As most of you know, I've felt for a year and a half at least that one of the Pacers biggest weaknesses is the lack of anyone who can be a premier wing defender on the perimeter. Our 2 best players (Granger and Dunleavy) would both be served and their games improved if they were paired with a much better defender alongside them. I particularly think Granger, who is on the brink of being an all-star level (or close to it) player, would be hugely helped offensively if he didn't have to bear the burden of guarding the Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, or Paul Pierce types.
Basically, as I wrote a few weeks back in my "Building a championship team with San Antonio as our model" thread, we need to obtain a Bruce Bowen type defender, to play alongside Granger and/or Dunleavy.
This player, whom we don't have, could in fact elevate the games of the rest of our roster by playing his role so well that our other defenders wouldnt be forced to help so early, and so often. It would keep us out of foul trouble, keep Granger fresher, and enable the coaching staff to focus our defense more effectively if we could rely on defensive talent and athleticism to stop someone instead of our complex and hard to execute scheme.
For this thread, I wanted to identify 2 categories of players:
1. Wing defenders who are already in the league.
2. Wing defenders we could draft.
I went through everyone's roster to perform this exercise, and tried to use common sense in who might be obtainable, and who probably would not be. Hopefully, when I list my reasons you can at least see what I was thinking. If reading this thread you see that I have left off someone I should have included, please name the player I missed and explain your reasoning.
I think acquiring one or more of these players listed should be the Pacers highest priority this offseason personnel wise, along with doing something intelligently at the point guard position.
PPEMIER WING DEFENDERS ALREADY IN THE LEAGUE WHO MIGHT BE OBTAINABLE:
1. Quinton Ross, L.A. Clippers. You all knew I'd list him first, didn't you? I view Bill Simmons as being right about Ross, who he describes as being the next potential Bruce Bowen. Ross is active, long, tough minded, sometimes borderline dirty, and realizes his defense is his calling card. Ross is the kind of player who can really help a winning team with a strong "culture of winning"....in otherwords, not the Clippers. Ross is a free agent, and the best way for the Pacers to get him would be a sign and trade, so we could get rid of a bad contract in exchange for him. With the Clippers in dire need of a point guard, this is an excellent opportunity for us to do 2 things: Get the best available wing defender, and get rid of Jamal Tinsley.
2. Corey Brewer, Minnesota. Brewer is still on his rookie deal, and hasnt been as good as Minnesota probably hoped after making him a high draft pick a year ago. If we did attempt to make a deal with the Wolves for some other piece (Randy Foye perhaps, as others have speculated) it would be wise for us to broaden the deal to include Brewer. Brewer can't shoot a lick, but he is quick, active, and long armed, with a winning pedigree in college.
3. Trenton Hassell, New Jersey. Hassell is a strong, older perimeter defender still under 30. He plays little in New Jersey, where he is blocked by Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson. Hassell is a smart, veteran player who has been through the wars. He is also cheap. If we would make a bigger deal with the Nets for some other piece, getting Hassell included would be smart.
4. Renaldo Balkman, New York Knicks. With Isiah out, Balkman loses his biggest fan. The new regime in New York likely won't be as enamored with Balkman, making him I believe very available as a throw in in a bigger deal with the Knicks, should we pursue one. Balkman is an extremely hard worker, rebounder, and physical player who totally has no offensive game....think of a smaller Jeff Foster. Balkman is bigger than most on this list, and would excel in a role guarding stronger perimeter players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and others.
5. Ronnie Brewer, Utah Jazz. Brewer is a player I liked alot coming out of college, and I still do. If the Jazz and Pacers made a move of some sort, it would be smart of Indiana to insist on Brewer being included.
6. Thabo Sefalosha, Chicago Bulls. The Bulls and Pacers look like potential trading partners anyway, so it would be a smart move for Larry Bird to try and fleece the Bulls out of Sefalosha. He is extremely quick, moves his feet well, and is young and affordable. If the Pacers somehow made a deal with Chicago that included Kirk Hinrich and Thabo Sefalosha, I probably would start posting 10000 words every day proclaiming the greatness of it all. Sefalosha doesnt have the instincts of a great defender yet, but he is developing them with the more experience he gets, and I think he has potential to grow into a lock down wing defender. Yet another player I loved coming out of the draft a few years ago.
7. Aaron Afflalo, Detroit Pistons. Afflalo was the pac 10 defensive player of the year in college, and this year has served as an apprentice playing behind Teyshaun Prince in Detroit. Afflalo has more offensive game than others on this list, and is young and cheap. AA was well taught under Ben Howland at UCLA, and will be in the league for many years as a jumpshooter/defender extraordinaire. Afflalo has been a huge winner at every level he has been at, and would fill a huge role for us. A few weeks ago I proposed a deal in the trade forum of Afflalo and the Pistons late first rounder for Shawne Williams. I think that deal makes alot of sense for both sides.
8. Shane Battier, Houston. Battier is the ultimate personification of the type of player/person I want us to add, and would fill a gigantic role for us if for some reason we could get him. He is a bit older than I would like, but I added him to this "available shutdown defender" list for the simple reason that Houston is one of the only NBA teams who might feel the willingness and need to gamble and trade for Jamal Tinsley in the offseason, since their point guard situation is even worse than our own. It is easy to imagine Houston in scenarios trading Battier somewhere....how about us?
PREMIER POTENTIAL WING DEFENDERS WE COULD DRAFT:
1. Earl Clark, Louisville. Coming from Pitino's pressure system he should fit better than most would with Jim O'Brien's scheme. He is long and athletic, and possibly could become the type of "Derrick McKey" defender we could use. If we draft him at 11, his defense will be the reason, and would likely mean Shawne Williams (or someone else) days are numbered.
2. Russell Westbrook, UCLA. Similar to Afflalo above, Westbrook is a quick, tough, smart, and well schooled defensive player. He will be able to play defensively at times against point guards too, particularly back ups or bigger "ones" Westbrook will likely be gone before we pick, although that is not a certainity at all. He'd struggle against some of the bigger guys we need to stop, but would conversley have a chance against quicker types, like Gilbert Arenas, for example.
3. Kyle Weaver, Washington State. He has huge potential as a potential stopper athletically and toughness wise. Always had to guard the oppoents best player for Washington State, who runs a similar man to man scheme as we do. Weaver is physically strong, and can block and contest shots very well.
4. Stanley Burrell, Xavier. Burrell transformed into a great defensive player at Xavier, who was one of the best coached teams in the country under New Castle native Sean Miller. He was the Atlantic 10's defensive player of the year, and was a huge asset to his team. He is a bit undersized (listed at somewhere between 6'4 and 6'2, hard to tell which is accurate), and likely won't be drafted. He in my view would be a great aset to have to help guard guys like Arenas, Iverson, Ben Gordon, and others....and would cost us nothing to acquire. He can defend somewhat bigger guys too, due to his work ethic, strength, and coachability. If he was a bit bigger, he would remind you all alot of another Xavier alum who is a similar player, James Posey of Boston.
If I were coaching in the NBA, I'd want to have a guy like Burrell on my roster for specific defensive situations when I desperately needed a stop and had to guard a smaller guy, like Parker, Ginobili, Deron Williams, etc. If some western team doesnt sign Burrell, I'd be shocked. That is, unless we are smart and use our second rounder on him.
Ok, that is my list of perimeter wing defenders. Please add yours if you like, and if you want to comment on some realistic ways we could add these guys to our roster in a smaller but very important deal, feel free to do so.
As always, this is just my opinion.