The Pacers lost their first-round series when C.J. Mile 15-footer fell short in game one. From that moment on the Pacers were just another team LeBron James would beat on his way to 21 straight first round wins.
The body is still warm on the Pacers 2016-17 season but it's time to peak into the future. The Pacers have decisions to make on players up and down their roster. Here are of the most pressing questions before the Pacers even hold their end of season press conference.
Do the Pacers re-sign Jeff Teague?
Be prepared for Teague to get at least a $100 million offer from the Pacers or another interested team. I know it seems crazy! But, look at Mike Conley who got a $150 million deal last year with the Memphis Grizzlies. In 2016, Conley’s last year before his new contract, he averaged 15 PPG and 7 APG on 42 percent shooting. Teague’s stats this year are almost identical, 15 PPG and 8 APG on 44 percent shooting.
Teague’s offer from the Pacers could also rely heavily on Paul George. If George is traded the Pacers could offer Teague the max and make him their marquee player, or Indiana could go other way and keep their cap space as they rebuild.
The Pacers could also make a run at a big name free agent which could put the re-signing of Teague in jeopardy if they must renounce his rights. Does Indiana try to sign another hometown kid in Gordon Hayward?
The Pacers could also get Hayward and re-sign Teague if they can trade some of their more expensive contracts (Monta Ellis and/or Al Jefferson). The more likely situation given Larry Bird’s stance on rebuilding and Teague’s desire to stay in his hometown is for Teague to re-sign.
Can the Pacers trade Monta Ellis or Al Jefferson?
Ellis is the more likely of the pair to get traded because he’s the more effective player. Ellis is due $11.7 million this year and next year. Jefferson is due about $9.8 million next year and partially guaranteed $4 million the following year. No team is going to want either player without the Pacers first round pick attached to the trade.
According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe Ellis’ contract has some weird language, if he’s cut before the end of the 2018 season his 2019 season salary is not guaranteed. The Pacers used this loophole to cut Rodney Stuckey and clear $7 million in cap space for this offseason. That could make Ellis’ contract an expiring deal for any team that trades for him.
Jefferson is not due a ton of money, but he’s an ineffective player in today’s faster NBA. If the Pacers really think they can get a max level free agent they could package a couple of picks with Jefferson or Ellis to dump their salaries.
McMillan, Pritchard, and Bird, who stays and who goes?
The Pacers have reconfigured their roster over the past two seasons to play faster. Last offseason Indiana traded George Hill for Jeff Teague, fired Frank Vogel and hired Nate McMillan, and traded for Thaddeus Young in an attempt too show Paul George they were serious about winning. For all the Pacers moves they won three less games and got swept in the first round.
I’m sure if not today sometime in the next week some prominent Indiana columnist are going to start pointing fingers at Bird or McMillian, but they shouldn’t. This season sucked, the Pacers had lofty goals of being a top three team in the East but failed to even come within nine games of the three seed.
You can’t expect to bring in two new starters, start a second-year player at center, and rotate multiple players at the shooting guard position and win right away, it takes time to build a continuity. Give Bird and McMillan another year continue building on this season.
Next year Pacer fans can expect Myles Turner and Glenn Robinson to get better. Lance Stephenson will get a full offseason with the team. I would expect him to either win the starting shooting guard job, if Robinson doesn’t, or become Indiana’s sixth man.
Pacer fans need to relax. After the past two decades Bird has built four different teams (1997-2000, 2002-2005, 2011-2014, 2016-present). Each time the teams came up short but they were competitive. Two of those teams ran up against two of the greatest duos in NBA history, James-Wade and Bryant-Shaq. The other team should have played for a championship if Ron Artest didn’t run into the stands in Detroit.
With all those things being said it could have been a worse two decades, just look at the Knicks. However, if Paul George leaves next summer, then PANIC.
Does Paul George re-sign this summer, play out the last year of his deal, or get traded?
Both the All-NBA vote and the draft lottery will influence what could be eventually called the summer of Paul George.
The Los Angeles Lakers want Paul George so badly. Los Angeles wants George more than I want my grandmother to stop asking me about my GPA. The only way The Lakers have a shot this summer at getting George is if there pick falls in the top three, preferably number one. If the pick is not top three the Lakers pick goes to Philly. Los Angeles has about a 47 percent chance of the pick falling in the top three, and a 15 percent chance it being first overall.
The same draft lottery applies to the Boston Celtics. Depending on how Boston does in the playoffs they could feel they are a player away from winning the East. The Celtics lottery pick, through Brooklyn, has a 25 percent chance of being the first pick, and a 65 percent chance of being in the top three.
If both Boston and Los Angeles fall in the top three in this summer’s draft the Pacers could use them to bid against each other.
More importantly to Pacer fans is the All-NBA vote. Indiana needs Paul George to make the third team All-NBA so they can evaluate this summer whether he’ll stay or leave in a year from now. If the Pacers can offer him the $200 million max contract and he turns it down then Bird and company will know they must trade George.
Think how hard it will be for George to turn down that kind of money? Three years ago, I was not even sure George would play basketball ever again. I know if George signs with another team next summer he’ll still get $125 million. You know what the difference between $125 million and $200 million is, 75 FREAKING million dollars! I know George wants to win but how many times do athletes turn down the money?