Back in his hey-day Larry “The Legend” Bird said, “When I was young, I never wanted to leave the court until I got things exactly correct. My dream was to become a pro.” Now, Bird, President of Basketball Operations with the Pacers, has a tough task ahead of him. Probably the hardest job he has had since retiring from the NBA as a player. The task? Rebuilding the Indiana Pacers, who many believe is one of the tougher rebuilding jobs in the NBA right now.
The foundation is there. Danny Granger, the forth year swingman out of New Mexico, has emerged as the primary scorer and leader of the Indiana Pacers. Fifth in the NBA in scoring (25.8 PPG), Granger has also excelled defensively; guarding primarily the opposing teams best offensive threat.
Barring some Magic in New York during the NBA Draft Lottery on May 19<sup>th</sup>, the Pacers will select the 13<sup>th</sup> pick in the draft. The obvious need is a defensive minded Power Forward, but in a draft class that is not too deep with big man talent outside of consensus top 5 picks Blake Griffin and Hasheem Thabeet, the Pacers will have to select the best available player. Last year, the Pacers selected Jarred Bayless, and later traded him to Portland for Brandon Rush among others, and later acquired Roy Hibbert in a trade with the Raptors sending Jermaine O’Neal, and his hefty contract, out of Indiana. Rush emerged towards the end of the season when he was given the starter job. He will likely keep that job starting next year, but Hibbert has struggled a little bit. Roy has shown flashes of brilliance, only to get in foul trouble. Out of players that played at least forty games, Hibbert led the NBA with 10.2 fouls/48 Minutes. Troy Murphy was sensational. He became the only player in NBA History to finish in the top 5 in both 3PT% and Rebounding. Only Larry Bird finished Top 10 in both categories. But he is a big defensive liability.
The Pacers have a lot of contracts coming off the books this year. The way the numbers break down, they will have 8-10 MM in CAP room this summer to sign talent. Some will be used to re-sign Jarrett Jack who emerged as the starting PG, passing T.J. Ford. They have their Mid-Level Exemption as well to sign a player. A trade for a big man is not out of the picture either, as the Hornets and Knicks will be looking to unload the contracts of Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry respectively. But the primary goal for Bird and the Pacers should be re-signing Jarrett Jack. Granger, the cornerstone of the franchise, meshes very well with Jack.
Although the Pacers finished 10 games below .500, there is optimism for them. They are the only team in the NBA to beat each of the division leaders at least once. They play up to their competition, but play down to teams they should beat as well such as the Wizards and Thunder. But the goal was clearly to make the playoffs with Larry Birds refusal to use the R word…rebuilding, even though the Pacers are clearly in rebuilding mode. “We’re disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs, but we did some outstanding things despite that,” Coach Jim O’Brien said.
I will be posting a more in depth article at a look at each individual player who projects to be on the roster next season. So check back often! Feedback is welcome, and comments are encouraged.