Setting the Table for the Pacers' Summer

I was working on this post most of the day, and by the time I got it up incredibleFaulk had beaten me to it with an excellent FanPost. Check out his take as well.

As we head into the summer the NBA draft/trade/free agent rumor mill switches into overdrive. Before we get lost in this hopeful and joyous cacophony we should take stock of the current state of the team. What assets do we have? What are the undesirable assets we would like to get rid of? Where do we need upgrades? What are we willing to part with? By answering these questions we can begin to identify what are the most likely and the most reasonable scenarios to upgrade the team.

What We Have:

Player

2010-2011 Salary

Troy Murphy

$ 11,968,253

Danny Granger

$ 11,173,202

Mike Dunleavy

$ 10,561,984

T.J. Ford

$ 8,500,000

Jeff Foster

$ 6,665,000

Dahntay Jones

$ 2,500,000

Brandon Rush

$ 2,069,040

Tyler Hansbrough

$ 1,986,600

Solomon Jones

$ 1,500,000

Roy Hibbert

$ 1,685,280

Josh McRoberts

$ 885,120

A.J. Price

$ 762,195

  • Total Salary - $65,705,857  (This includes the $5,459,183 we will be paying Jamal Tinsley, and assumes T.J. Ford will exercise his player option. Also both Price and McRobert's contracts are unguaranteed for next season, meaning we could release them and have their salaries not count against the cap. I'm not advocating for it, just mentioning it.)
  • Head Coach - Jim O'Brien (for at least one more season)
  • 3 Empty Roster Spots
  • 2010 1st Round Draft Pick
    2010 2nd Round Draft Pick
    2010 2nd Round Draft Pick (from Dallas)
    2011 1st Round Draft Pick
    2011 2nd Round Draft Pick
  • The rights to Erazem Lorbek and Stanko Barac, both previous Pacers draft picks which have been stashed in Europe.
  • A projected $3 million dollars of space under the luxury tax threshold.
  • About 1,000 Damon Bailey Pacer's jerseys that were made in 1995 and we haven't been able to unload at Pacersgear.com

What We Would Like To Unload:

  • T.J. Ford, his professionalism as a 12th man, and his $8.5 million in salary.
  • Murphy and/or Dunleavy, mostly in the context of hypothetical assets we could get back for their expiring contracts.
  • The aforementioned Damon Bailey jerseys which are eating up an entire storeroom at Conseco.

What Are We Willing To Part With:

  • This is a difficult area to predict. With the current state of the team I would like to think that everything is on the table and that there isn't anyone who's untouchable. In that spirit I decided to divide out assets into tiers.
  • Tier 1 - The Vito Corleone Tier - These are the assets which we only part with for a "Godfather Offer," an offer we couldn't refuse. We would only give these up for a top tier NBA star or a Top 5 draft pick. I feel safe putting Granger into this tier after we passed on the rumored Al Jefferson deal this summer. Hibbert has shown enough potential that we would like to continue developing him. Our pick this year is too valuable from a talent upgrade standpoint.
    - Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, 2010 1st Round Draft Pick -
  • Tier 2 - The "Love" Tier - I call this The "Love" Tier, because we love these assets, we're just not IN love with them. These assets aren't potential cornerstones but have shown the potential to be part of a playoff core down the road. To unload these we would need a chance to move up in this year's draft to target a specific player, or the chance to add a talented starting caliber player who fits a specific need on our team.
    - 2011 1st Round Draft Pick, Tyler Hansbrough (Larry is not ready to admit a mistake here), A.J. Price, Josh McRoberts -
  • Tier 3 - The Watergate Tier - It's not The Watergate Tier because of a scandal reference, it just means we're listening. The worst case with many of these assets, especially the expiring contracts, is that we hold them until the value increases. We'll take back a player who fits a specific need. We'll take back a player who increases our general talent. We'll take back assets that create a better personnel situation for the future. The nice thing is that we aren't desperate to unload any of these. We can wait for the right offer.
    - 2010 2nd Round Draft Pick (our and Dallas'), 2011 2nd Round Draft Pick, Mike Dunleavy, Jeff Foster, Dahntay Jones, Brandon Rush, Solomon Jones, The rights to our European Mystery Men -
  • Tier 4 - The Duran, Duran Tier -With this tier we're on the hunt and we're hungry like the wolf. One guy is in this tier because he has a huge contract, has worn out his welcome, and will likely collect a ton of money to sit on the bench next year. The other player has played really well for Indiana. But he has a lot of value as a trade asset because of his skill set and huge expiring contract. With the current state of the team he probably has more value as a trade asset then he does playing for us and taking minutes from some of our younger frontcourt players. See if you can guess which player is which.
    - T.J. Ford, Troy Murphy -

