The Indiana Pacers finished the 2013-2014 season in somewhat disappointing fashion. Although they were the top seed in the Eastern Conference during the playoffs, they struggled against the eight-seeded Atlanta Hawks in the first round, and played wildly inconsistent basketball against the Washington Wizards in the second round. Then, in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Miami Heat eliminated the Pacers in six games.
Now, at the beginning of the offseason, the Pacers should look to any roster changes they can to try and get past the Heat and into the NBA Finals. Their first opportunity will come on Thursday, June 26th during the NBA draft. Since the Pacers are already considered a top contender, they should look to draft a player that can come in and contribute immediately. Most players that can have an immediate impact are taken in the first round of the draft.
The Pacers would’ve had the 27th pick late in the first round, but they traded it to the Phoenix Suns along with small forward Gerald Green and Center Miles Plumlee in exchange for veteran power forward Luis Scola last summer. At the time, it seemed like a good trade for both teams, but Green and Plumlee had good seasons for the Suns while Scola played inconsistently and failed to help the Pacers get past the Heat in the playoffs, which is the reason the trade was made. Add in the fact that the Pacers are now without a first round pick, it seems the Suns benefited much more from the trade.
The Pacers currently have nine players under contract for the 2014-2015 season, including four of the starting five. Lance Stephenson, the Pacers’ starting shooting guard for the past two seasons, is an unrestricted free agent and may not be re-signed if he is offered too much money by another team or if the Pacers’ front office feels the on and off-court issues he causes do not match his contributions to the team.
Even if Stephenson is brought back, the Pacers will lack sufficient depth at the shooting guard position. Restricted free agent Evan Turner will likely not be re-signed which makes Solomon Hill the only other current option. Hill, the Pacer’s first-round selection last year, will only be in his second season and did not play enough this past season to prove he has earned significant playing time. The Pacers should look to trade into the first round to draft a talented player with high potential that is capable of playing significant minutes at shooting guard.
If the Pacers decide to part ways with Lance Stephenson, they should trade for a somewhat high first-round pick and draft Gary Harris from Michigan State University. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound shooting guard could potentially start for the Pacers next season. He is athletic enough to get to the basket and has good range as a shooter. Harris also plays great defense which would allow him to play significant minutes even if he cannot be relied on to score consistently.
If the Pacers re-sign Stephenson, or go another direction as far as the starting shooting guard goes, they should trade into the late first-round and select Glen Robinson III from Michigan University. Although the 6-foot-7, 210-pounder is considered to be more of a small forward, he could play the shooting guard position as well. Robinson III is not as polished offensively as Harris, but may be just as good defensively and is a better rebounder due to his size and length.
Another player the Pacers could trade up in the draft for is Mitch McGary. The 6-foot-10, 265-pounder would likely be taken early in the first-round if not for some unfortunate injuries while at the University of Michigan. He is projected by many to be taken late in the first or early in the second, which would be a steal for any team that takes him. McGary would provide athleticism and youth in the post for the Pacers, which they lack.