Hello everyone.....It's good to have time to write again.
I check this site several times a week, just to keep up on the pulse of Pacer Nation, and this week and last I've read alot about moves in trading for Vince Carter, or trading JO, or trading Danny Granger. That is all expected and acceptable, since we are nearing the trade deadline and teams all around are looking to add pieces for a championship run or clear the decks for the future. Without getting into specific names in this thread, I wanted to post something which to me makes perfect sense but to others it may not, which is to talk about the core of efficient championship team building: Getting guys who compliment each other, and make each other better players, instead of having players with redundant skills and talents. This is what I believe has been the key to winning titles in San Antonio, instead of just merely being "good."
First, let me put out the theories of the traditional best formula for building a true team in the easiest ways:
A. A true "point guard", 2 "wings" who compliment each other, 2 "post" players who compliment each other, and backups/specialists at the point, wings, and posts. If you are a really good/lucky team, some of your guys will be able to play multiple positions, but that is a luxury, not a necessity.
B. 2 "combination guards" with multiple skills and who share roles, 2 "wings" with multiple skills and who share roles, and 1 "true center", who is strong and can guard the biggest opponent AND be the offensive low post first option. Then you need backups/specialists for the combination guards, wings, and a true backup center.
I know there are variables/exceptions/nuances that might vary slightly, but at its basic core I think those are the DNA traces of a cohesive successful team. Most franchises go with the "A" plan of building, since the true dominant center is a rare breed. Therefore, in the paragraphs to follow, that is what I will assume the Pacers will need to do too.
So, by my definitions, the Pacers roster breaks down like this currently, in no particular order:
1. Point guards: Tinsley, Deiner, Owens
2. Wings: Granger, Dunleavy, Williams, Daniels, Rush, Graham.
3. Posts: JO, Foster, Harrison, Murphy, Diogu
Let me take each of the three positions one after the other, and talk about what we really need to be trying to acquire.
Ok, we obviously all think we have a problem here, and I would agree. The first problem in my view is Deiner and Owens basically are end of the bench fringe guys. For my purpose, they have no value other than guys who play in blowouts or emergencies. I like Travis Deiner and his "intangibles", I just don't like his TANGIBLE ability. So, regardless of what you think of Tinsley, we are at least 1 point guard short.
Now, on to Tinsley.
In a perfect world, you'd make Tinsley and his pouty attitude disappear from your roster as fast as possible. But, unless you want to take on baggage as bad or even worse from some other franchise, likely JT will continue to be here. I don't view Tinsley's contract to be all that out of line from what he gives you in reality (he is basically a full MLE player), it's just that we have no other option. So, where Tinsley is concerned, the following statement is where I think our focus needs to be:
"The goal shouldn't necessarily be to trade Tinsley, it should be to make Tinsley LESS VITAL AND IMPORTANT to our success!"
In my mind, that means we need a legitimate NBA starter/near starter at this position who legitimately can play at a starters level, and who excels in areas where JT doesn't.
A perfect blueprint in how this was done was the point guard combination of Mark Jackson and Travis Best back in our glory days.....those 2 guys played about the same minutes, made about the same money, and had very complimentary skills. Best being a very strong on the ball pressure defender, shooter, quicker, with more of a scoring mentality. Jackson being a veteran leader, who orchestrated our half court offense very well. Jackson's mental outlook and game meshed well with our starters, Best and his strengths meshed well with our bench, and his on the ball defense was a great thing when we were ahead in the 4th quarter.
As aggravating as he is, Tinsley has some strengths. He is a pretty good passer, really good post scorer, and has a creative mind and self confidence that at times is a big asset. He also has a questionable attitude, is a very streaky shooter, and somewhat lazy and slow defender.
So, in regard to our point guard spot, I think the answer is to keep Deiner as your third guard, and jettison Owens. We then need to try and draft or find a player who compliments Tinsley's game, and can do the things well that Tinsley can't: lead, defend hard on the ball, score if he needs to, and play NBA starting caliber defense on quick point guard types that JT doesn't match up well with.
