will consider re-signing the Brazil native but certainly won’t overpay for his services.
4. Back-up Big:
Assuming the Pacers extend Hibbert’s contract, they still need to find a serviceable back-up center since Louis Amundson is a free agent. Even if the 6’9 Amundson is re-signed, Indiana could use a true big man to bang inside against larger opponents.
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David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik