Growing up in Indianapolis, I have watched the Pacers go from awful to contenders, from contenders to perpetual mediocrity; and to now we have a team of young contenders. Although I am not a fan personally, but it is nice having a winning team in the city as it brings excitement to the community and more attention on the city. Attention like this attracts events to the city like the Big Ten Football Championship and Super Bowls.
With that being said, I would like to see them remain contenders by keeping this team together, but that is going to require Donnie Walsh and Kevin Pritchard to get to work. Here are a few things I’d like to see:
Keep the frontcourt together
This is the easiest step but probably the most expensive. Signing Paul George to a max extension is a no-brainer. He is the new face of the franchise and future NBA superstar; he’s basically the Andrew Luck of the Pacers. With Roy Hibbert already locked up, David West’s 2-year, $20 million deal expires June 30th, 2013. Not only has West played big for the Pacers averaging 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists in the regular season, but he has been a great leader showing great mental strength and gives the Pacers buckets in rough stretches. He could easily demand a Kevin Garnett-eqse extension (3 years-$36 million) but I am not sure the Pacers can afford it.
Upgrade The Backcourt
Part of the issue here is youth. George Hill-4yrs D.J. Augustine-4 yrs Sam Young-3 yrs Lance Stevenson-2 yrs Ben Hansbrough-R. Since 1999 every NBA Finals has featured the Spurs, Heat or Lakers. All of these teams had great backcourt players: Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Dwayne Wade, Tony Parker, Gary Payton. Adding some veteran guards could help the Pacers off the bench & provide veteran leadership to a young group. Which brings me to my next point…
Upgrade the Bench
Every championship team has a solid bench. The Pacers don’t have one. They don’t have a player on the bench with more than five years of experience or that even averages over double figures. That must change.
Key offseason points to address
Danny Granger has one year left on his contract. The emergence of Paul George makes him expendable. David West, Sam Young, & D.J. Augustine will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Tyler Hansbrough will be a restricted free agent (qualifying offer).