It is that time of year again. The NBA Finals are over, the NBA draft has come and gone and now the free agency period has begun. Although the Indiana Pacers do not have much cap space to work with, they do have several glaring needs to address.
Over the past few seasons the Pacers have been terrific defensively, but have struggled offensively. The main reason for this is their lack of a true point guard. George Hill, the Pacers’ current starting point guard, has not been successful at creating shots for his teammates and has often struggled against elite perimeter-defending teams such as the Miami Heat. Hill may be better suited to come off of the bench as a combo-guard. C.J. Watson, Hill’s current backup, is a solid defender and three-point shooter, but also lacks the ability to get others involved in the offense.
The Pacers’ number one target in free agency should be Eric Bledsoe. The Phoenix Suns’ point guard averaged 17.7 points and 5.5 assists per game last season. The 24-year-old Bledsoe has supreme athleticism and defensive ability. He has shown the ability to get his teammates involved and can make opposing defenses pay if they try to pressure the ball, which is something the Pacers sorely lacked the past few seasons. Bledsoe is a restricted free agent, which means the Suns can match any offer the Pacers make. This is a long shot since the Pacers are short on cap space, so a trade may have to occur if the Pacers wish to acquire him.
Another option is former Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson. Although he is 30 years old, Nelson averaged 12.1 points and 7.0 assists per game last season. He also has plenty of playoff experience as he was the starting point guard for the 2009 Magic team that made it to the NBA Finals. Since Nelson is older and coming off a down year scoring wise, the Pacers could sign him at a lower, more-valued price. Nelson could start at point guard and move Hill to the bench or have him start at shooting guard.
Another glaring need for the Pacers is the shooting guard position. They have already signed former Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard C.J. Miles, but he will likely come off of the bench. Lance Stephenson, the Pacers’ starting shooting guard the past two seasons, is an unrestricted free agent, has turned down the Pacers initial offer and since signed with the Charlotte Hornets.
The team has reportedly reached out to Rodney Stuckey. The former Detroit Pistons shooting guard would fit in nicely for the Pacers after losing Stephenson. The 28-year-old Stuckey averaged 13.9 points per game last season and has the ability to play the point guard position, which would provide the Pacers with a much needed additional ball-handler.
The Pacers should also look to add a top-notch perimeter defender. Paul George is obviously an elite defender but he could use some help in defending the league’s best wing players. George can explode offensively and will the Pacers to wins if he does not have to expend his energy on defense the entire game. This was shown in game Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals where George was guarding the offensively-average Trevor Ariza, and again and Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals when LeBron James was in foul trouble for most of the game.
Shawn Marion could be perfect for the Pacers if they wish to pursue a defender. Marion’s versatility allows him to guard multiple positions and he has plenty of playoff experience, as he was a part of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks team that won the NBA championship. Marion might also be a long-shot because he is probably too expensive for the Pacers. There is a possibility that Marion could take less money if he believes his contributions would help the Pacers win a title.