With each move Larry Bird has made since the end of last season, the underlying message has been clear:
It’s about now, this season, this Indiana team’s chance to win a championship.
The future will just have to wait.
And so it is again, with the trade sending Danny Granger and a future second-round pick to Philadelphia for Evan Turner and LaVoy Allen. The Pacers, who already had 15 players on the roster, had to cut former second-round pick Orlando Johnson to make room.
Though Turner has not played to the level expected of a player drafted No. 2 overall out of Ohio State in 2010 – ahead of Paul George at No. 10 – he represents a younger, more athletic, more versatile and ultimately healthier upgrade for the Indiana bench.
He brings averages of 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists (and 2.9 turnovers) from Philadelphia, numbers that dwarf Granger’s production (8.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, .359 shooting).
The 6-9 Allen averaged 5.2 points and 5.4 rebounds this season with the Sixers. He also is in the final season of a contract.
Turner should provide what the Pacers hoped they would get from Granger – a reliable, potentially game-changing offensive threat off the bench. The second unit has been the target of Bird’s moves, from the trade for Luis Scola to the signing of free agents C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland and, more recently, the pickup of Andrew Bynum.
“We thank Danny for his eight-and-a-half seasons with us and we appreciate everything he did for us in his time here. We felt we needed to make this trade to strengthen the core unit and our bench. In Evan and Lavoy, we think we got two really good players that can help us and we look forward to what they can bring.” — Larry Bird
Thus far, the bench has remained a liability, primarily because it lacked offensive punch. Turner should change that.
Trying to come back from multiple procedures and major surgery on his left knee that caused him to miss all but five games in 2012-13 and the first 25 games this year, Granger has progressed slowly. Since an early flurry of six straight double-digit scoring games in January he has flat-lined, scoring more than 10 points just three times in the past 15 games while shooting .346 from the field.
The move could serve to shake the Pacers out of a recent funk. They’ve put forth three of their worst performances of the season in the past three weeks, losing road games in Orlando and Minnesota and putting up 73 points in a home loss to Dallas.
Offense has been the biggest culprit, and that is Turner’s specialty. Though he never became The Man in Philly, he won’t be asked to be anything other than one of the guys with the Pacers, to fill his role, not to mention the hoop.
Of course, there are potential long-term ramifications. Even with Granger’s massive expiring contract, the Pacers faced a challenge in coming up with enough money to re-sign Lance Stephenson when he becomes a free agent.
Turner is in the final season of a deal that pays him nearly $6.7 million, and the Pacers would have to submit a qualifying offer of $8.7 million by June 30 to make him a restricted free agent.
While teams can exceed the salary cap to re-sign their own players, the issue in play here is the luxury tax – and that’s where the Pacers will have little wiggle room.
That could force a choice between Turner and Stephenson, one that would have to be made within days of the conclusion of the NBA Finals.
That’s the thing about putting the future on hold. Eventually, you have to answer.