The NBA trade market opened up after December 15 which made summer free agent signings available to include in trades prior to the February 20th trade deadline.
The Pacers have the best record in the league and the kind of team chemistry no mere mortal would dare mess with while sitting atop the Eastern Conference. Of course, the Pacers legendary team president, Larry Bird doesn't linger around us mortals when it comes to matters of basketball. While discussing the remarkable start with Mark Montieth in an extensive Q & A, Bird said he wouldn't hesitate to make a move before the deadline.
LB: I don't know about the best team. We have the best record, but that will wash out at the end of the year. If I have an opportunity to make one more move, I'm going to make it.
MM: I was going to ask if your roster is set.
LB: It's never set. If you can do something that makes them better, you do it. Yesterday we went over every team and picked out some targets. We don't know what teams are going to do with a lot of their players. I'm not into making big trades, especially with our core group, but if we can pick up a player who can help us, we will do that.
So let's assume the Pacers are indeed a willing participant in the NBA trade market, what are they looking to accomplish. There are two big factors involved -- Danny Granger's health and Lance Stephenson's future.
The Pacers desperately need a viable wing option off the bench to generate offense with the reserve unit and give Paul George and Lance Stephenson a chance to rest. Danny Granger is exactly the type of player they need in that role if he can stay healthy.
Lance Stephenson's situation won't be resolved until this summer, but if the Pacers feel their chances of retaining Born Ready's services past this year are slipping out of their price range, they may want be willing to work a deal for his replacement who can also support the playoff run this season.
Starting Friday, Danny Granger will return to the court with the plan to gradually work him into a heavy reserve role that will keep Frank Vogel from having to run Paul George into the ground. The strained calf is not an issue, but the chronic knee tendinosis is always a concern. After so much time off, what type of game Granger eventually has to offer will take some time to determine. But by the time the trade deadline rolls around in late February, the Pacers should know enough to decide whether or not they need to make a move.
What type of players would the Pacers look to add?
If the Pacers are considering life after Lance AND a player who can bolster their playoff effort this season, the current market in the Eastern Conference may offer a couple of options. There are plenty of teams looking ahead to the next draft and beyond with solid players on their roster who may not be in the long-term plans due to timing, contract terms or position.
OPTION 1: Arron Afflalo is having a monster year for Orlando, but if the Magic are focusing more on next summer than current win totals, they may be willing to grab some big salary cap space. Afflalo and Jason Maxiell for Danny Granger and Orlando Johnson (or pick your filler) works for this season, again, assuming Granger doesn't have what the Pacers need.
Maxiells $2.5 million contract is not guaranteed for next year, which would leave the Pacers with Afflalo for $7.5 million next year with a player option for 2015-16. This is the Lance range, so this would give the Pacers a two-guard to plug in if Lance cashes in big.
OPTION 2: The Boston Celtics are certainly not opposed to tinkering with their roster in order to look ahead. A deal that doesn't involve Danny Granger but adds an option to fill in for Lance would be to deal Chris Copeland and Orlando Johnson for Indy native, Courtney Lee. Obviously not as dynamic as Stephenson, but Lee would fit into the defensive mind set of the Pacers and would also have the blessing of another local legend, George Hill to join forces for the Blue and Gold.
Lee has two years after this season remaining on a contract that will pay him $5.45 million next season and $5.675 in 2015-16 (all salary info via Sham Sports). That's a pretty strong commitment for Lee, who won't put up gaudy numbers. He is also a career 39% shooter from behind the arc, although this season he's made 49% of his 3-ball attempts.
OK, this is a community effort so let me know what you think about these trade options and more importantly, fire up the Trade Machine and find some more deals that would work and then share with the class. What other targets do you think might be on Larry Bird's list?