#41 / Forward / Indiana Pacers
While the centerpiece in Indiana’s involvement in their four-team trade this past summer was Darren Collison, the Pacers also took on James Posey’s contract from New Orleans. Posey, who signed with the Hornets following his X-Factor role on the 2008 Celtics championship run, failed to make the same difference he made on his two championship teams and was sent north.
Originally, there was speculation that his contract may be bought out, but Larry Bird and Jim O’Brien made it clear they wanted Posey’s championship experience and veteran leadership to help lead an extremely young Pacers team. With concerns regarding Tyler Hansbrough’s availability at the beginning of the year, Posey was given the backup minutes at the power forward spot behind Josh McRoberts, a concern since he was placed into the game out of position, though given his skill set, he couldn’t have functioned any more productively as a wing, especially not considering Indiana’s wing logjam.
In addition to being out of position, Posey was fairly two dimensional. On offense, he camped out beyond the three point line and on defense he worked inside for a charge. It wasn’t hard to predict Posey’s role in any given play, and as the season dragged on, it was even easier to predict how effective he would be in that role on any given play.
Despite Hansbrough working back into game shape, O’Brien opted against playing the second-year forward, opting to continue playing Posey. While Posey did have a few productive games, his positive play rarely helped the team improve their standing, while his bad games did affect the team. This wasn’t more glaring than during the team’s first game of 2011 at Madison Square Garden, when the Pacers, desperately looking for some positives following a dreadful December, were in position late to steal a big momentum win in New York.
Instead of opting to go with Josh McRoberts late in the game to attempt to slow down Amar’e Stoudemire, O’Brien subbed in James Posey, who was easily scored on over the course of the next three possessions, paving the way for a Knicks victory. The loss due to O’Brien’s rotations caused considerable outrage, forcing the coach’s hand to play Hansbrough. Unfortunately, it came at the cost of McRoberts, not Posey. Posey would go on to shoot 27% from three point range in January, as O’Brien continued to lead the playing rotation into an uncertain state of confusion and the Pacers fell ten games below .500.
But as was the case with Solomon Jones, Posey’s spot in the rotation came to a close following the coaching change in February as the Pacers moved toward a more physical front court.
So how did Posey impress?
It’s difficult to really pinpoint how Posey impressed because he frankly wasn’t very good. He was one of the best on the team at picking up charges, but that only helped to mask his lack of defensive abilities against bigger opponents (January 2, 2011: Never Forget). He was able to get his three point shot to fall at a lethal rate once or twice, but his 31.6% shooting was a far cry from the lethal 40% he shot while helping Miami and Boston to championships, leading many to question what kind of role he held with the team that required him to play extended minutes.
And how did he disappoint?
Much as was the case with Solo, it’s not fair to blame all of Posey’s shortcomings on the time he was given by Jim O’Brien. In his defense, he did what he could with what he had to offer and he tried to play to those strengths. It was his coach that didn’t make the necessary adjustments. But what was on Posey, he didn’t execute his role to the level he had in years past.
Playing out of position to begin with, he wasn’t effective in his ability to lead opposing bigs out by featuring a steady and consistent three point shot and that is on him. Add in that 88% of his field goal attempts were three pointers and he shot just 15 free throws all season at a career low 73%, and it’s obvious the 34-year-old Posey wasn’t giving the Pacers the production they needed from him to succeed.
What’s next for Posey?
Posey features an expiring contract this year; what that means in a post lockout NBA is anyone’s guess, but it’s possible championship teams can still see some kind of value in Posey’s value and make a play for the aging forward’s services. Though it’s hard to tell what kind of damage this past year did to that reputation, it remains a pretty sizeable expiring deal the Pacers could use in their favor. Even if Posey remains with Indiana, it’s hard to imagine him getting much floor time. He simply doesn’t provide the Pacers with anything they can’t get elsewhere.