All is quiet on the Blue & Gold front. After much speculation, the Atlanta Hawks opted to keep their core intact. Minnesota, allegedly unable to come to terms with the Milwaukee Bucks, decided to hang onto Ricky Rubio. Lance Stephenson was traded to the Grizzlies. And, in keeping with Frank Vogel's assertion that the Pacers were not "shopping" their starting point guard, Indiana's offense will still be helmed by George Hill.
Yet in choosing not to make a move, Larry Bird may have actually acquired exactly what this team needed most: stability.
Whether it be due to extended injury, fatigue, personal reasons, or making-a-go of small-ball through the first half of the season, the Pacers have only played four games with George Hill, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Myles Turner, and Ian Mahinmi all in the starting lineup.
Though the sample size is minuscule, the early returns are nonetheless encouraging. With Turner at power forward, Indiana is averaging more possessions per 48 minutes than the team's most used starting unit from last season and are outscoring opponents by 19.2 points per 100 possessions. Over the last five games, they are posting a league-best Defensive Rating (82.1), minimum 40 minutes played.
There is no guarantee any of this will hold over a larger sample, but the numbers suggest it is well-worth it to find out.
"With the talent that we have, this game is all mental," Monta Ellis told the Indy Star's Nate Taylor. "We have the talent and the players to accomplish anything we want. It's just sometimes a season can get frustrating and things don't go the way we want them to go and we lose sight of things. I just had to get everybody and just reboot their minds."
Indiana's starting guard has a point. If the Pacers had won even 50 percent of the games they've lost this season by six points or less, they would currently sit at third place (34-19) in the Eastern Conference.
Also, getting Rodney Stuckey back (eventually) should provide the Pacers with a post All-Star break boon. Since he suffered a right foot injury against the Phoenix Suns on January 12, Indiana's most-used all reserve unit is barely breaking even against opponents (Net Rating: 2.1). The Blue & Gold's most-used 5-man unit with Stuckey joined by George Hill in the back court alongside Chase Budinger, Lavoy Allen, and Jordan Hill outscores opponents by 19.2 points per 100 possessions.
Larry Bird recently spoke about the sixth man's value in a Q-and-A with Pacers.com's Mark Montieth:
Yeah, if you start making some shots. C.J. is the key. The one thing that hurt us the most this year is Rodney Stuckey going out. That's really hurt us. He was anchoring that second unit. He had games last year where he scored 18, 20, sometimes 30 points a game. The glue guy for the second unit is not there.
By standing pat, Bird gains time to further evaluate exactly what he has in this team before deciding what he needs in next season's when the cap explodes. Not even finding a more "suitable situation" for Chase Budinger, this year's trade deadline was obviously uneventful. But for a team in need of solidifying their identity, boring is preferable to fireworks.