After finishing the 2013-2014 season in disappointing fashion, the Indiana Pacers had several glaring needs to address going into the free agency period. The Pacers are in desperate need of a quality ball-handler who can take care of the ball when pressured.
No one on the Pacers’ roster was successful against the Miami Heat’s constant on-the-ball defensive pressure, which inevitably led to their elimination in six games. They are also in need of some bench scoring, three-point shooting and athleticism in the post. After reviewing the Pacers’ free agent pickups so far, it is evident the Pacers had a different agenda.
One apparent goal was to add depth in the post by signing Lavoy Allen and Shayne Whittington. The 6-foot-9, 255-pound Allen was acquired in the infamous Danny Granger-Evan Turner trade with the Philadelphia 76ers at the NBA trade deadline in February. Although he did not see much playing time with the Pacers, Allen did make the most of it when he was given the chance. When Pacers’ head coach Frank Vogel decided to rest the starters for two games in April, Allen averaged 9.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block while averaging 28.0 minutes in each game. These numbers are not All-Star worthy by any means, but they do suggest that Allen can produce if given the opportunity. Signing Allen at a low price was a smart move for the Pacers.
Whittington is more of a mystery than Allen. After he went undrafted in this year’s NBA Draft, the Pacers quickly signed him as a free agent. The 6-foot-11, 250-pounder may have some promise though, as he averaged 16.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game during senior year at Western Michigan University. I believe that if Whittington had not suffered a broken leg during a non-basketball incident before the draft, he may have been a second-round selection.
The Pacers also made a point to find some bench-scoring and three-point shooting help by signing C.J. Miles and Damjan Rudez. While averaging just less than 20 minutes per game with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, Miles scored nearly 10 points per game while adding two rebounds, an assist and nearly a steal. Miles is a nice pickup for the Pacers because they are in need of more role players. Evan Turner was out of place last season when he was forced to come off of the bench and be a role player. Miles has been a role player his entire career and will fit in nicely with the Pacers.
Damjan Rudez is a 6-foot-10, 200-pound three-point shooting artist from Croatia. He went undrafted in the 2008 NBA Draft most likely due to his inability to play interior defense or rebound. While playing for CAI Zaragoza of the Spanish League, Rudez was incredible from beyond the arc but only averaged around 10 points and a pathetic 2 rebounds per game. This was another low-cost signing by the Pacers, but the jury is still out on if Rudez can contribute significantly for the Pacers.
The Pacers’ most significant free agent signing came after former starting shooting guard Lance Stephenson signed with the Charlotte Hornets as an unrestricted free agent. Former Detroit Pistons shooting guard Rodney Stuckey was signed on a one-year deal with the Indiana Pacers to help fill the void that Stephenson left.
Although Stuckey will not be the distributor that Stephenson was for the Pacers, he is a great ball-handler and does not turn the ball over often. Stuckey is also a solid defender and is good at getting to the basket and free throw line. I think that this will prove to be a great signing by the Pacers, because Stuckey will be able to step in and contribute as much as Stephenson did last season, and he has a greater upside.
Although the Pacers did not make a big splash in free agency, they made some quality pickups that should help them to improve next season.