If you listen to the ESPN NBA Today podcast (and you should, it's really good this year), then you know they're doing a little "contest" to see who has the best ideas to fix different bad teams. The Pacers are one of the first ones up, so I submitted the following plan:
Here's my plan:
First, the current assets: The Pacers have a top 20 player in Granger and a developing post scorer and shot blocker in Hibbert. On top of that, they have financial flexibility on the horizon, with four contracts expiring in 2011 (Ford, Murphy, Dunleavy, and Foster). If the new CBA is as owner-friendly as it's rumored to be, then their financial flexibility could be even more useful.
Now for my plan:
I've finally been persuaded that it's time to part ways with Jim O'Brien. If a coach runs a free-wheeling, 3-happy offense, yet players don't seem to be thrilled to play for him, then that's a problem. They should take the financial hit and fire him now to see if Lester Conner could work, or at least give the young guys more playing time. If not, then target a current assistant who's worked his way up the ranks. Keith Smart would be a good option, and would certainly be a popular choice with Indiana basketball fans who remember his big shot over Syracuse, and respect anyone associated with Bob Knight (except Isiah Thomas).
In the draft, assuming they don't get lucky and get Wall or Turner with a top-2 pick, they should pick one of the athletic PFs projected to go between 3 and 7: Cousins, Favors, Ed Davis, Aminu, or even Hassan Whiteside if they slip that far. The Pacers need an injection of athleticism and rebounding next to Hibbert, and these guys would fill the bill.
Then they should target a young PG in a trade. Many of the teams with a good shot at John Wall already have a good PG prospect, so they would be forced to decide what to do with the guy they already have. Guys like Devin Harris, Jonny Flynn, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday/Lou Williams, Ellis/Curry, and so on. You can even throw in the Hornets with the Chris Paul/ Darren Collison situation. The Pacers should go after one of these "duplicates" (or John Wall if we're feeling really lucky) with a combination of expiring contracts and one of our young guys (Rush, Hansbrough, AJ Price) or a future first-rounder, whichever is more enticing.
The Pacers are now set with young talent at every position except shooting guard. They then sign Raja Bell this summer for some much needed defense and leadership. They still have some good expiring contracts to hang onto until trade deadline season, when they can target a SG via trade, or hang on to the cap space for the summer where they now have enough young talent to be able to entice a free agent like Jeff Green, Jamal Crawford, or Corey Brewer.
Finally, add Andrei Kirilenko in 2011 for more defense and a veteran presence as a frontcourt backup.
What do you think?