Today we tackle the center spot.
We have a total of 6 players that all can play min. at the center spot on the floor & one player who under dire circumstances can when called upon.
Dale Davis, Jeff Foster, Scot Pollard, John Edwards, David Harrison & Jermaine O'neal all can play the spot & Austin under rare & special circumstances can play there as well.
Truely, only Scot Pollard, John Edwards & David Harrison are centers. However as of now none of the above are starters & unless there is real dramatic improvement by Harrison over the summer none of them will start next season either.
Right now I think you have to project Dale as the starter & no it's not just because I'm doing this. Rick has already stated he likes to bring Dale into the game warm from the pre-game & I just think he is more comfortable with Dale in there so right now, if he re-signs, my guess is Dale will start.
Jeff will be the first big man off of the bench, if he is still here (I will cover this below) & he will play either half or maybe slightly more than half of the game.
Harrison should be getting the rest of the min. & if he doesn't then there is either something wrong with him or we've made a move to get someone better.
Pollard will have DNP-CD's by his name on some nights & then other nights he will play solid min. & will be the first big man used if either Dale or Jeff go down with injury's.
Jermaine will play a lot at center next season if Foster is still here, just like he has for the past two seasons. He can be very affective in the center spot so if he plays min. there we will be fine.
John Edwards will be on the I.R.L. next season & will probably dress for about 5-8 games. He will not play many min. & will only either be the concession player or the victory cigar.
Now let's look at the players one by one.
Dale Davis. He is still as strong as any player on our team & he still can get up & down the floor very well for his advanced age. He will have nights that will make us think he's 26 & then there will be nights where we will wonder if he didn't retire back in 96. What he is is everything Jermaine is not. He is rugged, he plays physical without getting flustered in the post. He is a great one on one defender & even though he doesn't have the hops anymore he still is one of the smartest defenders at the center spot in the NBA. Even if he doesn't start he would still be an asset to have coming off of the bench for the right price. & that is the key right there, the right price. I would think that the Pacers & Dale's agent have already talked about money & my guess is that they would never have even bothered with this season bringing him back if they didn't think there was a reasonable deal there.
The Pacers should re-sign Dale for a reasonable salary & allow him to contribute about 20 min. a game (some nights more some nights less) & I think they will. He is a good locker room presence & with Reggie leaving I think Dale will fall into a leadership role on the team.
Jeff Foster. There are going to be tons of people who will argue that Jeff should be the starter & maybe they are right. Heck, Carlisle may even agree & let Jeff start next season as well. But it's just my opinion that as long as Jermaine O'neal is the other player on the floor Jeff shouldn't be getting all of the min. here. I know U.B. & myself disagree over this but I do NOT beleive that Jeff Foster & Jermaine O'neal are an ideal match on the floor. Jeff was at his absolute best, IMO, when he & Dale played together, which shocked nobody more than me because I never would have guessed that that would have worked. IMO, he has proven that he is a dynamic bench player. A player that can come in & wreck absolute havoc when teams don't key on him.
Here is the rub though. He is truely one of the Pacers best trading assets. A big man with a resonable contract will go a long long way in this league. By himself he won't garner much of a player, but packaged with another player he becomes a great trading tool for the team.
Either way it goes there I will trust Walsh (did I just type that?) & whatever he decides. Jeff still has his weaknesses but he went a long way in the playoffs to erase the fact that he can't block shots, which was always one of my biggest b!tches with him.
My guess is Jeff will still be here, but I wouldn't be shocked to see him elsewhere either.
Scott Pollard. He is on the last year of his contract. That makes him a trading goldmine. But it also makes him valuable to the Pacers for the exact same reason. That is why I would not be shocked to see Jeff gone & Scott here so that they themselves get rid of some payroll. As a player he has his uses. He can face up & hit a 10' jumper. He can board, he takes up space underneath & he is a true legit center in size & strength. Like Dale, he is a good locker room guy from all reports & from his performances when the team was shorthanded he becamse somewhat of a fieldhouse favorite.
To the shock of everybody, I think Pollard is here next year. However if the team tries to dump one of thier troubled children (pick your choice) then Scot could be packaged to make the deal go through. BTW, I have no problem with Scott staying on. He is still stone hands but he has his uses & he isn't afraid to mix it up under the board.
David Harrison. Here is the real quandry. If David would just build on his early rookie year he makes any of the above three expendable (yes even Dale) but if how he ended his rookie year is anything like next season will be then he won't touch the floor. This guy has all of the tools to be a monster. He has size & strength the likes of which we have never seen on our team. He has a decent face up jumper & he was blocking shots so well that by his 3rd or 4th game in (I forget which) he was forcing other teams to adjust thier offense. He is a great team rebounder but doesn't rebound well himself (he boxes out sometimes 2 players at at time which allows others to get the boards but he just doesn't pick up the boards himself) which he has to improve on.
Eddy Curry scares me in the future. David Harrison puts my mind at ease for the future, as long as he is early rookie David.
You all will laugh at this but I'll say it anyway. I think if David could build on his early play that in 4-5 years he will be the best center in the NBA & will be an unstopable force for us. That is if everything & I mean everthing goes right for him.
Again, people will laugh but I will say this. The one player on our team that I would consider untouchable is David Harrison. Now don't get me wrong if somebody said "hey, would you take Shaq for Harrison" of course I would. But to me the size of his contract & the size of him & the early play he showed makes me believe that no other player on our team has the potential that he does.
So in review this is what I think should happen.
1. Re-sign Dale.
2. Work David Harrison to death over the summer & next season he should be the first backup center.
3. Jeff will be the first big man off of the bench & he will play along side J.o. who will be the center when he is in.
4. Scot will be the 10,11 or 12th man.
5. Edwards for as little as possible to a contract.
Jeff & Scot will be mentioned in trade rumors & I wouldn't be suprised to see either gone.
My real problem is that we have a lot of depth at the center spot but to be honest not much quality. It will be center by commitee which can work, but I don't know for how long & against who.
I would not mind an upgrade at the center spot.