Free Agency-Part 1: Shooting Guard

Now that the dust has settled and we all probably feel a little better about our 2011-12 Indiana Pacers than we did a few weeks ago, it's time to get that off-season chatter going. I know some have already started talking, and by no means is this an "official" fanpost series, but I did want to make 3 or 4 to kind of highlight the team's biggest needs and go over some options. Groundrules:

1. This will be a free agency only series of Fanposts; I will not be posting trade ideas or draft scenarios

2. I'd like to compare REALISTIC and REASONABLE guys who all play the same position

3. I'd like to preface this with the sentiment that I believe most of us share, that the team's biggest needs are:

     a. SG who can create his own shot

     b. PF, either start-worthy scorer or a backup who can rebound, defend the lane and compliment Hibbert

     c. C, preferably one who is defensive-minded, and willing to fight for some rebounds

     d. Backup PG

That's the order of importance I put the needs in. You may have your own.


4. I'm working on the assumption that the free agency rules we are currently operating under will be unchanged. I know that's probably not true, but there's no point in speculating on future changes now, since we don't know what they'll be.

So, at SG, I think these four guys are the most comparable, pay-scale wise:

1. Jamal Crawford

Type: UFA

2010-11 Pay: $10,080,000

Estimated Open Market Value: 4 years, $36-40 million

Strengths: Crawford can attack the basket and shoot the three. He's a proven "closer," and someone who has stepped his game up in high pressure situations, including these playoffs at times. He seems to have no problem coming off the bench, as he's been the 6th Man of the Year, or runner-up favorite, in each of the last two seasons. And that's good, because he'd likely have to come off the bench for the Pacers. He's also got handles. He's played spot minutes at point guard off and on throughout his career, and could likely address the Pacers backup point guard need while also serving as a half-time shooting guard.

Weaknesses: He's a little ball dominant. He doesn't play much defense. And for his age (he's 31) he'll be awfully expensive. I'm guessing he only has a few more years left in the tank. He sees heavy usage, and a swan song contract might be all the motivation (or de-motivation, as it were) he'd need to kind of shut it down and coast toward retirement. Not saying he's lazy, but he's had attitude problems in the past. At $9-10 million a year, that might be a risk the Pacers shouldn't take.

2. Marcus Thornton

Type: UFA

2010-11 Pay: $762,195

Estimated Open Market Value: 5 years, $32-38 million

Strengths: Outstanding volume scorer with unlimited range and no fear of contact. He's quick, versatile offensively, and plays bigger than his size. On defense he has some very quick hands, racking up 1.5 steals per game as a Kings starter last year. Will have instant chemistry with former teammate Darren Collison, and will likely not coast with his first big contract; he'll be looking to make a name for himself as an NBA superstar, considering he's a former second-round draft pick...could be sort of a Michael Redd situation.

Weaknesses: Was traded out of NOR, apparently, for his unwillingness to truly exert himself defensively. He's a bit undersized, which will make it problematic when he's backed down by bigger SGs. Isn't a terrific ball-handler or facilitator, so he wouldn't address the backup point guard need.

3. Arron Afflalo

Type: RFA

2010-11 Pay: $1,959,577

Qualifier: $2,906,053

Estimated Open Market Value: 5 years, $28-35 million

Strengths: Known as an incredible on-ball defender (better than Dahntay Jones), a good leader and an all-around decent offensive player. Afflalo, like Marcus Thornton, would have some immediate backcourt chemistry with Collison, as the two of them played at UCLA together.

Weaknesses: Doesn't seem to have that "closer" mentality offensively. He's a good offensive player, and an efficient shooter, but doesn't single-handedly control games for his team (has scored more than 30 in a game just once in his pro career, and never took over the alpha dog role after the Carmelo Anthony trade). There's most likely not much more to his game; he's already 26. While he's good, the Nuggets like him and will most likey elect to match reasonable offers for him over keeping fellow shooting guard, J.R. Smith, so any team that wants Afflalo will probably have to overpay.

4. J. R. Smith

Type: UFA

2010-11 Pay: $6,031,851

Estimated Open Market Value: 4 years, $28-32 million

Strengths: Athletic as they come, and a better shooter than most people give him credit for. Smith has quick hands, hops and a strong upper body that makes him a difficult matchup when driving the lane. Plenty of regular season and playoff experience as a starter, even though like Afflalo he's 26...he's much more of an experienced 26.

Weaknesses: For all his athleticism he settles for too many jump shots. Can get out of control at times and fall victim to stupid, unforced turnovers. A better on-ball defender than Thornton and Crawford, but not as good as Afflalo, or even Paul George. Would he be happy with a bench role? He's likely looking for a chance to contend right away, start AND make big money.  

Those are the four comparable SGs on my radar. More to come! Let me know what you think.

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