Indiana Pacers (group A)
2009-10 payroll: $66.9 million
Projected 2010-11 payroll: $65.7 million (OVER)
• VP's Take: The Pacers should be a small-market team that pays one big star (in this case, Danny Granger) and a bunch of scrappy role players. Right now, they're in no-man's land -- destined to win 35 to 42 games a year, with no chance of growing into something better than that. Why not just bottom out? Like what David Kahn tried to do in Minnesota, only not as clumsy and caked in double-talk.
• Mitigating Factor: Any "bottoming out" needs to include the team dumping Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy and/or T.J. Ford (making $60.3 million combined through 2011). On the Untradeable Scale from 1 to Gilbert Arenas, Murphy is a 2, Dunleavy is a 6.5 (because of knee issues) and T.J. Ford is an 8.
• VP's Verdict: Move those Dunleavy/Murphy contracts while they're in uniforms and not street clothes or walking casts. For example …
Fake Trade 3a: Murphy and Dunleavy to Cleveland for Shaq's EC. Love the Murphy fit for Cleveland because he can shoot threes and rebound; they could play him, Varejao, LeBron, West and Williams at crunch time. Anything Dunleavy gives them is a bonus. For Indiana, they can buy out Shaq (saving a couple of million dollars), then save another $23 million next season. And you thought professional basketball couldn't be salvaged in Indiana! Let's celebrate by hitting a local strip club and firing gunshots into the air. What, too soon?
Fake Trade 3b: Murphy, Dunleavy and Travis Diener to Utah for Andrei Kirilenko, Kosta Koufos and Kyle Korver's EC. Admittedly, this trade makes no sense -- I just wanted to break the record for "most white guys in an all-white trade."