The Pacers made a difficult, but necessary decision this past weekend when they decided not to pick up the 2009-10 option on the contract of Marquis Daniels.
While Indiana is thin on the wing, Daniels would have made $7.35 million, which would have pushed the Pacers dangerously close to the expected luxury tax threshold.
Daniels will become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday, but the ball is still in the Pacers' court if they so choose.
Statistically, Daniels had his best season last year. He averaged career-highs in points (13.6), rebounds (4.6) and minutes (31.5), but appeared in just 54 games.
His season ended early because of a wrist injury suffered in March.
When healthy, Daniels played a vital role for the Pacers, who were without Mike Dunleavy for a majority of the season. With Dunleavy out until 2010, losing Daniels leaves Indiana dangerously thin on the wing.
Currently, Danny Granger and Brandon Rush are the team's only options at shooting guard and small forward, which leaves the team one injury away from disaster.
It's very possible that the Pacers could find a serviceable, low-cost option on either the free agent or trade market, but Daniels might be the best out there.
He didn't play up to his contract in 2008-09, largely because of his injuries issues, "earning" just $3.74 million according to RealGM Executive Editor Christopher Reina's ingenious 'Reina Value.'
Because of durability issues and a depressed market, I'd imagine that Daniels could fetch anywhere from $3 million to $6 million annually on the free agent market. He has never appeared in more than 74 games in any of his six NBA seasons, and has logged 60 or fewer games on four occasions.
What hurts Daniels in Indiana's offensive system is his lack of range, but he provides them with versatility in most other aspects.
He can't hit a three-pointer with any sort of consistency (23.7% for his career), but can slash to the basket and finish with regularity around the rim. Granger is probably the only member of the team that drives to the basket better than Daniels. He can handle the ball and rebound as well.
When the combination of T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack were either injured or in foul trouble last season, Daniels was a capable fill-in at the point. His assist numbers (2.1 per game) weren't great, but he plugs the hole and creates mismatches at the position.
In terms of efficiency, Daniels is still chasing the numbers he posted in his final season with the Mavericks (2005-06, 10.2 points on 8.3 shots), but aside from his limited range he's a good fit for the Pacers.
There isn't a player of his caliber on the free agent market that Indiana would likely be able to sign, whether the hang up is financial or because there is no guarantee of a playoff berth in Indiana.
Drafting Tyler Hansbrough addressed the team's need for another big body and a presence in the paint, but the focus should be on the perimeter now.
There were rumors that the Pacers were shopping Ford prior to last week's draft, but doing that, if still possible, won't solve the team's issues on the wing unless they are able to land a slasher in exchange for the point guard.
Daniels can play at three spots, further enhancing his value for the Pacers, especially with Dunleavy out, Rush still relatively unproven and a point guard situation that appears to be influx yet again.
It's obvious that the Pacers don't feel as though Daniels is worth $7.35 million, and he isn't. But how high should they go if he is open to signing a long-term deal as an unrestricted free agent?
As I said, his play last season indicated that he was worth roughly $3.7 million, and the Pacers shouldn't waste any time getting his signature if he's willing to sign, say, a three-year deal worth $11 million. However, that's unlikely.
With only about $18 million, plus the contract of Hansbrough, locked up in 2011-12, Indiana could back load any deal given to Daniels to provide them more flexibility in the present.
Let's assume Daniels' market value is roughly $4.5 million per year, which I believe is a fair assessment. The Pacers could sign him to a three-year, $14 million deal with increasing annual value.
They could pay him $3.75 million this coming season, $4.75 million in 2011 and $5.5 million in 2012.
A deal in that realm would be a great value for the Pacers. It would allow them to retain a fill-in and insurance for Dunleavy, while not pushing them up against the luxury tax wall.
If the Pacers don't make a strong play for Daniels, someone will.