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Value Of Jeff Foster Increasing In Current Role With Indiana Pacers

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No, I'm not going to debate who should or should not be playing power forward for the Indiana Pacers right now.

Instead I just want to think out loud about the value of playing Jeff Foster in the role he's assumed over the past few games.

Jim O'Brien and the team are interested in winning every game possible this year, desperately seeking some playoff experience. Right now, based on his recent play, Foster offers the best combination of defense and rebounding at the power forward position. He's even been a low usage contributor on the offensive end.

Certainly he's been doing this in practice, no? Seems like a strange coincidence that Josh McRoberts strains an abdominal (even though he appeared able to play) and Foster just happens to jump into the playing rotation and starts firing on all cylinders.

Foster's play has started generating the low hum of a classic trade buzz gathering steam and now that he's shown he can supplement a championship contender's front-court depth, his value to the Pacers continues to rise. All of this has me asking myself questions, like: Did the Pacers suddenly start playing Foster to win games or to show he could still play?

More questions after the jump.

So playing Foster now offers great value to the Pacers. First and foremost, his defense and rebounding can help them win games, and winning games is a great thing. But if the team keeps stumbling through the schedule hovering just below .500, cashing in on Foster's value before the trade deadline would be even more valuable.

As evidence of the trade buzz brewing on a low simmer, a couple of recent items far outside the Indiana state lines caught my attention. First, Foster's name was mentioned by Orlando Magic beat writer, Brian Schmitz in a blog post about dealing J.J. Redickto fill the Magic's need for front-court depth. Sounds a bit nutty and I figured Schmitz tapped Foster because the salaries worked.

The positive reaction to the idea from Orlando fans made me realize Foster's value was indeed in play around the league. Ironically, there's also a little buzz that the Magic may be interested in Troy Murphy.

Also, in the "I'm Feelin'..." section of his monster Monday morning column at NBA.com, which included a lengthy section on Gilbert Arenasjoining the Orlando Magic, David Aldridge mentioned Foster moving among the things his instincts as a long-time NBA scribe have him feeling.

6) Somebody -- and I'm not necessarily saying it's Otis Smith, but somebody -- is going to get Jeff Foster (seven points, 11 rebounds, four blocks against New Orleans Monday) for the stretch drive, and be very happy about it.

So now, if Foster can stay relatively healthy, his value appears primed to go viral around the league. A potential big-man darling of the trade deadline. What team wouldn't want a hard-working, model teammate with the maturity to sit two games and then compete like a mother for 25 minutes in the third game all boxed up in a low-risk package wrapped with an expiring contract bow?

When I stop to think about the situation, various scenarios seem to make sense. I"m no conspiracy theorist, but those thoughts also generate more questions.

Have the Pacers been playing this hand all along? Did they want to limit Foster's minutes throughout the year to make sure he was primed and ready for the title-contender trade market to get serious? Did they lean on Foster's injury recovery to keep him fresh while giving Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough a chance to develop and battle for some legitimate playing time?

I'm sure the stock answer to any and all of the above questions from anyone down at the Fieldhouse, especially Jim O'Brien, would be that the Pacers are just trying to win the next game and play the best players available each night.

One last question: Am I nuts?