by Kent Sterling
For a team that keeps taking positive strides toward winning a championship, there sure are a bunch of questions about their future.
Power forward David West will be a free agent, and the Pacers will almost certainly try to back back the emotional bellwether for the team. Until West signed two years ago, the Pacers were young and soft. Now, they bring a tough-mindedness that they certainly don’t want to cede.
Danny Granger is a different issue. During his first four seasons, he became the first player in NBA history to improve his points per game average by more than five points in each. Since then, his average has dropped each year. He’s under contract through next year, but has great trade value as an expiring contract and rental shooter.
If he stays with the Pacers, Granger could return to the starting lineup as a wing, or be the primary offensive weapon of the second unit.
Then there is the question of Larry Bird’s return to the Pacers front office. What role would he fill, and how would he fit with the current structure. The Pacers already have a lot of people with important titles. Jim Morris is the president, Donnie Walsh is the president of basketball operations, Kevin Pritchard is the general manager, and Cathedral grad Peter Dinwiddie is the vice president of basketball ops. Maybe Bird could be a special provost or ombudsman.
Here’s a breakdown of each question looming at Bankers Life Fieldhouse:
David West’s return
- West is a no-nonsense guy with a strong work ethic who has shown the Pacers how to be professionals.
- He’s comparatively cheap as a soon-to-be 33 year-old just below all-star caliber player.
- West isn’t terribly athletic anyway, so any loss in athleticism as he enters the twilight of his career will be small.
- West will turn 33 on August 29th, and that means he is closer to the end than the beginning. Injuries are more likely, and there will be a slow diminution of quality of play. Investing another $10 million per year for two or three years is not without risk.
- The money need to sign West could be used to strengthen a bench is dire need of strengthening (of course, a strong bench with a weak starting five is a terrible alternative than a strong starting five and weak bench).
This is a no brainer. If West wants to come back, and he says that he does, the Pacers should find a way to get this done. West has great value as a player and leader at a position where the Pacers have Tyler Hansbrough as the alternative.
Danny Granger – trade/return
- Granger could be disruptive to the chemistry and development of this young team, and the value of what he might bring in a trade could solidify the bench.
- If Granger bump the emotional Lance Stephenson from the starting lineup, he could go into a serious funk from which recovery would be difficult.
- His knee issues were the reason he fell as far as he did in the 2005 NBA Draft, and knees don’t improve because of the repeated shock caused by running and jumping on wooden planks for hours at a time. While only 30, Granger’s knees have absorbed a lot of abuse.
- The Pacers took a big step forward this season by making it to the very brink of the NBA Finals without Granger. Whether his return will be a net positive is unknown. What is known is that he wasn’t needed to get to where the Pacers were last night.
- The Pacers bench production made it very difficult to compete with the Heat. While the Pacers brought Sam Young, D.J. Augustine, Sam Young, Ian Mahinmi, and Tyler Hansbrough off the bench, the Heat answered with Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Chris Anderson, and either Mike Miller or Shane Battier. If Granger assumes the Allen role, the Pacers get much better.
- Granger is a very good shooter, and shooters are always valuable.
- Until the question of whether Granger can be a net positive for the Pacers is answered, why not keep him.
I’m not sure there is a bad decision to be made here, if the offers for Granger are reasonable. If he stays and is healthy, the Pacers are better regardless of whether he comes off the bench or starts. If he goes, the approximately $12M-$16M is players who bounce to the Pacers will improve the roster.
Larry Bird coming back
- Bird is a diligent appraiser of personnel. He sees what others don’t, like Paul George, the only all-star from the 2010 NBA Draft despite being taken 10th.
- Bird is a very patient executive who will doesn’t make bad deals. He traded Jermaine O’Neal for the draft rights to Roy Hibbert (it was a more complicated deal, but that was the important outcome).
- How many chefs do the Pacers need in that kitchen? If Walsh is going to stick around, I have no idea what all these guys are going to do or who will be in charge. If three men are running things, no one is running things.
There are people who say an organization is better off with one bad manager than three good ones. I think those people are morons. Putting smart people in a room is always a good idea. As long as roles are well-defined, the more the merrier.