Now that the Indiana Pacers’ offseason has started, what should they do? First and foremost, they need to make one or two significant roster changes.
Center Roy Hibbert was a tremendous letdown during the second half of the season and in the playoffs. He had multiple games with low scoring and rebounding production including a few games with a zero in both statistical categories. Moving Hibbert might prove to be difficulty though, because he is set to be paid around $14.9 million next season and is coming off a year in which he seemed to let his emotions toward his teammates effect his play.
The Pacers are horrible defensively when the opposition plays smaller because of their lack of athleticism down low. Although I love David West and would hate to see him go, he probably has more trade value than Hibbert does. West is set to be paid $12 million next year, with a player option set at nearly $12.6 million the year after. This contract is short-term and somewhat fair in value, which could be intriguing for a playoff team in need of a veteran low-post scorer.
Another glaring weakness for the Pacers is there frequently stagnant offense. This is partly due to their lack of a true point guard.
George Hill is considered to be a combo guard, which is just a nice way of saying he cannot play point guard. He does not get a lot of assists, as he only averaged 3 per game in the playoffs. He is also not overly quick, which slows the offense down and occasionally makes him a liability on defense when the opposing team has a fast point guard.
Probably the most frustrating negative characteristic about Hill is that he misses more wide open three pointers and late-game free throws than any player I have seen. And yet, he is set to make $8 million over the next few seasons, which will make it difficult to move Hill unless he is combined with another player like West or Hibbert in a trade scenario.
Big men Andrew Bynum, Lavoy Allen, and perimeter players Lance Stephenson, Evan Turner and Rasual Butler are all set to be free agents. The Pacers also have a team option for point guard Donald Sloan, which is worth about $981,000. I think the Pacers should pay the low-priced team option on Sloan because he proved to be a solid third option at point guard. All of the other free agents should be let go with Stephenson being the only exception.
Although he has had several on-court incidents, Stephenson is simply too much of a talent to let him walk. The Pacers have Bird Rights on Stephenson, which means they can go over the salary cap to sign him. So if I was Larry Bird, the only way Stephenson is not a Pacer next year is if there is an option to do a sign-and-trade deal to get a great point guard or athletic big man. This is not likely to happen due to many disliking his antics against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
So, here is what the Indiana Pacers should do in chronological order: (1) Sign Lance Stephenson, (2) look at possible trade scenarios for Roy Hibbert and/or David West, and (3) look for an upgrade at the point guard position. In order for the Pacers to get better and challenge the Miami Heat, their offense needs to get better without losing too much defensive prowess. Obtaining a fast and creative point guard and an athletic big man is the best way to do just that. The only problem is if Larry Bird will make such moves. We will see.