So far, even with the management switch from Donnie Walsh back to Larry Bird, they’re just about where they stood last year.
>> They’ve reportedly reached an agreement to re-sign their biggest target for big bucks.
David West has agreed to a three-year, $36 million deal, one year after Roy Hibbert maxed out at four years and $58 million.
>> They’ve landed a journeyman backup point guard with initials.
This year it’s C.J., last year it was D.J.
>> They’ve ditched most of their bench.
Tyler Hansbrough’s qualifying offer was rescinded, while Jeff Pendergraph, Ben Hansbrough, Sam Young and Augustin all are free agents.
Last year, Leandro Barbosa, Darren Collison, Lou Amundson, A.J. Price (more initials at the point!) and Dahntay Jones all moved on.
>> They used their first-round draft pick on a four-year college player most analysts had pegged as a deep second-round pick.
Solomon Hill had a much better career at Arizona than Miles Plumlee did at Duke, but also qualifies as something of a reach, if you trust the Chad Fords of the world.
>> And now, just in case you didn’t think you were caught in a time warp, they’re chasing an utterly unproven free agent coming off one reasonable NBA season after years bouncing around the hoops hinterlands.
With J.J. Redick (Clippers), Chase Budinger (Timberwolves) and Tony Allen (Grizzlies) all reportedly off the market, the Pacers appear to have turned their attention to Chris Copeland, who had a nice rookie season in New York as a 28-year-old but has a similar career profile to last year’s Big Mistake, Gerald Green.
Is this any way to chase a championship?
Retaining West was their biggest priority and it has been accomplished. This is most decidedly good, because the Pacers would have no chance to win anything of consequence in 2013-14 without West, but does not represent progress in terms of roster-building.
Watson should be an upgrade over Augustin for one primary reason: he knows how to play well off the bench. For whatever reason, Augustin simply could not make that adjustment and was never comfortable. Watson has done it throughout his career and not only understands and accepts his role, but has the ability to thrive. So that’s a step in the right direction.
It would be virtually impossible to assemble a worse bench than the Pacers fielded in 2012-13, so there’s little chance of a step backward no matter what they do. But the idea is to produce a significant upgrade, and so far the only way that would be possible is if Danny Granger comes all the way back from knee surgery. His return would the second unit a much-needed Alpha scorer – either Granger or Lance Stephenson.
As for the draft, well, there’s almost no way Hill could make less of an impact than Plumlee – who had the least-productive rookie season of any Pacers first-round acquisition since the legendary Greg Minor in 1994. But can provide insurance against Granger’s knee? That’s the big question.
Which brings us to Copeland. Because the Pacers have $50 million tied up in four players (Hibbert, Granger, West and George Hill), and because they must soon throw a max contract Paul George’s way, the franchise remains as bargain-conscious as ever. Copeland can shoot it, but that’s all. He doesn’t have a position defensively and, at his age, it’s unrealistic to expect Copeland to have much in the way of development room. He is what he is, an eighth or ninth man, not a difference-maker.
Granted, it’s still very early in the process. We can only hope there’s at least one move out there we haven’t heard about, something surprising and impactful.
Kyle Korver, previously believed to be a lock to sign with the Nets, now apparently is back in play. Carl Landry is a proven veteran who has expressed interest in signing with the Pacers. Either would represent a major upgrade for the second unit but likely would require the investment of the full mid-level exception (roughly $5.1 million), and would reinforce the message that this franchise is serious about competing for a championship this season.