The Indiana Pacers finished a successful 2011-12 campaign where they finished third in the Eastern Conference with a 42-24 record. They won their first-round playoff match-up against the Magic and held a 2-1 series lead over the Heat before losing three straight and being eliminated.
As well as the season went for Indiana, the offseason has been quite the opposite. After signing George Hill to a slightly high five-year, $40 million deal, Roy Hibbert was offered a max contract by the Portland Trail Blazers. The four-year, $58 million asking price puts the Pacers in a tough position.
Heading into the 2012-13 season, the team was looking to add a two-guard, but now they may have to choose between adding a player like O.J. Mayo and retaining Roy Hibbert.
O.J. Mayo is exactly what Indiana needs to take the next step. As good as Hibbert was—a great defender and actual prototypical center—he's not worth the money. With the money, the Pacers can get Mayo and Chris Kaman.
Mayo is a good shooter who has played the role of sixth man the past two years in Memphis, but put up much better numbers in his first two pro seasons when he was a starter. Indiana could desperately use an outside shooter to improve the offense.
Kaman, though not as talented as Hibbert, provides the same type of player at a much cheaper cost. The Pacers could sign Mayo and Kaman instead of matching Portland's offer to Hibbert. Having $98 million tied up between George Hill and Roy Hibbert is ridiculous. Let him walk and have the Blazers pay him that kind of money.
The problem is that the Pacers need to act quickly. It is still unclear what they will do come July 11 when Hibbert officially signs the offer sheet.
When asked earlier this week about the likelihood of the Pacers matching the Blazer's offer, ESPN's Chad Ford had this to say:
Fifty-one percent. They are really on the fence. If they can find a replacement that they are comfortable with for cheaper, they may let him go. Chris Kaman is coming in today into Indy. Personally I feel that's a pretty big downgrade, but Larry Bird has been a huge fan of Kaman's.
Whatever they decide, it must be executed in the next couple of days.
With Brandon Roy already gone to Minnesota, Mayo is the best player left at his position, and there's a big drop after him. Also, Kaman has other potential suitors, so Indiana needs to either grab these two guys now or commit to Hibbert and figure out what to do with the little money they have left.
The Pacers are a young, talented team that has a chance to become an Eastern Conference power in the future. This is one of the decisions that will shape the next decade in Indiana. They need to let Hibbert walk and focus on Mayo and Kaman.