Good morning everyone in Pacer nation!
I took the day off work today to head to Conseco Fieldhouse, as I am spending the afternoon in downtown Indianapolis before my brother, father, uncle and I all head to the events at Conseco.
It was requested in the original trade thread from last night by a couple different posters for a detailed breakdown by me of TJ Ford and what his pros/cons are, and I happily do that this morning.
Ford is obviously a smaller point guard, one of the smallest in the league at only 5'10". Because of this, he really struggles defending the bigger point guards of the league, such as Chauncey Billups and the like. He is also very slightly built, and probably doesnt have the body build and strength to play 32 plus minutes on an every night basis. Asking him to do that in my opinion is asking for diminishing returns. Ideally, you need to pair him up with a bigger guard who compliments his talents, much like the Pacers did for years with the combination of Travis Best and Mark Jackson. Playing smart with him and rationing his minutes, Ford is a player who can start or come off the bench and play around half the game in an ideal world. For us, for various reasons, I think he is best served as a starter, playing about 28 minutes or so on average.
Given minutes, and in the proper matchups, playing in Jim O'Brien's system he will be a very nice productive player. I would expect something like 13 points, 6.5 assists or so per game, with turnovers around 2 per game on the offensive end.
Since the Pacers seem destined to be playing more minutes this season in a small ball scenario than they did last year (Ford, another guard, 2 of Williams/Baston/Granger/Dunleavy with a big player underneath), the geometry of the game will be such that Ford will be given many opportunities to cross his man over up top and beat him off the dribble into the lane, which his remarkable speed should allow him to do pretty well.
Ford doesnt finish extremely well, nor is he a great distributor of the ball. I'd rate him only about average to slightly above in these categories. because of who he is likely to be playing with, teams that play us will be spread out defensively on the perimeter, so I think the strategy against us will to be mostly "make Ford finish over someone, make him be a scorer instead of a distributor." TJ isnt a flashy or super creative passer, but he will make good decisions, and he will play the right way. He is a true point guard on both ends of the floor.
Ford can be dangerous in a pick and roll situation with the ball, as he is extremely quick and a good ballhandler. At this point, it is hard to determine who he'd be running the screen/roll WITH however, as our roster as I type this doesnt really have anyone capable of doing that well who will be playing big minutes. Teams I think will go underneath or screener and force Ford to be a perimeter jump shooter, or will trap TJ and make our screener be a "decision maker". because of that, I'd guess our true screen/roll situations next year will be unconventional, using Ford with either Granger or Dunleavy instead of another big guy.
I don't want both our guards to be under 6'0, so I do think that adding Ford precludes you from adding Augustin, as you need a different type of guard to pair with Ford than someone who is his "mini-me". Those two guys are best friends though, so it would be a nice chemistry boon to our squad if the two guys end up playing together.
Defensively, for the time Ford is in the game, I think he is a giant leap forward for what we have been seeing. For those who think having a smaller guard really hurts your defense potentially, you are forgetting just how terrible our point guard defense has been since Travis Best left.
Ford is a high pressure point guard who moves his feet very very well, and can extend his defense to pressure the opposing point guard way up the floor. I love that! The Pacers can now improve their defense in a bunch of different ways.
First, having a lead guard who can pressure the ball upcort eats up shot clock time for the opponent. This may not lead to steals, but instead it means that the offense can make one less pass against our rotating team defense. It means they have to sometimes take a hurried shot instead of making the extra pass to a wide open guy with his feet set.
Adding point guard pressure defense has other hidden advantages. It means an opposing coach has to simplify his playbook, and cant use as many intricate plays against us. It hurts the opposing coach's ability to communicate to his lead guard, who can't just leisurely listen to him coming up the floor, surveying our defense all the while. Instead, that opposing point guard has to work hard, just to advance the ball up the floor.
Pressuring the ball hard by your point guard, with that guard having the quickness to not be constantly getting beat off the dribble, means your "wing denial" defense can be much more effective. Because of the sieve like, matador defense that Tinsley played, the Pacers had to "sink" their wings into the paint to overprotect against the driving point guard, allowing teams to run their set plays against us easily with no trouble. Now, without having to constantly cover for one terrible defender out front, guys like Granger and Baston can get out on the wings and deny their men the ball some, making the opponent work hard and take time just to begin their offensive set. That is a huge thing from a team defensive standpoint.
