2011 NBA Offseason: Indiana Pacers

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Indiana Pacers (Last Year: 37-45)

2011 NBA Draft Team Grades:

Larry Bird played it safe by adding a young, proven commodity who will be an immediate rotation player rather than hoping a mid-first round pick or mid-second round pick pans out. A smart move from a guy who usually plays it safe on draft day. The Pacers definitely got better with this deal. (Team Grade: Makes sense)

Live 2011 NBA Draft Grades:

15. Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State (TRADED FOR GEORGE HILL)
This pick makes a ton more sense now that Leonard has been dealt for George Hill. Hill provides a very solid backup for Darren Collison at the point and can probably play the two alongside Collison as well. (Pick Grade: Makes sense)

*** 2011 NBA Offseason Needs and Free Agents listed below this comment box. ***

2010-11 Season Summary:
After getting off to a 17-27 start to the season, Larry Bird felt a change was needed and fired Jim O’Brien, replacing him with Frank Vogel. Vogel made the most of his opportunity, leading the Pacers to the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Indiana was once again led by Danny Granger who continues to be one of more underrated, well-rounded players in the game. Granger’s scoring numbers did dip a bit, mainly because he took fewer shots as he had better talent around him and did not need to shoulder the load as much as he did the previous two seasons.

That improved supporting cast included point guard Darren Collison who was solid but not spectacular in his first season with the franchise. Roy Hibbert made strides in his third season in the league while Tyler Hansbrough bounced back nicely after an injury-riddled rookie campaign. Mike Dunleavy still battled injuries but was productive in what likely was his final season in Indiana.

Rookie swingman Paul George showed great potential at times during the season as well but also lacked the consistency to be a nightly game changer. If he can continue to develop, he should form a talented, versatile tandem on the wing with Granger.

Now the Pacers enter the offseason in an envious position as one of the few teams under the cap thanks to nearly $33 million in contracts expiring. It is up Bird and the front office to make the most of their flexibility and add to a solid foundation.

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Roy Hibbert

PF: Tyler Hansbrough

SF: Danny Granger/James Posey

SG: Paul George/Brandon Rush/Dahntay Jones/Lance Stephenson

PG: Darren Collison/George Hill/A.J. Price

NBA Free Agents:

SF-Mike Dunleavy (UFA)

PG-T.J. Ford (UFA)

C-Jeff Foster (UFA)

PF-Josh McRoberts (UFA)

F/C- Solomon Jones (UFA)

Offseason Transactions:

Pacers acquire PG George Hill and rights to PF Erazem Lorbek from Spurs for SF Kawhi Leonard and SF Davis Bertans

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $37 million

NBA Offseason Needs:

1. Head Coach: Despite doing a solid job in taking over for Jim O’Brien, the Pacers have still yet to remove the “interim” tag from Frank Vogel and are actually openly looking at other head coaching candidates. This is surprising since Vogel led Indiana to the playoffs and had his team playing competitively in their opening round series with Chicago. Larry Bird did say that Vogel was the frontrunner for the job but has not been shy about keeping his options open if a more attractive candidate is available.

2. Spend Wisely: For the first time in quite a few years, the Pacers have the potential to be major players this offseason due to all the contracts coming off their books. This is a weak class of free agents this offseason though and Indiana might be better off sitting on their hands and saving some of that cap space for next summer when bigger names hit the market. The Pacers could also use that cap space to try and swing a trade to land some talent, but whatever they do, the front office needs to learn from their past mistakes and not stack up a bunch of bad contracts.

3. Frontcourt Depth: With Josh McRoberts, Jeff Foster and Solomon Jones all free agents, that leaves Indiana with just Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough in its frontcourt. The Pacers obviously need to add some depth behind Hibbert and Hansbrough, and should ideally be looking for an athletic big who can get up and down the floor, and someone who can stretch defenses with his outside shooting if McRoberts is not re-signed.

4. Backup Point Guard: T.J. Ford ended up in the Pacers’ doghouse and was used sparingly during the second half of the season which opened up opportunity for A.J. Price to back up Darren Collison at the point. Price really struggled shooting the ball and is not much of a creator off the bounce so Indiana could use an upgrade behind Collison.

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