Couldn't agree more. Berman is one of the top 10 (wait...let's double check ESPN's roster...), top 5 talents ESPN has. In fact, I propose a White House petition to bring back, back, back, back, back the Berman/Jackson NFL Primetime.
Pacers Overall Team Grade
The Pacers clearly went with the best available player philosophy as they came into the draft needing a point guard and an athletic big, but ended up selecting a pair of wing players with their first two picks. Both George and Stephenson have a lot of potential but likely won't help Indiana win right away which was supposedly a goal of GM Larry Bird's. I'd be surprised if Rolle made the roster. (Grade: C-)
10. Paul George, SF, Fresno State
Surprising pick because the Pacers need an athletic big or a point guard which George is neither of. He has crazy upside, but isn't Danny Granger already on the team? I would have taken Eric Bledsoe or Ed Davis. (Pick Grade: Don't Get It)
40. Lance Stephenson, SG, Cincinnati
Stephenson is a terrific value here as I think he can develop into something special if given the time. Bird is clearly going with the best available player philosophy because I wasn't sure how Paul George would fit on the roster, let alone where Stephenson fits. Great value, bad landing spot. (Pick Grade: Don't Get It)
57. Ryan Reid, PF, Florida State
How difficult is it to gauge the second round of the NBA Draft? I never once thought of putting Reid as one of the top 60 players. Indiana does need an athletic big man and Reid fits that mold. I just can't see him sticking on an NBA roster. (Pick Grade: HUH?)
2009-10 Season Summary:
Without sugar coating it, the Pacers just did not have enough talent to compete for a playoff spot this past season. They finished with their fourth-straight losing season and worst record in more than a decade. And that mark only looks somewhat not terrible because Indy ended up winning 11 of its final 16 games, which is the opposite of tanking late in the season to help your lottery odds.
Outside of Danny Granger who continues to develop into one of the most talented, versatile and unheralded wing players in the league, Indiana really has nobody who should be a starter in the NBA besides Troy Murphy and maybe Roy Hibbert. MAYBE. Rookie Tyler Hansbrough, who was supposed to bring toughness and energy to the Pacers in his rookie season, was hampered all year long by injuries and only played in 29 games. The point guard situation also remained a mess.
Where Indiana has been hurt the past few seasons is the awful contracts their average players are signed to which makes it practically impossible to trade them. Look at some of their salaries for last season: Mike Dunleavy ($10.5 million), Murphy ($11 million), T.J. Ford ($8.5), Jeff Foster ($6.1), Jamaal Tinsley (who hasn't played a game with the Pacers the past two seasons, $5.5 million). All five players are still under contract for next season, and those overblown contracts have limited the team's offseason flexibility which has resulted in below-average talent on the floor.
2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Roy Hibbert/Jeff Foster/Solomon Jones/Magnum Rolle
PF: Tyler Hansbrough/Josh McRoberts
SF: Danny Granger/James Posey/Mike Dunleavy/Paul George
SG: Brandon Rush/Dahntay Jones/Lance Stephenson
PG: Darren Collison/T.J. Ford/A.J. Price
NBA Free Agents:
PG Earl Watson
G Luther Head
2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $60.6 million
2010-11 Expected League Salary Cap: $56.1 million
Pacers acquire PG Darren Collison and SF James Posey in four-way trade that sends PF Troy Murphy to Nets
Pacers acquire C Magnum Rolle from Thunder for PF Ryan Reid and cash considerations
NBA Offseason Needs:
1. An answer at the point- It's never a good sign for your team when you are counting on Earl Watson as your starting point guard, and that is what the Pacers were forced to do this past season. He is a free agent this offseason but should really be a backup in the league. Expected starter T.J. Ford suffered through his worst season since his rookie year and was even benched by Jim O'Brien at one point. Second-round draft pick A.J. Price had a serviceable rookie campaign, but is not the long-term solution. Indiana needs to find a point guard of the future, but with little cap space, that move will either have to come via trade or by reaching for a player like Eric Bledsoe with the 10th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
2. An athletic big- The Pacers' frontcourt has depth and big bodies. But the combination of Hibbert/Foster/Murphy/Hansbrough/McRoberts/Jones screams anything but athleticism. Indiana needs to bring in an athletic big guy who can be a shot-blocking presence and add some versatility on offense. The Pacers were 29th in the league in rebounding and need someone who can sky on the glass. Again, this move will have to come via trade or with the 10th pick where there could be some players who perfectly fit this need. (Ed Davis or Ekpe Udoh?)
3. Get Ready for the Future- For the past couple of seasons, the Pacers have been stuck with a few bad contracts for average players. Next summer however, players like Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy, Jeff Foster, T.J. Ford and Jamaal Tinsley (yes, the Pacers are still paying Tinsley $5.5 million bucks next season) will all be off the books. That will put Indy some $32 million under the cap, meaning they will be one of the major players in free agency next offseason. The Pacers do have another option though; try to swing some trades at the deadline and deal their expiring contracts for players who will help their future re-building efforts.