What Do We Need?

Here things really open up. So much is unsettled with the Pacers that it is hard to focus in too much on specific areas of need. We have one more year, at least, of Jim O'Brien's "system" and then maybe things change drastically. Do we want to bring in players that fit what O'Brien is trying to do, if a new system or style will be instituted the next season by a different coach? Our ability to move some of the above assets also might open up holes or opportunities for improvement at positions that currently look pretty solid. Even with all the uncertainty, there are some areas we can target for improvement regardless of possible future changes.

  • Interior Defense - I double checked some numbers before I put this up, and found some surprises. Looking at Hoopdata's opponents shot location charts, I saw that the Pacers only allowed their opponents 25 shots per game at the rim, 8th lowest in the league. They also held their opponents to 58.3% FG% on shots at the rim, 6th lowest in the league. The problem is that opponents averaged 28.6 FTA per game which was dead last in the league. We need some interior defenders who can protect the rim, but do it without fouling.
  • Basketball IQ - This category has a whole host of manifestations on the court. For example, taking smart shots; we were 3rd in the league in 3PTA per game at 23.1, but only shot 34.8% on them, good for 18th in the league. Our team A/TO ratio was 1.40 good for 22nd in the league. It's difficult to separate the effects of ability from the effects of Basketball IQ, but our general lack of efficiency at both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor would indicate we need an upgrade.
  • "Swagger" - This attribute obviously doesn't lend itself to statistics, but it was definitely something that seemed lacking. Our team competed hard and most nights, effort was not a problem. However, team seemed to lack a certain degree of confidence this year. They would get down by large margins, and still play hard, but seem to know that it wasn't going to work out. This attribute is also increased by success, which we haven't had much of. I think the return of Tyler Hansbrough will help in this area, but it is still something we should look for in new additions.
  • General Talent - The Pacers definitely have some good players, but looking at the roster 1-12 they are in the bottom quarter of the league in terms of talent. A friend of mine frequently uses the quote "Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard." I have certainly appreciated the team's hard work these past three years, but it would be nice to have a team of very talented, hard workers. Basically, the team can use depth and talent across the board.
  • Shot Creation - Again, I found some surprises on Hoopdata. 57.8% of the Pacers baskets last year were assisted on which was good for 10th in the league. Our assist rate (the percentage of possessions with ended with an assist) was only 19.34% good for 19th in the league. This would indicate that when we scored it was often because of good ball movement. Unfortunately, this occured on less than 20% of our possessions. We can address this with Basketball IQ and increasing the quality and quantity of our ball movement; but we also need some individual shot creators, a player or two who can break down the defense on their own and take the pressure off Granger at the end of shot clocks.

In addition to these attributes, there are certainly some specific roster holes. Despite having a roster loaded with front-court players, I think most fans are in agreement that we could use an upgrade at PF. The PG position is unsettled, as we enter the summer with T.J. Ford and A.J. Price, neither of whom is ready to be a starting NBA point guard according to our coach. I also don't think anyone is totally comfortable with the Brandon Rush - Dahntay Jones combo at SG. I am hoping that by having an honest evaluation of what we have and what we need, we can work to make some reasonable suggestions and predictions about what we can realistically expect to acquire. I would love to hear anyone everyone's thoughts! (As if we have been talking about anything else for the past 3 months.)

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