Alright Pacer fans, seeing as I'm a new poster on the Indy Cornrows blog I hope I won't immediately get ripped to shreds. That being said, the Pacers currently have about $37 million in expiring contracts on the books to use as trade chips and several roster holes that need filling (point guard, another scoring option, front court defense and well... defense in general). These expiring contracts hold even more sway considering that a work stoppage looms at the end of this season and teams hurting for money would seriously consider trading quality players for the right combination of financial relief, young, cheap players and future picks.
Taking that knowledge into consideration, the Pacers certainly have the assets to make a couple big moves to not only put themselves right into the middle of a suddenly competitive Eastern Conference, but also build a young foundation that can be successful for many seasons to come (as long as we're willing to deal.)
Details, rationale and roster implications after the jump...
I propose that the Pacers make 2 deals. Deal one with the Hornets looks something like this:
Deal two with the T-Wolves looks like this:
IN: Al Jefferson
For those questioning why the T-Wolves and Hornets would do these deals, the main answer is simple: Money.
Let's start with the Hornets. George Shinn, the current owner has been hemorrhaging money and, with a lockout all but guaranteed, looks to continue to take a financial hit. If the Hornets do this deal, they have $26 million come off the books, don't have to pay Emeka Okafor and get a draft pick to boot. In addition to helping the Hornets drastically cut costs, they get to keep Darren Collison, who proved himself more than capable last year. He's no Chris Paul but the Hornets are in much better shape if they do this deal and try to rebuild for the future than try to win next year and have to pay a ton of salary during the lockout. Put simply, the Hornets would have the chance to go into the lockout year with only David West and Darren Collison under contract which saves them a ton of money and lets them rebuild on their own terms with a couple cost-efficient building blocks.
As for the Wolves, this deal would make less sense for them if they hadn't already made it clear that they're shopping Al Jefferson because he and Kevin Love are too short to play together. Rumor has it that the T-Wolves are currently considering a trade of Jefferson to the Dallas Mavericks for Erick Dampier's $13 million expiring deal. Consider that Troy Murphy is a much better player than Erick Dampier and has only a slightly less valuable expiring contract. Now consider that we would offer Brandon Rush as well, a solid wing with unlocked potential and would be no worse than an above average perimeter shooter and solid defender. Throw in one or two draft picks and our offer blows what Dallas has to offer off the table. At the end of the day, if the T-Wolves want to move Jefferson, we have a good amount to offer them.
On our end, if we were to offer a MLE (Mid-level Exception) to Earl Watson or a comparable veteran back-up PG, as well as making these deals, our roster looks like this:
PG: Chris Paul/Earl Watson (for sake of argument)/A.J Price
SG: Paul George/Dahntay Jones/Lance Stephenson
SF: Danny Granger/James Posey
C: Roy Hibbert/Emeka Okafor
Let's start with the bench: Okafor is a tough enforcer who can block shots and rebound, Hansbrough is a good hustle guy with a solid jump shot, Posey's another tough defender who can knock down threes, Dahntay wasn't great in extended minutes last season but would be great as a complementary defender and Earl proved that he was more than serviceable as a back-up last year (Stephenson and McRoberts may be ready to contribute in spots as well through preferably not extensively.)
Now let's get to the good part, the starters: Paul would be the table setter we needed so desperately last year, has great floor vision and can score the ball as well from inside and out. Danny wouldn't have to deal with the burden of having to create for himself all the time and would be a lot more efficient. Al Jefferson is one of the elite low-post men in the league and rebounds well. Hibbert would then be free to operate as a facilitator out of the high post more often and would be better able to play his game with Murphy out of the lineup. Paul George is the x-factor with this team but I see a young, talented athlete with three point range who could be ready to contribute to a playoff team right away. This would also be the best case scenario for George to develop his potential on a team that wouldn't need him to do too much along the lines of Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics (see comparison between 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 seasons). Most importantly we would have three proven scorers, making us that much tougher to stop.
To sum it all up, this roster could do it all. It could score down low and from the perimeter, defend inside and out, move the ball and provide plenty of toughness and rebounding. Essentially, this would be a 50+win team with a playoff rotation capable of making a deep run not just this year but for the next several (Salivating yet? Me too.) Bottom line: we have the pieces to make it happen. If the price is a couple draft picks and taking some undesirable contracts to assemble our own Big Three and make a run at a title than so be it. Unlikely? Maybe, but a little optimism never hurt anyone. Can't to hear some feedback from Pacer Nation, any other ideas?