Chad Ford of ESPN has posted his summer grades for the Eastern Conference. He had Miami as the obvious #1, Washington as #2, then he had this:
Key subtractions: Troy Murphy
Larry Bird and David Morway may have pulled off the trade of the summer in August. Desperately in need of a point guard and some fresh blood, they were able to grab Collison in a four-way trade that cost them just Murphy.
Collison is the point guard the Pacers have been longing for … forever. As a rookie starter for the Hornets during the second half of last season after Chris Paul went down with an injury, Collison averaged an impressive 18.8 ppg and 9 apg, while shooting 48 percent from the field and 43 percent from 3-point range. Those are rookie of the year numbers. Pair him with Danny Granger and an emerging Roy Hibbert and the Pacers finally have a young core to build around.
The Pacers also made some noise in the draft. George has Tracy McGrady-type talent. Whether he ever lives up to his abilities is still up for debate -- but at the 10th pick in the draft, he was worth the gamble.
The real steal, however, could be Stephenson. The second-round pick wowed scouts in the Orlando summer league with his play and drew a few comparisons to last season's rookie of the year, Tyreke Evans. A domestic assault charge for Stephenson and a five-game drug suspension for Brandon Rush put a bit of a damper on the summer but shouldn't set the team back too much.
The Pacers now look as if they have a legit shot at making the playoffs this season and should be $20 million under the cap next summer. After a long dark spell, things are finally looking up in Indy.