If you had a guy like that, you could probably split time with Tinsley at the guard spot, cutting his minutes down into the low 20's or so. You'd have a legitimate player to play the end of the game with, and a legitimate starter who could play big minutes in the games JT is out injured or whatever. Without naming specific names, I believe there will be guys like that in the league who can be acquired or drafted by Indiana, and who won't completely screw up our salary structure. This player needs to be able to score off the dribble for us too, and to be capable of scoring in the 15-16 range fairly consistently, in an ideal world, if he had starter minutes.
I think if you do somehow trade Tinsley, you will still need to add 2 point guards to next years roster, so Deiner can be your third emergency point.
WINGS: Now we are to the crux of why I'm writing this article in the first place! When I watch the Pacers, my feelings on this become more and more clear to me. I'm amazed that when I get on here and read that more people don't seem to have the same clarity on the subject as I do, which has caused me to really reevaluate my own thinking on the subject. Having done that lately, I must say I still think I'm right on with what I'm about to say. First, let me set it up a bit.
To me, in building a team you need as starters 2 wings who have complimentary, not redundant, skills. You need in my view a really exceptional scorer, and a really exceptional defender, at these spots. Your scorer needs to be able to give you great offense on a consistent basis, your "wing defender" alongside him needs to be able to stop the other teams best offensive player and cause him trouble. If possible, then you'd like to be able to have a backup who could give you a little of both defense and offense to be in a rotation with those 2 starters, with maybe a 4th guy with 1 real strength you can use in special situations/matchups.
So, you have Granger already....so what is he? Is he your shutdown elite defender, or is he your future main 20-24pt scorer? Is he neither one?
The Pacers currently are forced to use Danny as both a top scorer and to guard the opponents best guy. Therefore, Danny really to me hasn't reached his full potential in either area. I think the time is now to make a decision on what Granger truly is, and get the pieves around him at his spot to make him better utilized. Only the elite of the elite (I can only think of one: Kobe Bryant) playing currently can fill both the scorer and stopper role at an all star level. So what does he need?
If your answer is Danny can be neither an elite scorer or an elite defender, then I think your move should be to trade him for a more important position and future flexibility/draft picks. If your answer is that Danny can be an elite defender for you, then you need to try and acquire a strong stud of a scorer alongside him, so Danny doesnt have to score all that much for you to win.
I think the solution is obvious still, as I like Granger's offensive potential more than many of you do. The easiest, most efficient, and less costly way to build our team is to acquire a really great perimeter defender to play next to Granger, so Granger can be your traditional top player on offense. I see Granger being able to reach a Paul Pierce/Manu Ginobili/Reggie Lewis level of offensive potential, and doing it for a very low contract for the next few years. I think this only happens if we free him up to be "the guy" and that means getting a completely different style of player to play next to him than Dunleavy is. Dunleavy to me is a fine player, but NOT IN COMBINATION WITH GRANGER.
I know many of you will disagree with that, and that's ok. Could you win big with a Granger and Bruce Bowen type combination? Yes, that's exactly what I am saying. Could you win with a Dunleavy and Bruce Bowen type? I think you could win more than we are now, but not as much as Granger would because Granger is better than Dunleavy, not to mention younger and cheaper. Could you win a championship with a Dunleavy and Ginobil combination? Both fine players, but no I don't think so....you'd have no wing defense. Same as Granger and Ginobili would be, although it would be a bit better.
So, I think the move to make is to try and move Dunleavy to a team who needs him more than we do, to try and fill holes we may have in other areas. Somehow someway, we need to acquire this top notch wing defender who can start alongside Granger, and it wouldn't necessarily have to be a big name. There may even be a player like this in the draft we can acquire late in the first round or early in the second round. Last year, Detroit nabbed Aaron Afflalo from UCLA....he is a prototype for a player Im describing....there are others we can sign or obtain if we are smart.
