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Contributions From McRoberts Could Give Pacers Options

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Allow me to completely overreact for a moment here and consider the long-term implications of the Josh McRoberts potentially emerging as a factor on the court sooner rather than later. Josh initially raised my eyebrows with his play while Murph was sick in the win at Philly and the close loss to the Nets. Since those games he's seen spot duty but did get a little burn in the past two W's.

No, McRoberts is not ready for a prime-time role but prime-time spot minutes are well within reason at this point. It also had me wondering what this could mean for Rasho Nesterovic and his expiring contract. Rasho is more of a true center, but at one tenth the cost, McRoberts has shown the ability to defend and keep the offense moving with his athletic ability.

So do the Pacers re-sign Rasho, trade Rasho or let his contract expire and use the cap space next summer? A case can be made for all three but if McRoberts shows he can bring a reliable effort off the bench, then the front office has all three options available.

Looking back to the game against Philly, Josh's comfort level expanded and once he was in the flow you could see the confidence sprouting. As a reminder, T.J. Ford hit the game-winner, but McRoberts played 28 minutes and produced 10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks. He also played meaningful minutes down the stretch of this tight W for the Pacers.

As for Josh's confidence, it was on full display with the 3-ball shots and one play I won't forget for some time. McRoberts had the ball near the hoop after just having a finish at the rim stuffed. With the ball near his ankles, Josh tried a crazy attempt to "hike" the ball to Jeff Foster through traffic before the defense knew what hit it. Of course, Foster was equally unaware and the ball was turned over but there is something special in that boniest of bone-headed plays.

No doubt, the play was a time and game-situation awareness FAIL!  But how many players in the league even have that play cross their mind? Of that subset, how many players have the guts to think they can actually make the play? And of that smaller subset, how many would actually attempt the "hike" without hesitation?

Imagination and assertiveness are great resources to tap into for a developing NBA talent. They can also serve a player well as his game matures and he really figures out how he has to play to maximize his ability and minimize his limitations. Finding unique ways to make plays can be the difference between a bench player and a role player, a role player and a starter, or a starter and a star in the NBA.

Just where Josh's game eventually falls on that continuum is impossible to forecast at this point, but he's shown there's plenty of game there to develop. In a season already overflowing with unlikely story lines, the signs of emergence from Josh McRoberts may be the most pleasantly surprising story of the year.