Because Ford's value to me is so predicated on his defensive pressuring ability, it is important that we dont expose him too much to too many minutes. You have to "ration" Ford over the long haul to use him the ideal way. 28 minutes is about the max. For that reason, the Pacers point guard problem isnt solved yet totally.....we still need someone with size and a different type game to give us 20 or so point guard minutes. Deiner is important too as a third point guard, but only in that role. We still have a hole in our roster headed into the draft for a point guard with size and a different game than Ford has.
The perfect scenario for us would be for Bayless to fall to us. I didnt do a "tbird analysis" of him, because up until 2 days ago I thought there was no freakin posible way he fell this far. But, in the last few days, a couple of different mocks have had this happen. One had us smartly taking him, another had us passing and taking a big at #11.
Because Bayless can play some point guard minutes well, because he is potentially such a big time shooter in a system that values that, because he can divide his minutes here as a "combination" point guard and shooting guard (playing with a lineup of Ford/Bayless/Granger or Dunleavy/ 2 bigs, or playing with a lineup of Bayless/Granger/Dunleavy/ 2 bigs), the Pacers would be blessed beyond belief if they luck out and have Bayless fall all the way to them. I doubt it happens, but if it does, Larry can't be caught off guard, so locked in to one plan of attack that he can't adjust on the fly. If Bayless falls, you have to take him, no question in my mind.
I did do a "tbird draft analysis" on Eric Gordon however. In my mock draft I have him falling to us at #11, and I have us passing on him. That is exactly what we should do if that occurs. Because Gordon cannot play the point offensively, that makes him a bad fit here in Indiana. It might be unpopular tonight, but that is the right move to make, I'm convinced.
Most mocks have them both gone however. If so, we will have the opportunity to add either a big at #11, or a solid wing like Brandon Rush, or to select the player to be the point guard to pair with TJ Ford, who I think is Mario Chalmers.
Bird needs to be smart here. They'll be plenty of bigs available at #17 I think that can help you. You know by now that I want Marresse Speights to be our long term potential solution for a replacement to JO, as I feel he is the only true low post scorer/potential go to guy at this point in the draft. But Speights will likely it seems to me fall to #17, so you have no reason to pick him here from a strategic point of view.
I think you have to be ready to take Chalmers with #11 to keep him away from Sacramento at #12. But, if you are Larry and your spies and intelligence info tell you that Sacramento will pass on Chalmers, then maybe you can deal with Portland, go down 2 spots to #13, still get Chalmers and pick up an extra second rounder to replace the #41 we gave up in the Ford deal. If Portland sees an opportunity to get a guy they like at #11 (say for instance Augustin is still there), then we can take advantage of that situation and move down just a bit, save some cash and acquire an extra pick or 2 from the Blazers.
Then, select Chalmers at #13 and a big you want at #17, or vice versa.......while having extra ammo to select someone at #33 or wherever. If you want to, you could probably trade the #33 and a future 2nd to Memphis and get back to #28, if someone fell there that you wanted, and felt ok with giving a guaranteed contract to.
Lots of permutations will be available tonight. I'm sure that today Morway, Bird, and the rest of the braintrust are gaming this out in a conference room somewhere, using different scenarios so tonight no one is surprised, and that a plan is in place no matter what happens above us. Whatever is going to happen, chances are it has been decided by noon today or so.
Lastly, kudos to Jim Morris, who is a brilliant businessman, and a huge asset to the Pacers organization and city of Indianapolis. This week the Pacers joined the Colts in a joint venture to help IPS schools in a program called "suit up for school". I have no idea what the program is, but congratulations to Morris for starting an alliance with area youths, and with the highly thought of Colts. I also give Morris the credit for all the events at Conseco tonight, the positive PR campaign of Danny Granger becoming the face of our franchise, and the idea to make preseason games free to some season ticket holders. I expect that the Pacers will continue to make overtures to build new fans in the state by marketing to all areas of Indiana, and I hear that statewide campaign will begin in July. Kudos to Jim Morris for seeing the future ahead, having a plan to bring in new fans to our franchise, and for having a vision for how a successful and popular organization should act and behave.
What a breathe of fresh air we are getting in Indiana from our Pacers! A new direction, vision for the future, with a clear idea of where we are going, and a marketing campaign that makes sense and is fan friendly and inclusive. Straight talk from our front office, looking to acquire guys with sterling reputations, positive media coverage both locally and nationally........feels a lot better to be a Pacer fan today, doesnt it?
Lets have a great night tonight, support the individual players we select no matter who they are, and look ahead to a brighter future. I cant wait to be in Conseco tonight, and read all the posts of all you fellow fans tomorrow!