View Full Version : Conrad Brunner's Off-Season Primer

06-16-2004, 12:44 AM

Offseason Primer
How Expansion, the Draft, Free Agency
and Trades Could Affect the Pacers

By Conrad Brunner | June 15, 2004
For a team coming off a 61-victory regular season and a playoff run that reached the Eastern Conference Finals, it would be easy to take a laid-back approach to the offseason.


But the Pacers are giving no indication they plan to sit on their hands. Coach Rick Carlisle has indicated that changes, potentially significant, are coming as the front office works on re-shaping the roster for next season. Franchise President Larry Bird has watched and learned through one full season and now has a much better handle on the makeup of his players. This offseason represents his first real chance to put his stamp on the roster, and it seems likely he’ll seize the moment.

There are two significant events in the immediate future – the Expansion Draft and the NBA Drat, both next week. After the new salary cap is announced in mid-July, teams will be able to sign free agents and make trades.

Here’s a look at the major issues of the offseason as they apply to the Pacers.

Expansion Draft

The Charlotte Bobcats will take the first step in stocking their roster on either June 22 (if the NBA Finals concludes in either Game 5 or 6) or June 23 (if the Finals extend to Game 7). The Bobcats will select 14 players from the 29 other NBA teams, and no team can lose more than one player in the process.
Last week, the Pacers submitted their list of eight players protected from the expansion draft. Though there has been a great deal of speculation about just who is included on that list, no official verification has come. ESPN Insider reported the Pacers left the following players unprotected: Jamison Brewer, Primoz Brezec, Austin Croshere, Anthony Johnson, James Jones and Scot Pollard.

Brewer is a restricted free agent. Johnson has an option to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Croshere and Pollard are veterans with relatively large contracts. Though those deterrents don’t rule out any of those four, they do reduce the likelihood of their selection. That leaves Brezec and Jones, two young players with relatively small contracts, as the strongest candidates to become Bobcats.

The Pacers do have the ability to make a trade with Charlotte offering up to $3 million cash and/or future draft picks to either assure, or prevent, the selection of a particular player. But Bobcats boss Bernie Bickerstaff already has stated an aversion to such deals.

NBA Draft


The penalty for having the best regular-season record in the NBA is the lowest first-round pick, No. 29 overall (it would be No. 30, but Minnesota must forfeit its pick). They also have the very last pick, No. 59 overall in the second round.
Though they’ve never drafted this low before, the Pacers have harvested some talent from the bottom third of first-round selections. Al Harrington was taken at No. 25 in 1998, Travis Best at No. 23 in 1997 and Jamaal Tinsley was acquired with the No. 27 pick in a three-team trade in 2001.

Surveying the plethora of mock drafts that have sprung up around the Internet and in various magazines, the consensus of opinion seems to be the Pacers would like to go big. The name most commonly associated with the Pacers is Peter Ramos, a 7-4, 260-pound, 18-year-old center from Puerto Rico. Another popular prediction is Ha Seung-Jin, a 7-3, 300-pound center from South Korea. Other names that have come up are Beno Udrih, a 6-4 point guard from Slovenia; Sasha Vujacic, a 6-7 combo guard from Slovenia; Viktor Khryapa, a 6-8 small forward from Russia; Sebastian Telfair, a 5-11 point guard from New York (and a high school product); Delonte West, a 6-4 shooting guard from St. Joseph’s; David Harrison, a 7-foot center from Colorado; and Darius Rice, a 6-10 small forward from Miami (FL).

The draft also is a popular trading period, and rumors abound that at least two of the top three picks are available. The Pacers appear more interested in acquiring proven players than draft picks, but nothing is out of the question because, with Bird in his first full offseason, there are no trends on which to base projections.

Free Agency


A few big names will hit the market, foremost among them Rasheed Wallace and Kenyon Martin. Kobe Bryant has an option to join the free agent class, as does Antoine Walker. But the Pacers aren’t likely to be very active in this market because they’re projected to be over the 2004-05 salary cap. Though they could use either the mid-level (roughly $5 million) or the $1 million exceptions to sign veteran players, any such moves probably would come late in the offseason, depending on where the roster may need help.
The only veteran free agent this summer is Kenny Anderson, who already has made it clear he intends to move on to pursue a team that can offer more consistent playing time. Brewer is a restricted free agent, which means the Pacers retain the right to match any offer another team makes. Johnson has an option to become a free agent but has said he would prefer to remain with the Pacers.

The Trade Market


If significant changes are coming, this is the most likely avenue.
The Pacers have some pronounced needs. Regardless of whether Reggie Miller returns for an 18th season, the team needs someone to succeed the veteran at shooting guard. Another big body up front, primarily for defensive and rebounding purposes, would be nice. A perimeter threat or two could be valuable. And, depending on what happens with Johnson, there could be the need for a backup point guard.

The Pacers have a deep pool of small forwards to use as bait, and it appears Al Harrington is the most attractive because of his combination of youth, productivity and potential. He has made no attempt to hide his desire to start, and Bird said long ago that if a player wasn’t happy here, he’d do what he could to accommodate his desire to move on. There already are a number of rumors involving Harrington floating around, and there undoubtedly will be many more. So enjoy the discussion, but don’t take it too seriously.

Given the combination of Donnie Walsh’s history of pre-trade secrecy and Bird’s private nature, it’s unlikely anyone’s going to know what really is going to happen in advance.

06-16-2004, 12:53 AM
Wow, I can't believe he listed who are unprotected's are, or at least who ESPN said. Really goes to show that he's more than a mouthpiece.

Hicks, just saw your sig. That's hilarious. I'd promise to kick Dick Bavetta in the nuts every day, but a) I'd do that anyway, and b) he doesn't have any. :devil:

[edit]Of course, I say something, and you change it. :mad:

Will Galen
06-16-2004, 04:55 AM
Wow, I can't believe he listed who are unprotected's are, or at least who ESPN said. Really goes to show that he's more than a mouthpiece.

It appears to me he's just another sports writer with sources no better than those of the Indy Star sports writers.

May 17th he listed JJ along with Brewer and Anderson as unrestricted free agents. Now he's saying JJ and Brewer are under contract.

Pacers.com does say this; "If you'd like to pose a Question of the Day to Conrad Brunner, submit it along with your full name and hometown to Bruno's_mailbag@pacers.com Brunner’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Pacers players, coaches or management."