I think we have in Kareem Rush a nice wing bench piece. He is a reasonably good scorer, and a reasonably good defender. He'd be a nice 8th man type, rotation guy, if we can resign him.
I'm souring a bit on Shawne Williams, who I thought would be better than he is under Jim O'Brien. However, he still has time to develop, so I'm not going to panic yet. If I had to include him in a deal to pick up a harder to find piece I would, but I wouldn't actively be shopping him. Possibly if you don't resign Rush he can be that "8th man back up wing rotation guy"
This leaves Dunleavy, Daniels, and Graham to actively be shopping, if I were in charge. These 3 guys bring redundant skills, or skills we can find cheaper or more efficiently on the market or in the draft. Dunleavy in particularly would be a great acquisition for a team who really wanted to make a push and needed his type of skills, either as a starter or in a 6th man role. If any of you have agreed with my premise, maybe you can construct some deals that make some logical sense for both teams.
In looking to move Daniels, I'd be willing to take nothing but expiring deals for him, draft pick (s), and cash. In building a team my preferred way, he can't play....especially since he is somewhat expensive and injury prone. I'd keep Rush over him for those reasons.
Graham is an end of bench talent and is easily replaceable.
Ok, to have 2 post players starting for you, you need one of them to be a really good and strong post defender, by that I mean someone who can guard the opponents best post player and do it solo, without alot of double team help. Someone who can fight for position, and make it hard for the opponents best post guy to get the ball and then score. Someone who is a strong rebounder.
You need the other to be an offensive force. Someone who can score with his back to the basket, someone who can produce points for you somehow someway. This guy needs to be able to play defense and rebound too, but his main key role is to be able to score for you in and around the paint.
Ideally you'd have a third post guy who could fill either role in some ways, so he could sub for either player. Then you might have a "specialist" 4th post player who excelled in one particular specific skill, so you could use him for a specific role if you needed to. Lastly, you would ideally have a 5th guy, role player, brute physically imposing guy who could defende the few behemoth centers in the league in a crunch, and maybe who could develop.
That would give you 5 guys who could defend the post somewhat, one of the core tenets of building a basketball team.
The "post scorer" guy is the hardest to find. We sort of have our guy in JO, but he is often injured and is unreliable. The big decision of our franchise going forward is to decide whether to "hold or fold" with Jermaine. If you decide to dump JO, finding your next post scorer will need to be priority one, because you can't win bigh without a guy like that.
You'll be faced with either getting a free agent to sign here for max money (unlikely to happen), have to get extremely lucky in the draft (top post scorers likely always go in the top 3 picks), get extraordinarily lucky in a trade (like we did with JO) or take someone else's trash and somehow salvage somebody (Zach Randolph or someone similar).
It would be a defensible position I think for the Pacers to hold onto JO for a little while longer, and see if he can get healthy once and for all. I don't think he will personally ever be reliable and explosive enough to be the guy we need him to be, but I'm not sure I see a better option I like better. Now, if we get lucky in the lottery and get in position to draft Michael Beasley......then trading JO makes entirely more sense, because then it isn't really as important what you may get back position wise.
Assuming JO is probably untradeable anyway, and assuming he will be here because of that fact, what do we need to do to compliment him better?
Because JO is a much better weakside defender than he is on the ball, you need a bigger guy I think who can physically handle a big center. I do not think that this particularly player is on our roster. I know many of you will argue for Foster, but he lacks the bulk and strength to be a premier on the block post defender against most elite starting big men. He also isnt physically intimidating or imposing. I'm thinking of more of a Dale Davis type defender, but who hopefully has some ability to help a bit on offense too.
The ideal player to completely compliment JO we already had in Brad Miller, although he is so totally overpaid that I can't recommend him as an option in most scenarios. We need ideally somebody like a young Brad Miller, but if you can't find that then you need to either go for a stronger defender type (Diop maybe) or a slightly more offensive type (Kristic maybe). JO in reality is a hard guy to compliment and build around, which has been one of our central problems for a long time.
