Yesterday I started my free agency FanPost series with shooting guards and got a lot of good feedback. Now I'll move on to a position that we've been pining for since Jermaine O'Neal's prime: Power Forward.
If you had asked me two months ago I would have told you that the Pacers best bet, to immediately become more competitive, was to aggressively address PF this summer, as it is the team's biggest and most obvious need, and at the time there were some viable free agent options out there. But since then Tyler Hansbrough started showing that he can handle a starting role (at least as a worst case scenario), David West blew out his knee and will likely exercise his player option. Zach Randolph signed a lucrative extension with Memphis. Two of the three best college PF prospects (Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones) pulled out of the draft. When the dust settled, it no longer made sense financially, or competitively, to sign a free agent to a huge deal, draft one at #15 who we expect to immediately help the team, or even consider trading an asset like Danny Granger for a high pick with the aim of taking one near the top of the draft. By and large, it looks like while the team still has a need, thanks to circumstance, the need is no longer so desperate.
That doesn't mean that there aren't any good prospects out there who could help the team, and might warrant an offer. The Pacers could either use a starter who is an obvious upgrade over Hansbrough or a backup to add post defense and rebounding off the bench. I'll present my six favorite guys, broken into two groups of three, based on comparable salaries. The same rules apply from the initial shooting guard FanPost.
The "Expensive" Guys
1. Carl Landry
2010-11 Pay: $3,000,000
Estimated Open Market Value: 5 years, $32-38 million
Strengths: A very impressive offensive player. Gets buckets in strange ways...one of those guys who always seems to "quietly" put up 15+ points. Has a nice mid-range game and is very aggressive near the basket on offense. Very good hands and feet for an NBA big man, and a nice wingspan. A good teammate who doesn't mind coming off the bench, but is a starting-caliber offensive player. Not a local guy, but he's from the mid-west and obviously played college ball at Purdue, so he most likely wouldn't mind playing in Indy, despite having spent most of his career in large markets (Houston and New Orleans). A prototypical career overachiever.
Weaknesses: Though he plays bigger than he is, Landry is undersized and has trouble against standard PFs. Has seen minutes at both post positions but doesn't overwhelm as a defender at either. Has quick hands and is aggressive to the basketball on defense, but lacks the size and athleticism to make a big impact against elite NBA post players. A pretty terrible rebounder. Does not offer much in the way of potential; he was a four-year college player and will be 28 at the start of this season.
2010-11 Pay: $2,130,481
Estimated Open Market Value: 5 years, $35-42 million
Strengths: Probably the remaining free agent with the most potential. Chandler can score in a variety of ways. Athletic and versatile as a wing scorer, and a pretty efficient shooter. Was the Knicks' best player at the start of the season. Covers up his size limitations with his athleticism. Is an above average weakside shot blocker with quick hands and a nose for the basketball. Can adequately defend 3 or 4 positions. Another mid-west guy with something to prove. Will probably be most successful in a system that allows him to run, and rotate between the wing and post positions.
Weaknesses: A true tweener. Hasn't spent much time at PF (Danilo Gallinari was the PF with New York, while Chandler played primarily on the wing). With his small forward build can he handle the rigors of banging with true power forwards? A good rebounder from the wing, but probably not good enough from the power forward spot to justify the pay, at least not with Indiana (a team that desperately needs a better rebounder at the starting 4 spot). For all his talent and athleticism he doesn't get to the line enough to be a "closer." Takes plays off and isn't as aggressive as he should be. Hasn't shown up in the playoffs. Is injury prone...
2010-11 Pay: $2,901,241
Estimated Open Market Value: 5 years, $25-33 million
Strengths: Aggressive, athletic and hard-nosed. Major quickness and strength. A unique matchup problem with his length and athleticism. Always after loose balls. A good rebounder for his size, and a very good perimeter defender. A very efficient shooter. A high-energy, rotation guy with a unique skill-set. Would be fun to watch...an immediate fan favorite.
Weaknesses: Undersized at PF, though he's seen more time there than Chandler. Would only fit a system that allowed him to run; tends to get lost and become irrelevant in the half court. Could provide energy off the bench, but at his projected cost doesn't seem worth it. Not the perimeter scorer that Chandler is. Not a great free throw shooter. Has wing size and defensive skills, but doesn't have the handles or offensive instincts to create his own shot. Can get wild and turn the ball over. Doesn't directly address the Pacers' rebounding and shot-blocking needs for the money.
The "Cheap" Guys
2010-11 Pay: $3,200,000
Estimated Open Market Value: 4 years, $19-23 million
Strengths: A rebounding expert. Great position in the low-post. A monster on the offensive glass. Despite "one year wonder" concerns, he's almost always excelled in per-36 rebounding numbers. An underrated defender, as long as he's matched up against similarly-sized players (other PFs). A highly-efficient shooter from the floor. Crams a lot of production into limited minutes. A good lockerroom guy with a great attitude.
Weaknesses: A tad undersized. Cannot defend NBA centers at all. Very one-dimensional offensively; gets most of his points off of put-backs and/or close-range open shots. No face-up ability. A typical hard worker with limited athleticism. Does not shoot well from the free throw line. Horrible career win share numbers. A late bloomer, or a contract year anamoly who was a product of his bad team?
2010-11 Pay: $885,120
Estimated Open Market Value: 4 years, $14-19 million
Strengths: A surprisingly good athlete. Excels on the break. An adequate jump shooter who can reliably knock down 20 footers when open. An underrated rebounder. Can provide instant energy off the bench. A role player who typically plays with passion. A confident ball handler for his size, who can occasionally make tough passses. Usually makes good decisions. A fan favorite.
Weaknesses: Cannot play or defend the center position (was exposed at times during the playoffs). Doesn't have much of an offensive repertoire on the low block. Seems only comfortable when catching alley-oops off the break. Can be very streaky offensively. Physically limited strength-wise. Strictly a bench PF who will most likely never develop into a starting-caliber player. Has he maxed out his potential?
3. Jonas Jerebko
2010-11 Pay: $762,195
Estimated Open Market Value: 2 years, $7 million
Strengths: One of the better values on the free agent market. Draws comparisons to Andrei Kirilenko with a better offensive game. Jack-of-all trades type player with great length and tenacity. Can knock down mid-to-long range shots, and is one of the best perimeter defending Euros since Kirilenko. A more athletic, more muscular Mike Dunleavy. A vocal leader in the lockerroom. Tons of potential, as he's only 25 and has only played one NBA season. Detroit brass (for what it's worth) still considers him the Pistons' "PF of the future" but has no matching rights to him.
Weaknesses: Would be in line for a payday similar to Carl Landry's estimated value if he had been able to duplicate his rookie numbers in the 2010-11 season. Unfortunately he was struck with a freak Achilles tear, notoriously difficult to rehab from, so he presents a major risk. Not a physically-dominant PF; needs a big bodied center next to him, with good hands an vision. Jerebko does a lot of "clean up duty" and is still very raw offensively. Very aggressive and energetic for a Euro; not finesse at all, but his tenacity can get him into trouble. Pretty single-minded offensively at this stage in his career. Will he ever bounce back and be the same player he was 2009-10?