INDIANAPOLIS, IN—The Pacers finished a dismal 32-50 last season. The team has the 10th pick in the upcoming NBA Draft and also received the Mavericks 2nd round pick which completed the Shawne Williams trade. The need for a prime-time point guard is apparent, especially after the injury to A.J. Price. Indiana could also be looking at a big man in the draft, or may end up trading the pick. The Pacers seem to have an infinite amount of options in front of them; what they choose may decide the fate of the team.
Recently, some truly intriguing names have been brought up in the discussion of the Pacers point guard problem. With the emergence of George Hill, Tony Parker seems to be more available then previously anticipated. The Pacers could ship their number 10 draft pick, an expiring contract such as Mike Dunleavy or Troy Murphy, and a young player for the all-star Parker. Parker also has an expiring contract which brings into question the point of the trade. Why would the Pacers give up their lottery pick, in addition to some young talent, for a player who will most likely leave after one season. Parker's expiring contract will help alleviate cap space, but Dunleavy's contract would accomplish the same task.
Baron Davis is not happy with his team in Los Angeles and would quickly give Indiana a star at point guard. However, the risk would outweigh the reward. Davis has a hefty contract and could be impatient with the Pacers rebuilding process. Indiana would need to give up their draft pick in addition to a couple of young players such as Brandon Rush. Despite the temptation to go after Parker and Davis, Indiana's point guard issues will not be resolved by either veteran.
The most simple option may be the best for Indiana: use their draft pick to take a point guard. Eric Bledsoe could end up being a steal after being overshadowed and pushed to shooting guard by John Wall. He has excellent court vision and could have played point guard at many other schools. Bledsoe plays with a chip on his shoulder and a toughness the Pacers need. Another option also exists in New Orleans. With Chris Paul set to be healthy, Darren Collison could conceivably be pried away for the right price. Collison was impressive taking over for Paul as a rookie. He has proven he can lead an NBA team while being a dynamic presence on the floor. The best move would be to find a way to get Collison to Indiana, however, Bledsoe would also be a viable option.
A great deal of decision making by the Pacers will revolve around their draft pick. There has been talk focused on big men Ekpe Udoh and Hassan Whiteside. While both players have promise, the Pacers just drafted Tyler Hansbrough who has yet to have the opportunity to prove himself due to injury. Roy Hibbert also exceeded expectations and has room to improve.
The Pacers are not in a good position to make a run at any key free agents this offseason. With an abundance of expiring contracts after the season, Indiana should look to trade some of the players and focus on the next free agent class. Coming off the books after this season will be: Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford, Jeff Foster, Soloman Jones, and Josh McRoberts. The key of the bunch is Murphy. The Pacers should decide this offseason whether they plan to re-sign the 6' 11", 245 pound former Irishman. If they choose to let Murphy leave, the Pacers must trade him while his value is highest. Murphy's double-double average is hard to ignore and seems to be evidence to re-sign him. However, does his age, 30, fit into Larry Bird's rebuilding vision? Mike Dunleavy most likely has little value in the current trade market, but the Pacers may take most anything for the struggling guard.
The final decision the Pacers should be contemplating has already been made. Larry Bird has stood behind head coach Jim O' Brien despite his lack of success and the Pacers regression. Under O'Brien the Pacers finished consecutive seasons 20 games under .500. Last year they finished four games worse despite heading into the season with heightened expectations. The coach has been uninspiring on the sidelines and does not bring the tenacity which the organization craves. O'Brien had brief success with the Celtics, but resigned over philosophical differences with general manager Danny Ainge. Ainge was looking at a long term rebuilding process and traded two of O'Brien's favorite players which led to his sudden resignation. Seemingly, O'Brien is in a similar rebuilding situation where hardworking, admirable men may have to be shipped off. If the Pacers are looking to the future, they need someone who can be committed to staying in Indiana for the long haul while building a special relationship with a young nucleus.
The Pacers future is impossible to determine. The team's options are limitless as new possibilities seem to sprout daily. The need for a point guard is obvious to everyone involved in the organization. Hovering over the team is talk of a move if the Pacers are forced to continually cover the operating cost of Conseco Fieldhouse. The Pacers are trying to reorganize their roster as well as their image. After the last three seasons, the only place to go is up.