Prepare yourselves Pacers digest readers, this is going to be a long, rambling post, since Im writing it with little prep time.
First of all, let me talk about what I assume was the front office and RC's thinking on Al Harrington, and a possible timeline on how things might have started.
I think the Pacers, like I did, thought JO and Harrington's game would mesh together better. At the beginning of the year I think they were using them offensively in the best most efficient way, which was when they played together to have JO play alot in the high post area, while Harrington played in the low post. This worked fairly well for Harrington, but not so much for Oneal, who didnt like being more outside and playing facing the basket as much. After the Boston game was when I think he made that clear to the coaching staff. I think primarily JO was correct in thinking that he'd be more effective as a low post player, although I do wish they'd gave that particular offensive strategy more time.
Now, the Pacers had some problems. Apparently, Harrington is either uncomfortable playing the high post and couldnt just switch positions, or in the least the coaching staff didnt find him effective in that way. Add to that the need to insert Foster as a starter, further clogging the lane, led to Harrington being primarily a perimeter player, which isnt his strength, although he did do a fairly decent job at times out there. Most of us could see that while talented, our roster wasnt exactly fitting together well.
My guess is, the Pacers have fairly recently decided, or been told, that Harrington would not accept a bench role, so they probably decided they had to move him. Then it just became an issue of who we could get, and who wanted him. Golden State, his other pursuer this past summer, was an obvious choice. The trade probably started smaller, and grew to become the 8 player deal we saw today. I doubt there were many teams who had as high of an opinion of Harrington as Golden State did. Thats what led us to the deal being made today.
Now, lets talk about some of the ways the new players we acquired can help us in my view, both in what they bring to the table and what our other players may be able to provide us now.
Troy Murphy: I think Murphy, while not as good as Harrington, fits in better with Oneal, and his game and personality are good long term fits for us.
Most of you by now are aware of his perimeter shooting ability. He will be able to play the high post in a high/low motion game with JO, because he can not only shoot the perimeter shot, he is an excellent high post to low post feeder. He also is an excellent screener, particularly in short spaces, like inside the lane.
He will excel for us offensively in a few more subtle ways that many of you havent thought of yet. He is an excellent back screener/face up type player. What I mean by that is that he can back screen for a cutter, then open up to the ball to create space for himself on the perimeter. Look for the Pacers to run many more "UCLA" cuts for their point guards, and for Murphy to have the ball at the top of the circle looking for cutters.
Ive mentioned his screening above, but it bears mentioning again. Inside the paint or on the backscreens Ive described, Murphy is a good screen setter. He isnt the most bone jarring physical screener, but he is really well taught in that he gets great angles, and he is fundamentally sound at doing it. Because of his ability to screen, then open up to the perimeter and shoot, opposing bigs cant cheat off him, so that even makes his screening more effective. What this means is simple: The Pacers designed organized plays will be more effective and work better when Troy Murphy plays. Guys will get open better and get easier shots. In my opinion, Murphy starts for us very soon, and relegates Jeff Foster back to the bench.
Murphy doesnt hurt our transition game, he helps it. He is a good solid rebounder, and he has in the past averaged 10 boards a night in this league. Now, playing here with the players we have around him, I think he'll project to about 14 pts and 8 rebounds, which Im happy with. Murphy helps our transition game alot, because he not only can rebound, but he can outlet the ball well. Murphy, who was well coached at Notre Dame, is good at making the 2 hand overhead outlet pass, which none of our current players are. Our lack of being able to outlet the ball to start a break often causes Tinsley to have to come back and recieve the ball via a short pass or even a handoff from one of our bigs, and Murphy I believe will not have to do that. Therefore, Tinsley can leak out, recieve a better pass from Murphy, and give us more productive running chances.
Murphy also helps our running game by being a really good "trailer" on the secondary break. Murphy can catch the ball near the top as players run the floor, and either reverse the ball or take that open perimeter shot. His best area to shoot is the top of key area, so he is a real weapon because of this. The guy guarding him cant retreat to protect the rim, he has to get back and try and recover back up top to Murphy, leaving the lane clear for slashers and cutters. His presence out there can make it easier to score for others. Now, as far as JO goes on a secondary break, thats very interesting. He likes to trail also, so either the Pacers will simply have to make JO run the floor very hard and be the first post option, or change their break to a more unconventional "2 trailer" system. That can be done, Ive coached it that way, but it isnt my favorite way to do it. Ill be interested to see how that ends up coming about.
Now to Dunleavy. Jay is right in the other thread that he does play alot like a "point forward" if he is asked to do so. To me, he is a big upgrade offensively for us too, because of various reasons.
First of all, his ballhandling. This will allow the Pacers to not have to only pass the ball to Tinsley to start a break, as Dunleavy can handle the ball too. He also is really good at feeding the post, as he understands angles and how to move after he feeds it in there.