Then as a third guy, you'd like to have a post player who could play with either starter effectively, much like Antonio Davis used to be able to do. This type of player I think can be found later in the draft, in Europe, or in the trade market. I don't think it would have to be a big name or expensive acquisition necessarily. Whether or not you want to keep Foster or not to fill this role is a big question. I think arguments can be made either way, but I'd probably lean toward finding a cheaper and younger alternative. If you keep Jeff, then this is the role he needs to be in, not as a starter. I've never liked Jeff as a DEFENSIVE TANDEM WITH JO....I'd prefer someone bigger and stronger. These type of guys are available in the middle or later parts of the first round, which is why when we deal we need to get picks thrown in as often as possible. A great guy to draft for this role if we could get multiple picks would be D.J. White, a player I don't project as an NBA star or starter, but as a great rotation energetic post player who helps you win, like Antonio Davis was.
Your 4th post guy could be a specialist. Either someone who is a great perimeter shooter, letting you play a different scheme if you wished (Robert Horry type), or someone who is a great shotblocker/athlete, or maybe someone who would be an extremely great low post scorer for a period of time (Ike maybe?), or maybe a great rebounder type (Jeff Foster again).
Again, what your 4th guy would need to be able to do in large part depends on your first 3 guys.
Your 5th guy can either be a project young guy with size, or an old crusty veteran you can play in an emergency.
This leaves Murphy for sure as an odd man out. I'd deal Murphy for any contract of similar size that was shorter in length than his, and I wouldn't be picky who I got back. I'd even be willing to pick up others trash if it meant purging his contract off the books, as long as we shortened the time we had committed in length. For a playing role until then, Murphy can only be at best the 4th big man.
Ike is cheap, so I have no problem keeping him in the 4th big man role. However, much like Golden State did to us, I'd include him in a heartbeat if it gave me a way to get rid of Murphy.
Let me be clear, I have no real issue with Murphy, he just is what he is. If he had a contract more in line with his talents, then he'd be a nice 4th big man piece on a winning team. The only real argument for keeping him is to save him for 3 years and carry him on your roster, then use him as a major expiring contract to trade for some superstar in a blockbuster trade. That is best case scenario, and it is too far in the future to have as a legitimate idea.
We might be able to use Shawne Williams in the 4th big man role too, against certain matchups. It is in this role that he gains a little value to me, as he is the only guy we have who I project as being able to swing from the wing to the post area defensively against certain teams.
Harrison is ok as a 5th big man type, but since his attitude sucks he can go away and begin his future as a journeyman big man. He is easily replaceable.
Ok, so the conclusions I'm trying to make with this long article are as follows:
1. We need players who compliment each other, instead of duplicate their teammates skills, in both the backcourt and frontcourt.
2. Trading for a scoring wing player isnt the most efficient use of our resources, and won't help us wing long term. (Vince Carter, I mean you)
3. We need a different type of player than Dunleavy is to play along Granger and use him in the most efficient way which in my view is as a scorer and number one option. We need an elite perimeter defender in the worst way, like the Spurs do with their combination of Ginobili and Bowen.
4. We have assets to trade that other teams could use that aren't named JO or Tinsley, and we need to think that way sooner rather than later. Dunleavy, Daniels, Murphy (if by some miracle possible), Foster, and Ike should all be moved in the right circumstance.
5. We need to start acquiring picks in bulk when we trade these assets, to help set up future moves.
This isn't going to be checkers, this is more like multi dimensional chess, but it is the game that the Pacers front office needs to be able to play. Before identifying specific players, the Pacers must first realize how a championship level team is built piece by piece, and quit trying to put square pegs in round holes.
Just a few days left to see if the Pacers can help their future before the summer time.....what happens next should be interesting, and educational, about whether the Pacers can improve their future, or stay on the treadmill to mediocrity.
As always, the above is just my opinion.