Depending on who you talk to, the Pacers either whiffed badly or serendipitously missed out by failing to make a move at the trade deadline. By all accounts, the Pacers did attempt to pry Reggie Jackson out of Oklahoma City, but were outbid by a three-team conglomerate.
So ... what now? Playoffs? Late Lottery? Much of that depends on the Pacers' competition for the final two playoff spots. Miami seemingly upgraded with the addition of Goran Dragic, but then received news the following day of Chris Bosh's lung condition. The Celtics added Isaiah Thomas, but learned promptly thereafter of a stress reaction in Jared Sullinger's left foot. He's out indefinitely. Brooklyn added Thaddeus Young for basically nothing. The Pistons landed the talented malcontent, Reggie Jackson, but gave up two rotation players to do so, one of whom plays the same position, and was contributing at a high level (Augustin). Then there are the Hornets who are still as offensively challenged as ever, and without their Most-Valuable Chucker for three more weeks.
Long story short: the answer to 'what now?' is probably, "More of the same." Pacers' fans will undoubtedly follow the rest of the season with one eye on the playoff chase, and the other on draft positioning. Speaking of the draft...
Chad Ford Mocks SG to Pacers
Two days before the trade deadline, Chad Ford released his Mock Draft 3.0 and paired the Pacers with foreign wing man, Mario Hezonja:
The loss of Paul George torpedoes the Pacers' chances of making a run at the playoffs -- unless, that is, he comes back in time for the Pacers to make a late run for the 8-seed. But it does position them to add a nice young player to the mix for next season. The team really needs an athletic, sweet-shooting wing to pair with George. Hezonja is both. He is an explosive leaper and an aggressive scorer, and he has been shooting the ball well this year in Euroleague play.
As Ford mentioned, Hezonja is a rare breed of dynamic athlete to come out of the Euro ranks. The problem is the sample size. Hezonja's only 19-years old and has received the familiar musical-chairs treatment when it comes to playing time with his Euroleague team. Hopefully, the Pacers are keeping an eye on him, anyway, because there's a lot to like when projecting him to the NBA. For a good breakdown of his game, check out Draft Express' scouting video below:
Solomon Hill: Here We Go Again
I once cavalierly stated that Solomon Hill could be a similar player to Wesley Matthews, and how did Hill repay me? He went on a two-month, stink-it-up spree that had many horrified Pacers' fans not only calling foul, but Sam-Young foul. Before the All-Star break, Hill was up to his old tricks, averaging 9.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.6 APG on 55% shooting, and 45% from three in a five-game span. All in about 25 minutes a game.
Because I like torturing myself, I've jumped back on the the Matthews-Solo train, and a recent article by Alex Kennedy from Basketball Insiders chronicling Matthews' rise as an offensive threat only further fueled the fire:
Matthews says that his improvement as a three-point shooter actually started back in Utah during that rookie campaign. As great as he was at providing energy and perimeter defense, he was being taken off of the court because he couldn't contribute on the offensive end...
"When I was in Utah, Coach [Jerry] Sloan was putting me in the game for energy and defense, but on the offensive end I was actually a liability," Matthews said. "Teams wouldn't guard me because they didn't really know a lot about me ... I'm not really a guy who likes coming off the court so I made sure I would get with Jeff Hornacek and become a two-way player so when teams left me open, I would make them pay and knock that shot down. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort and you got to put in the work."
You have to think that Hill is well aware that he's an offensive liability by now. Larry Bird is aware of it, too, and said as much during his most recent session with the media.
So what does Hill do the rest of this season and beyond? Does he take the Matthews' route and work himself into a legitimate offensive threat? Or does he stagnate like Sam Young and so many other close-but-no-cigar players?
Shayne Whittington Honored
Whittington had himself quite a stretch going into the All-Star break. Due to injuries to Ian Mahimni and Lavoy Allen, he received his first dose of consistent minutes and responded well, demonstrating a decent ability to stretch the floor.
During the ASB, the good times continued as he returned home to Michigan, and had his high-school jersey retired.
This got me thinking: which former/current Pacer do you think should be next to have his jersey retired? Admittedly, I've included some uninspiring options in a poll below, but if you've got someone else in mind, feel free to include him in the comments.