Secondly, while he seems like a finesse player, he is a really, really good screener. He sets solid screens, and more importantly he sets them physically and gets great great screen angles. I cant tell you how important that is, and how poor some of the Pacers players are at that. RC has to be careful not to use Dunleavy too much as a passer, because he is a very good screener. He is the son of a coach obviously, and was very well taught at Duke.
He also becomes our best cutter off screens as well. This was a strength of Peja and Reggie, and while Dunleavy isnt as good as those guys, he is great at reading the defense and making the appropriate play. Dunleavy plays with a high basketball IQ/
A few more key points: Like Murphy, Dunleavy shoots free throws well. Thats important in close games, and its likely that the Pacers will play many of them in the next few years. Also, Dunleavy can be our inbound passer in crucial situations and end of game plays. That doesnt sound like a big thing, except the Pacers have been forced to use the very small Jamal Tinsley to do those things this year, and he isnt that good at it, nor is he bigh enough to always see the floor well if the opponent guards him with a bigger guy. Dunleavy, being 6'8, wont have those issues. Thats lets you either sub for Tinsley at the end of the game, or have him in the game being used in a different way. That'll be very handy for Carlisle to have.
On to Ike Diogu. I dont know that I see the huge upside that some are projecting for him, but I do like his potential and style of play. Again, he is a strong screen setter, which we need. He is very enthusiastic and active. He has young legs and is eager to prove himself. I think this is a big chance for him to turn over a new leaf and become what I think his max potential is, which is a very good low post scorer and rebounder, even though he is undersized slightly by height. Diogy becomes likely our most physical player, strongest player, and player with a "mean streak" potential. I think he has more upside than Al Harrington because of his rebounding long term, and I think he'll be a good fit for us in the future. In the short term, I think he backs up Oneal as a low post primary option with the second unit, and plays a few minutes a game alongside JO as well.
Now, to me its clear that on balance we got better offensively. Our plays will work better, we will now screen much better, we got a really good shooter in Murphy, and a decent midrange shooter in Dunleavy. Our players will pass the ball better, work better together, and in general be much much much more coachable. But, did we sacrifice too much defense in order to do that?
My answer is, no way. I actually think our defense potentially got alot better too, even thought that goes against conventional wisdom. Why do I say this? 2 reasons mainly.....
First of all, Sarunas departure means that either Marquis Daniels or Oriene Greene must play the back up point guard for Tinsley. (I dont like our 4th new player much, as his name escapes me as I type this). That will mean a huge defensive upgrade for approximately 20 minutes a game that we didnt have before. Now, Ive said before that I think point guard defense is our single biggest weakness, so anything we can do to improve that is a huge key to me. Im totally ok with the addition of the ballhandling and strong passing Dunleavy aboard, to play without Tinsley on the floor in order to improve our defense even more.
Secondly, and I know not everyone agrees with me, I think our glut of front court players means Granger will play the "2" guard some, which I totally love from a defensive standpoint. Now, I dont really project Granger as a ballhandler, but Jackson wasnt either. Again, the addition of Dunleavy really helps hide that weakness for RC. Granger is a good offensive player moving off screens already, and with more intelligent higher IQ players playing with him I think his productivity can increase.
In general, I think we can play a bigger lineup now, because we can play without Tinsley in the game. I like, as many of you know, the idea of a Daniels/Granger backcourt from a defensive perspective, and I think Dunleavy can help make my wish come true. I also like the thought of cutting Foster's minutes back some, and using him in a role better suited to his talent long term. I worry about his body breaking down playing the minutes he was being forced to play. Now, he can play about 20 minutes or so a night and hopefully stay healthy all season and on into the playoffs.
Summary: The Pacers probably traded more talented players, but they got better today in many many ways. We are a better TEAM, with much more flexibility, and a team that fits together better. We are an infinitely more "coachable" and more fundamentally sound team, and one that is put together better to function on the floor. We became younger and deeper, and improved in a few different fundamental areas. I think we will be more fun to watch, easier for RC to impart his vision of playing the right way, and our roster is well stocked to make another major move next summer for a dynamic backcourt player if one comes available.
I know many of you are worried about the cap ramifications, but I wouldnt if I were you. With a new TV deal, the internationalization of marketing, and the internet creating additional revenue, its likely that the cap will rise alot in the next few years anyway, and we arent smart enough or informed enough as fans to know the innerworkings of the league's business like the Simons are. I would guess the next CBA might raise the cap significantly, and Im sure this move was made today with that assumption in mind. The Pacers just got alot more watchable and likable today, whether or not you agree with me that we got much better on the floor or not.
Bottom line: We got significantly better today. Can we win the Eastern Conference this year? I doubt it, but our chances got alot better, and we are still well set up for the future. Its a great day to be a Pacer fan!
Just my opinion, of course.