2005 Pacers Offseason Primer
Answers to key questions facing the team this summer
WHAT ARE THE FREE-AGENT OPTIONS? Their two primary internal free-agent decisions involve veteran center Dale Davis and young forward James Jones. Davis was a valuable contributor after joining the team in early March, starting all 38 games he played (including 13 in the playoffs), so it's safe to assume they'd like to re-sign him. Like in every case, however, it will depend upon the cost. Jones made huge strides this season and has offered ample evidence of having a future in the NBA, so it's likely he'll also be retained. If both Davis and Jones are kept, the Pacers will have 15 players under contract, so there may not be any roster room without some trade activity. That's bad news for free agent center John Edwards, who spent most of his rookie season on the injured list.
Though next season's salary cap figure has not yet been released, it has stayed between $40-44 million the past four seasons, so it's reasonable to anticipate a figure in that range for 2005-06. Based on various published reports, the Pacers already have a payroll in excess of $70 million next season, so they'll be well over the cap. They therefore will have little flexibility in the free-agent market, though they do have the mid-level exception (around $5 million).
DOES REGGIE'S RETIREMENT AFFECT THE CAP? In a word, no. Even if the remainder of Reggie's contract came off the books, the team would still be over the cap, so they won't get any kind of cap relief from his retirement. Because he has one more season (reportedly at $6.25 million) on his contract, which the franchise intends to honor, Reggie will remain on the payroll and, therefore, on the cap. The only way a retired player's remaining salary can be removed from a team's cap figure is if the retirement was forced by injury – and even then, it's a percentage and not the total amount.
HOW LIKELY IS THE POSSIBILITY OF A TRADE? Coach Rick Carlisle gave a rather strong indication of the team's stance toward roster moves when, in the immediate aftermath of the loss to Detroit in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, he broached the topic of changes being likely. Given the lack of free-agent flexibility, that would lead to the conclusion that a trade or two will be seriously considered. What we don't know at the moment is the level of the discussion. Is a major change to the core of the team being considered, or just a couple of tweaks here and there?
It's reasonable to assume fans might not have to wait too long to find out. Though there aren't many draft-related trade rumors at the moment, that is usually one of the most active periods for deal-making in the NBA calendar. Given the possibility of a lockout that would bring a temporary end to all player movement beginning July 1, this draft could be unusually active.
WILL IMMEDIATE HELP BE AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT? In the past three drafts, three of the four players selected by the Pacers were four-year college players (Fred Jones, James Jones and Rashad Wright) and the fourth was a three-year college player (David Harrison). Based on that trend, and the fact three of the four are still with the team despite none being selected higher than No. 14 overall, it's reasonable to project the Pacers being interested primarily in experienced college players.
At No. 17, that could be a very good thing because the annual influx of international and high-school players appears to be pushing some high-profile names into the Pacers' neighborhood. Some prominent names mentioned in the middle of the first round on most draft boards include North Carolina power forward Sean May and shooting guard Rashad McCants, Syracuse forward Hakim Warrick, Oklahoma State small forward Joey Graham, Kansas forward Wayne Simien and Georgia Tech point guard Jarrett Jack.
If they decide to buck their recent trend and go with an international player, possibilities may include 6-11 Tiago Splitter (Brazil), 6-5 Rudy Fernandez (Spain) and 7-0 Johan Petro (France). A handful of high-school players should be on the board, as well, including point guard Monta Ellis, shooting guard C.J. Miles, and big men Andrew Bynum and Andray Blatche. Because this could be the final year players under 20 are eligible to be drafted, prospects in that age range could become much hotter.
WHAT'S THE STATUS OF INJURED PLAYERS? Though Jermaine O'Neal (shoulder), Jamaal Tinsley (foot), Fred Jones (finger) and Jeff Foster (hip) all were playing at the end of the season, all were at less than 100 percent because of injuries. Rookie David Harrison spent the final two months of the season on the injured list after undergoing knee surgery. The good news is none are believed to be major problems, and all should be fully healed by the time training camp rolls around, if not before. The only player who may need surgery is Foster, who could require a minor follow-up procedure on his hip. It's not clear if Harrison will be able to participate in summer league play in July.