20130429-135523.jpgThe sense of inevitability doesn’t make it much easier to swallow.

We’ve known for a while Tyler Hansbrough’s days with the Pacers were numbered. They were numbered as soon as David West was signed as a free agent to be the team’s rock at power forward. But the news Tuesday night that Hansbrough had agreed to a two-year contract with the Toronto Raptors shouldn’t pass without a reaction.

The Pacers will miss Hansbrough. He was an absolute Tasmanian Devil off the bench, the guy opponents most hated, the player most likely to get in some kind of incident – be it with Shane Battier, Chris Andersen or even a former teammate such as Mike Dunleavy. When Hansbrough checked in, you knew something was going to happen, especially if the other team had a former Duke player on the floor. The old Carolina blood never stopped boiling.

Pacers will miss Hansbrough's energy, aggression and toughness off the bench. (Photo: Icon SMI)

Pacers will miss Hansbrough’s energy, aggression and toughness off the bench. (Photo: Icon SMI)

In Toronto, he may not get the opportunity to start, but his competition for minutes looks pretty thin. Amir Johnson is the Raptors’ starter at power forward, and he’s quite a few steps down from West. Toronto is looking for strength, grit and toughness for its frontcourt, and that makes Hansbrough a perfect fit.

While it is difficult to watch a lottery pick (No. 13 in 2009) walk away with no compensation, the Pacers had little choice. It would’ve cost more than $4 million to retain him, effectively tying their hands in free agency – or pushing them into the luxury tax realm, which becomes even more punitive in its punishment this season.

Hansbrough needs to play – a lot – to be effective. In 38 career starts, he averaged 14.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and .496 shooting. In 208 games off the bench, he averaged 8.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and .405 shooting.

Last season was a reflection of his career norm. He started eight games, averaging 14.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and .488 shooting. In 73 off the bench, the averages were 6.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and .417.

In 35 career playoff games, his numbers dropped to 16.3 minutes, 5.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and .366 shooting.

I hope it works out for Hansbrough in Toronto. I hope he gets the opportunity he wants, because he most assuredly will capitalize on it.

>> PENDERGRAPH TO SPURS, YOUNG TO KINGS?

Before we celebrate the Pacers’ signings of Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson later this afternoon in a press conference at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, let’s take a moment to see where their former — and outgoing — players are headed.

With news of Jeff Pendergraph’s two-year agreement with the Spurs, the Pacers suddenly find themselves without a true backup power forward and limited means to add one. They have 14 players under contract for 2013-14 and a payroll exceeding $68 million – well over the salary cap of $58.679 million and approaching the luxury tax level of $71.748.

Technically, they have one roster spot and roughly $2 million available to invest, but historically the Pacers prefer to head into the season with at least one spot open in order to maintain roster flexibility.

Sam Young has not reached an agreement, but has drawn strong interest from Sacramento. There has been no word of potential landing spots for D.J. Augustin or Ben Hansbrough.

Here are the contract updates for some other ex-Pacers: Jarrett Jack (four years, $25 million, Cleveland); Josh McRoberts (two years, $6 million, Charlotte); Darren Collison (two years, Clippers); Mike Dunleavy (two years, $6 million, Chicago); Jermaine O’Neal (Warriors, terms unknown); Earl Watson (one year, $1.4 million, Portland).

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