Four big questions seem to be the underlying focus of the "JO to Cavs Trade Proposal" thread. So, I've linked this threat to that one just so readers can get the full gist of the primus from which this thread originates.
Seems to me that going into this upcoming season (if not up until draft day) TPTB need to answer four foundamental questions concerning JO's continued tenure with the team:
1. Will he be healthy enough to compete for a large percentage of games (70 or more)?
2. What will be his role coming into next season?
3. Is the risk of retaining him worth the $44M dollar price tag ($23M if you trade him after next season)?
4. How soon do TPTB want to return to "contender status" within the Central Division let alone the Eastern Conference and beyond?
Here's my take on each of the above:
I understand where most of you are coming from. As a Pacers fan it's hard to see them come so close and yet be so far away from the big prize. I remain in the camp that says "retool" vice "rebuild". I'd rather they take their shot within two years instead of five or more and be stuck in...what's that word again?...mediocrity...until my grandchildren are old enough to play ball. (And mind you, they're 1, 3 and 4 now.)
- 1) No one has the answer to this question. All TPTB can do is instruct the player on those things they believe he needs to work on to get better and hope the player adheres to their instruction. It's still early in the off-season to make any kind of judgement call on how well JO is progressing in his off-season workouts, but by all accounts so far his rehab seems to be going better than expected. Now that JO has indicated his intensions not to opt out of his contract, the best thing TPTB can do is monitor his progress and keep the fans abreast of same.
- 2) This is an intriguing question but believe it or not it's actually been answered by JO himself. It's apparent that in order for him to be successful next season he has to remain injury-free. That's a given. But there's another component to his short-term success that few have discussed and most have ignored and that is he has to be willing to accept a "partnership" role within the offense vice being placed "front-and-center" of the offense. JO has mentioned countless times that he's okay with not being the focus of the offense. However, many of us still remember that private meeting he had w/RC on the heels of that lose against the Celtics 2-yrs ago where he all but demanded the ball. In JOB's Guard oriented offense, I think JO had a glimps of where he really fits in, such as being a shot-blocker, a passer out of the post and a decent mid-range scorer. I'd like to see him get to the rim more and I'm sure that will come with the improve stability of his knee. Time will tell just how much of his former self he can regain.
- 3) This is the sticking point for most fans. For those with the view point that he hasn't earned his keep, I'd urge you to look at his stats of the last fives years since signing his 7-yr, $126.5M contract ('03-04) and tell me what you see. For me, I see only one year during this timeframe where JO didn't avg. at least 19 ppg (19.5 over the last 5 yrs; 20.97 if you exclude last season's avg of 13.6 ppg). And considering that he has failed to reach 19 ppg only twice during his entire tenure with the Pacers, it's hard to argue that he hasn't earned his keep to some extent even after factoring in all the games he's been out due to injury or suspensions (brawl year, '04-05). Still, I see everyone's point when they argue that $126M for a player who isn't a "takeover the game" type wasn't worth it. Two things you have to remember, however: a) JO was very young when he signed that contract; and b) his potential was clearly evident coming off two years where he was the team's leading shot blocker (franchise best 200+ ('01-02), was voted "Most Improved Player" and was voted to his first All-Star team ('02-03). How could you not lock the guy up for the long haul? I'm not saying he was worth a max contract - only the MJ's and Kobe's of the world are worth that much and even with those guys you're still taking one huge risk because you never know how things will turn out - but I believe that if Walsh wanted to keep him , thereby keeping such talent off the open market, he had to make JO an offer he just couldn't refuse and a max contract was it!
- 4) To answer this last question, TPTB need only decide which financial angle they wish to pursue. The "short-term cost savings" is to throw JO away and take whatever they can get in short-term contracts and draft picks. Of course, this will mean starting over as many have suggested and not being in the enviable position to contend for a title for quite some time. My view is you're in no better position under this notion than you are currently. Whether it's one huge contract for 2-yrs or several for one year, you're still spending $44M. You're just forcing the "rebuilding process" a year or two sooner, but you're still searching for the right pieces either way it goes. Why not include JO among the core pieces since you know the potential is still there and build around that core? Otherwise, you're forced to find that dominate post player either through the draft where you'll have to wait to see how his development turns out or you get that player through FA which may not cost you another long-term contract but you're very likely to have to continue tweaking your roster every 2-3 yrs. What was that word many of you like to throw out there...mediocrity? Sometimes buying a championship works ofwhich this year the Celtics may have just demonstrated how best to go about doing it. But most times you end up with a bust. (See the 4-HOFer Lakers team for details)
Let the bebate begin anew...