With only two weeks to go in the regular season, the Indiana Pacers look primed to make a run in the playoffs. They are basically locked into the third seed in the Eastern Conference, and it’s looking like the Pacers will face the Atlanta Hawks or Orlando Magic (possibly the Celtics) in the first round. If they get Orlando, their chances to advance increase; and with Dwight Howard potentially missing the series, that would be a huge blow to the Magic’s chances.
Last season, the Pacers reached the playoffs with the eighth and final seed; but this year there’s no question of whether they’ll qualify for the post-season. A major reason behind the team’s progression in such a short period of time is the players they were able to bring onboard through free-agency signings and trades.
It’s always interesting to look at team spending, especially for a team that needs that final piece to truly be a contender for the title. The most influential newcomer has been David West: his scoring is down some since he returned from a serious knee injury, but his professionalism and toughness rub off on his teammates. Some teams were nervous to give him a contract after the injury, but the Pacers have health insurance for individuals and a few big men off the bench to give West a rest.
As good as the Pacers have been, they can still improve. They’ll have cap room and some moveable pieces to try to add another piece to the championship puzzle or attract that one superstar.
Enjoying Life under the Cap
Unless the team is destined to make a run at the title, there are few greater phrases than “under the cap.” Whether your team is the Toronto Raptors or the Indiana Pacers, there’s always a degree of hope when your team has money to spend.
- Atlanta Hawks: $73.5 million. Three players with at least $12 million per year, including Joe Johnson’s staggering contract. Kirk Hinrich has one year left at $8 million, while Marvin Williams’ $7.5 million plus contract won’t go away until after 2013/14 (player option that year).
- Orlando Magic: $85.6 million. Note that this includes an important exception with the amnestied $19.2 million of Gilbert Arenas. Aside from that, there are two $10 million-plus contracts and four from $5 million to just over $7 million. The top eight contracts don’t end after this season.
- Boston Celtics: $87.7 million. Their salaries include four expiring contracts (notably including Garnett and Allen), as well as a number of expiring careers. Four $10 million-plus contracts in all.
Granger and West top off the Pacers salary cap report at $12 and $10 million, respectively. Arguably, this is right on the mark. Granger is leading the team in scoring and while his shooting percentage is down, he has made big shots and he’s playing more unselfish. West is the heart of the team, and his steady post play, rebounding and defensive presence are needed.
With Roy Hibbert, Paul George, Tyler Hansbrough, George Hill and Darren Collison locked into cheap contracts (all under $3 million), the Pacers have a great foundation to build on for the future. Only Leandro Barbosa looks to be overpaid at $7.6 million – but this is an expiring contract and he packs an offensive punch off the bench.
What does this mean for the Pacers? Take the expiring contracts of Barbosa and Foster (who recently retired), and add it to the amnestied James Posey, and Indiana has $16 million of cap flexibility with these three players. And while thought needs to be given to keeping some of the underpaid young men on the squad, this situation gives Indiana flexibility to obtain that final piece.
Around the nucleus of Granger, West, Hibbert, George, Hansbrough, Hill and Collison, look for the Pacers to make a move next season for the title. Looking at the roster, it might be time for an upgrade at the point guard position. Ultimately, it may come down to who’s available on the market at the right price, and who will mesh well with the talented roster.
Who should the Pacers make a run for in the offseason?