Even though the Indiana Pacers came up short in the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat, I think Herb Simon, Larry Bird and the Pacers brass were pretty happy with the results of the season. Bankers’ Life Fieldhouse was rocking for Game 3 of the Heat series (I know because I was there), and the fans are ready to embrace NBA basketball in Indiana again.
Even with everything positive they have going there is still work to be done this summer. There is one area of the team that really needs improvement. Let’s look specifically at the playoff series against the Heat. When the starting lineup of Hibbert – West – Granger – George – Hill were on the court the Pacers outscored the Heat by 58 points. When the Pacers had at least one bench player on the court the Heat outscored them by 97 points. That is a problem that needs to be addressed. I’m assuming the Pacers are will look to resign the two starters that are in the final year of their contract: Roy Hibbert and George Hill. Hibbert is a no-brainer and Hill should also be retained unless they decide to go after a higher caliber FA point guard (ideas below). Here are 5 ideas to bolster the bench for the Pacers next year:
1. Sign FA Lou Williams
This is a relatively simple solution. Lou Williams has been one of the best 6th men in the league for the last several years. If not for James Harden‘s superb year, Lou would have won 6th man of the year in 2012. The Pacers signed Leandro Barbosa to be their scorer off the bench for the stretch run last year. The problem was that Barbosa was extremely inefficient on offense and was a liability on defense. Barbosa’s PER in 2012 was just over 14 compared to 20 for Lou Williams. Lou Williams would be a huge upgrade and would give the Pacers the #1 scoring option they need off the bench.
2. Sign FA Darrell Arthur
Darrell Arthursat out the entire 2011-2012 season due to an Achilles injury. Before that setback though he was blossoming into a solid young big man for the Memphis Grizzlies. Tyler Hansbrough has not produced to the level that the Pacers need as the first big man off the bench. Arthur is extremely versatile. He’s tall enough to challenge centers on the defensive side of the ball, and he has the range to consistently hit 18 foot jumpers on offense. A rotation of Roy Hibbert, David West, and Darrell Arthur would matchup well with an opposing bigs.
3. Trade Danny Granger for Derrick Williams and Jose Juan Barea. Sign multiple FA’s
This could be a difficult move for Pacers fans to grasp. Danny Granger has been the face of the franchise for the last few years. Unfortunately, if the Pacers are going to make a trade to improve their future the one valuable piece that other teams would desire would be Granger. This trade weakens the Pacers starting lineup, but gives them a combo SF/PF in Derrick Williams with loads of potential and instant offense off the bench from Barea. The best part of this deal though is that it gives the Pacers more cap flexibility to sign additional free agents to further improve the bench.
4. Sign FA Courtney Lee
This is probably the option with the lowest amount of sex appeal, but could be a very effective signing for the Pacers. Lee is an outstanding 3 point shooter and defender. He may not be as good of a scorer as Lou Williams, but he can do all of the little things that help teams win games. He’s also from Indianapolis originally so the Pacers could potentially get a hometown discount if Lee is interested in returning to Indy.
This is the move that could really move the Pacers into the group of elite NBA teams. Deron Williams is an All-Star point guard that’s proven he can lead a playoff team. By not re-signing George Hill and swapping Granger for the more economical Paul Millsap, the Pacers would have enough cap room to offer Deron Williamsa max contract. The Utah Jazz have an abundance of big men in Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Paul Millsap. One of those guys is expendable, and I think they would love to have a dynamic wing like Granger. Millsap would complete the rotation of bigs with Hibbert and West. A defensive stopper like Dahntay Jones could be inserted into the starting lineup in place of Granger and the Pacers could use their remaining cap space to sign a scoring wing to come off the bench. A core of Roy Hibbert, Paul Millsap, Paul George, and Deron Williamsis a formidable group that could challenge for an NBA title for years to come.