Q. When I recently heard that the Pacers agreed to trade Anthony Johnson for Darrell Armstrong, Josh Powell, and Rawle Marshall many questions jumped into my head, but one stood out. Who is going to start at point guard? In my opinion, there aren't many options left. The free agent market is extremely short on point guards, Jamaal Tinsley could start if necessary but the ideal thing to do would be to trade for one. The Pacers have been active this offseason but everyone they have gained (except Armstrong) is a forward. I know that they want to get more athletic and want to look like more of a Phoenix or Dallas. The only problem is both those teams have very good starting point guards. What do you see the Pacers doing about this problem? (From Oakley in Freeland, Wash.)
A. The manifestation of the changing face and pace of the Indiana roster is most evident at point guard. Though Anthony Johnson and Eddie Gill have departed, there actually is more depth and flexibility at the position than last season. Marquis Daniels played quite a bit of point guard in Dallas and figures into the rotation here. James White is comfortable at any of the three perimeter positions, including the point. Darrell Armstrong can provide 10-12 minutes of energy per night. An overlooked acquisition was the waiver claim of young Orien Greene, a backup with the Celtics last season. Though raw, he is regarded as an exceptional athlete with strong defensive skills.
Johnson exemplified the way the Pacers played the past two seasons because his skills we well-suited for the style. He was solid in the halfcourt, didn't make mistakes, hit open shots when they came his way and played quality defense against bigger guards. But with the shift toward a quicker tempo and more athletic style, Johnson didn't fit as well as Daniels, White, Greene – or even Armstrong who, at 38, still plays with relentless aggression.
The question of depth addressed, what remains to be seen is if the franchise still has faith in Tinsley as the starter. Though fans rightfully question his ability to do the work necessary to remain healthy -- and Tinsley has much to prove in this area -- there's another way to look at this. If Tinsley was on another team, he'd be precisely the kind of player the Pacers would be looking to acquire because he has a great deal of talent that has yet gone unrealized. And don't forget about Sarunas Jasikevicius, who endured a disappointing rookie season. Both Tinsley and Jasikevicius are much more comfortable playing at a faster tempo, and the philosophical shift should benefit both.
At the moment, then, the Pacers have Tinsley at the top of the depth chart, backed by Jasikevicius. Should either falter, there are is no shortage of options. Even with his injury history, Tinsley is better than any available free agent. Acquiring a point guard in trade can be very difficult because of the value placed on the position. This is not to say the Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird aren't examining all of their options; it is to say that, should nothing better evolve, the Pacers have no reason to panic about their point guard situation.