The Indiana Pacers pulled off the seemingly impossible on Wednesday
when they parlayed their patience and an expiring contract into the point guard theyíve been looking for since the turn of the millennium.
I detailed the four-team, five-player trade in ĎGrading the Dealí format shortly after the trade was finalized, but given the fact that the Pacers were the winners of the swap
, I figured a more in-depth look was needed.
For those that may have missed it, here is the breakdown of Wednesdayís deal: Indiana acquired Darren Collison and James Posey from New Orleans, New Jersey got Troy Murphy from Indiana, Houston landed Courtney Lee from New Jersey and New Orleans added Trevor Ariza from Houston.
There are a number of ways to view this deal from the Pacersí perspective.
Just a little patience
Pacers president Larry Bird and general manager David Morway have been preaching patience
since the start of their three-year plan and for the first time since it was implemented two years ago, the roster is visibly improved.
Iíve done my best not to, but after seeing a photo-shopped picture of Birdís face on the body of Guns Ní Roses singer Axl Rose from the ďPatienceĒ video, I canít help but get the image out of my mind.
The point has been made multiple times in this space, but the type of discipline Bird and Morway showed in sticking to their plan was extremely admirable.
Were there times when it seemed as though they had missed the boat? Absolutely. Do they still have work to do? Another obvious yes.
Regardless of the tinkering they still have left, letís review the developments that led up to Collison landing in Indiana.
-- Hovering near the luxury tax threshold, the Pacers were handcuffed in terms of what they could do to improve their roster heading into the summer.
-- They drafted Paul George, yet another talented wing player to add to a stable of players at shooting guard and small forward.
-- Deals were discussed, but the entire month of July (and nearly two weeks in August) passed without Indiana making a single move aside from signing George and second-rounder Lance Stephenson.
-- They were seemingly left to target stop-gap options at point guard after they were unable to work any type of sign-and-trade or outright trade for another teamís spare guard.
-- Rumors that Chris Paul wanted out of New Orleans burned red-hot and then cooled down after he met with new general manager Dell Demps and coach Monty Williams. All of a sudden, the Hornets were put in a position where they needed to do two things. They needed to assure fans that they were committed to CP3, while simultaneously convincing him they are serious about putting building around him.
-- The Nets needed a power forward and the Rockets were open to trimming some of their payroll. Alas, the four-team deal became a realistic possibility and in a rare feat these days, the trade is discussed and nearly completed before reports even surfaced.
The addition of Collison is exciting, but itís even more so when you consider that the Pacers could have panicked and acquired a mid-level veteran to start for a season or two rather than a young piece to add to their core.
What trading Murphy means
In the initial aftermath of the trade I got an e-mail or two from readers worried that the Pacers had ďsold the farmĒ by trading Murphy and his $11.9 million the season before it expires.
While itís true that Indiana now has less cap room next summer Ė approximately $33 million based on a $58 million salary cap as opposed to the $36.5 million they projected prior to the Collison/Murphy deal -- they accomplished two things by dealing one of many expiring deals and also their highest-paid player.
-- They lowered their payroll this season by $5 million, which gives them greater flexibility over the remainder of the summer
. They could sign a low-level free agent and still remain under the luxury tax line, but with 16 players under contract (not including rookie Magnum Rolle and including T.J. Ford) that appears unlikely at this point.
With the luxury tax set at $70.3 million, they have six million to work with should they so desire.
Much more likely is another trade. They are in need of an established power forward
(despite their public comments) with Tyler Hansbrough, Josh McRoberts, Solomon Jones and Jeff Foster left to play alongside center Roy Hibbert in the paint.
Bird said Wednesday that he doesnít expect to go into the season with the current roster and Iíd be very surprised if they did.
They now have the ability to take on a few million in payroll for the 2010-11 season in a trade and even give up more bodies than they get in a potential deal. Itís much easier to negotiate a trade when pennies arenít being pinched.
- I had recommended it and I mentioned it in my GTD, but the Pacers took a very smart approach to their projected cap space in 2011. The deal not only got them Collison, but it was also proactive since it would have been hard for them to sign players like Collison and even Posey next summer. The relative unattractiveness of Indiana notwithstanding (at least compared to Miami and Los Angeles), itís impossible to sign a young, point guard to such an inexpensive deal because teams hold onto them like gold. In addition, a veteran like Posey would likely have desired an immediate contender.
The cap space Murphyís contract would have provided in 2011 would have looked great on paper, but who would they have spent it on? Teams like the Clippers, Knicks and Nets had only marginal success with their significant cap room this summer and the free-agent pool was perhaps the best the NBA has ever seen.
The Collison effect
As a result of all the waiting and the deficiency Indiana has seen at point guard in the last ten years
or so, many are anointing Collison as an All-Star already. While thatís not out of the question down the road, expectations should be tempered.
He stepped in and performed extremely well for New Orleans when Paul was injured last season, averaging 18.8 points and 9.1 assists, but his run as the teamís starter lasted just 37 games and his supporting cast (David West and Emeka Okafor) was a little more stable and consistent than what heíll have right away in Indiana.
What Collison did do that should carry over immediately is post a True Shooting percentage of .546 and a solid assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.14, which displays his good instincts in terms of both shot selection and passing.
He is the type of point guard that can make the players around him better, something Indiana hasnít really had since Mark Jackson (1994-2000). With that said, Jackson TS% topped out at .568 (1996) and was often far below Collisonís rookie mark. It remains to be seen if Collison can be the leader Jackson was, but at least the days of Tyus Edney, Kevin OIlie, Jamaal Tinsley, Eddie Gill, Anthony Johnson, Darrell Armstrong, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Keith McLeod, Travis Diener, T.J. Ford, Jarrett Jack and Earl Watson are behind the Pacers.
Not only is Collision perhaps the best point guard option Indiana has had in a decade, but heís also ideal for Jim OíBrienís system.
Heís fast, level-headed and a good shooter. Heís also excellent defensively, something the Pacers will likely encourage him to improve further.