Adding Depth Inside: The Indiana Pacers gave up one of the most underrated big men in the league this summer when they traded double-double machine Troy Murphy to the New Jersey Nets. It hurt their depth inside, but it was a necessary sacrifice that they had to make in order to acquire promising young point guard Darren Collison. So far, Josh McRoberts has done an admirable job of stepping up in Murphy's absence and providing more versatility.
"Josh has been terrific," Pacers head coach Jim O'Brien told HOOPSWORLD. "He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's rebounding and being an effective playmaker. When he has a stand-still open three he's knocking it down. He's not a Troy Murphy, who is a high volume 3 point shooter. He can do a lot of different things. (The starting power forward job) is Josh's to lose and I don't think he's going to lose it. He's going to have a terrific year."
"Josh has been doing extremely well," agreed Pacers center Roy Hibbert. "This summer he's been working with me, been my right hand buddy in the weight room and on the court all summer. I think that's his spot. We are happy to have Tyler Hansbrough back too, though."
Hansbrough, a second-year forward who the Pacers drafted 13th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft, has finally received a clean bill of health. He's back on the court after playing just 29 games in 2009-2010. Hansbrough is slated to be McRoberts' main backup, but Coach O'Brien is hesitant to put any big expectations on him.
"Tyler is almost like a rookie," explained O'Brien. "He hasn't had the repetitions that are needed. He's not going to be a guy who can space the court, so he has to find other ways to be an effective player."
"I'm still trying to find my rhythm," added Hansbrough. "It's been a long set back. I feel like the more I play the faster it will come. (Me and Josh) were going to war last year when the starting power forward position wasn't available. That's the way we play. We're going to go at each other, but it's not a competition we wish the beach for each other. Troy left some big shoes to fill and hopefully we can fill them."
While the Pacers would ideally like for McRoberts and Hansbrough to handle the minutes at the power forward position, they're still searching the trade market for another big man to give some additional help. According to Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star they are offering guard Dahntay Jones and Solomon Jones in potential 2-for-1 deals that would also get their roster down to 15 players. If the Pacers aren't able to find another big, they'll likely deal one of those two for a trade exception and play small when they need to.
"We have the ability to play small," acknowledged Coach O'Brien. "We can use James Posey at the four. In order to make Collison and TJ Ford effective the court needs to be spaced and it's difficult to do that when you have perimeter guys that can't make the three."
Playing small isn't as viable of an option as it used to be in the Eastern Conference for a team with playoff aspirations like the Pacers. The conference's top teams are featuring some of the league's best big men like Carlos Boozer, Amar'e Stoudemire, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett. Having a strong big man rotation is vital, so expect the Pacers to make something happen because their current rotation of McRoberts, Hansbrough, Hibbert and Foster isn't reliable or deep enough to ensure their spot in the top eight.
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