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Thread: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

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    Default Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1...ionship-window

    Appreciate the Indiana Pacers of today, because they could be gone tomorrow.
    Young, disciplined, selfless and dripping with championship potential, it seems inconceivable that Indiana's run could draw to a close anytime soon.
    Roy Hibbert is only 27. Paul George and Lance Stephenson are only 23. Only three players are over 30 on the entire roster. Danny Granger is healthy and playing. These Pacers are perched atop the Eastern Conference—and entire NBA for that matter—playing historically good lockdown defense.
    See, they're set for years to come. This won't end. It can't end.
    Can it?

    The Free-Agency Problem
    Darron Cummings/Associated Press




    This summer is going to be huge for the Pacers.
    Both Stephenson and Granger will hit unrestricted free agency after this. Granger, who is earning a cool $14 million this season, is in line for a substantial pay cut. Stephenson, meanwhile, is bringing home just over $1 million this year, and he figures to command much, much more.
    How much more?
    More than the Pacers may be able to afford.


    Under the current collective bargaining agreement, Stephenson can earn up to $13.7 million in the first year of his new deal. Asked previously if I could imagine Sir Lancelot netting that much, I answered "no." Now, after watching Stephenson continue to tear up the league and consistently be Indiana's second-best player, I retract that "no" and offer a more mysterious "maybe."


    Punitive taxes and a thrifty trade market make it so teams aren't inclined to wager expensive risks. Well, most teams. The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets have never been ones to shy away from a bad contract.


    Most organizations aren't willing to put themselves in that position. There is still risk involved with Stephenson, who has undoubtedly matured but is still a wild card when taken out of Indiana's effective structure.



    And yet, Stephenson is putting up numbers that dwarf any and all personality flaws or risks. He joins LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Michael Carter-Williams and Kevin Durant as the only five players averaging at least 13 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.
    Remove Carter-Williams, who, like Stephenson, is still on his rookie contract, from that list and the other three are all slated to earn well over $15 million next season. What's more, of anyone on that list—including Carter-Williams—Stephenson is the only one with a defensive rating below 100.
    This is a strong, effective two-way talent we're talking about. Though he may not snag a max deal, he's certainly due to exceed what Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix projected he would get:


    Between $7 and $9 million would be a bargain for Stephenson. A steal. A coup. Given the potential All-Star campaign he's having, it's a bargain unlikely to be brokered.


    "I'm staying with the Pacers," he told Pacers.com's Mark Montieth in November, suggesting he would be willing to accept a pay cut. But that was one leap into stardom ago.


    Accepting less is not out of the question. Indiana gave Stephenson his shot and helped transform him into the colorfully dangerous two-way talent he is today. He could be prepared to reward that, increasing Indy's chances of retaining him—just not by much.
    Here's a look at Indiana's salary outlook for 2014-15:


    Player 2014-15 Salary
    Roy Hibbert $14,898,938
    David West $12,000,000
    George Hill $8,000,000
    Luis Scola $4,868,499*
    Ian Mahinmi $4,000,000
    Paul George $13,701,250
    Chris Copeland $3,135,000
    C.J. Watson $2,077,000
    Solomon Hill $1,302,840
    Lance Stephenson N/A
    Donald Sloan $948,163*
    Orlando Johnson $915,243*
    Total salaries $65,846,933
    Via ShamSports (* denotes non-guaranteed deal).

    As I wrote previously, this puts the Pacers in a difficult position:
    Assuming the Pacers retain Luis Scola, Orlando Johnson and Donald Sloan, they have more more than $65.8 million committed to 11 players next year. As Bleacher Report's D.J. Foster reminds us, the projected luxury-tax line for 2014-15 is $75.7 million. This theoretically allows the Pacers to offer Stephenson under $10 million to start, right in the $7-9 million range.
    But that number is bound to decline.


    Foster also notes that George is eligible for a $3 million salary bump if named to this year's All-NBA team, which let's face it, is going to happen. This puts Indy's ledger at roughly $68.8 million, suggesting it can only afford to pay Stephenson around $6.9 million in 2014-15.
    Try telling yourself Stephenson couldn't easily negotiate a contract worth more than $6.9 million in its first year. You'll fail. Because it's going to happen. Stephenson, at worst, is going to be priced near $10 million annually, well outside Indy's present financial means.
    Team president Larry Bird has made it perfectly clear the Pacers aren't willing to cross that $75.7 million luxury-tax threshold next year, intimating they'll have to explore alternative options.


    Embarking on a series of salary dumps is a possibility, as is holding onto the fading hope of Stephenson accepting a low-ball offer. Or, you know, there's always Granger.


    Stephenson is more costly than Granger at this point. Indiana's former No. 1 scoring option has battled injuries since last season, and is now bolstering the team's bench attack. While his play has picked up, and he figures to be cheaper, he could still land outside Indiana's price range.
    Even if he doesn't, Bird and friends don't seem prepared to offer him a multiyear deal. Remember, it was Bird who criticized his work ethic back in December.
    Said Bird to the Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz:
    He doesn't work hard enough (in the offseason). He's not a guy who'll push himself to the brink like a lot of our guys do. He works hard but he doesn't push himself. That's why he starts slow every year and he just works his way back. Now this year, he's been hurt, so it's a different deal.
    That doesn't sound like a man leaning toward investing any more time or money in his fallen All-Star. It's not out of the question, but it's not likely, either.
    Realistically, then, the Pacers could lose both Granger and Stephenson. What happens then?

    The Bench Problem
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images




    Indiana's bench is already thin. Worse, it's pieced together with potentially temporary assets.
    Luis Scola and C.J. Watson are locked up through next season while Ian Mahinmi and Chris Copeland could remain in Indy through 2015-16. Let me ask you: Do you see any combination of players there, or elsewhere on the roster, capable of stepping up in Stephenson's and/or Granger's absence?
    Never mind any of them could become victims of cost-cutting moves aimed at retaining either Stephenson or Granger; there's no one on the bench with that much potential.


    There's also no free agents the Pacers could afford who replace what they stand to lose, either. Not unless they make some financially driven adjustments.

    One and Done?
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Look, the Pacers are a good team. A really good team. The best team in the NBA, actually.
    But not necessarily for much longer.


    George and Hibbert aren't going anywhere, and they give the Pacers two legitimate superstars to build around. Moving forward with them is going to be difficult, though, as unwanted change sets in.


    At least one of Granger and Stephenson is gone this summer. It would take an epic series of salary dumps for the Pacers to have enough cash for both.
    Losing Granger won't be the end of the world since Indy was already so good without him. Being forced to part ways with Stephenson would be.
    It's not as simple as creating wiggle room. The Pacers will obviously do what they can, but there are 29 other teams, many of which have cap space and bottomless wallets, who could pursue Stephenson. Even if the Pacers create enough room to keep Stephenson, there's no guarantee they want to pay him what others could be offering.


    Hibbert and George are already being paid handsomely, limiting the Pacers' ability to offer long-term contracts even with cap space. Having that much money committed to three players for a small-market team like them is dangerous and generally taboo (see the Oklahoma City Thunder and James Harden).

    Aside from Stephenson's future, there's the already skeletal bench to consider. Who in the second unit will step up? David West's age is an issue, too. He will turn 34 this August and is already showing dips in production.
    Rocky Widner/Getty Images
    Stephenson is Indiana's biggest question mark moving forward.



    Trouncing all other concerns is Stephenson. That's whom we keep coming back to.
    Barring any significant, cost-cutting moves, or his decision to accept well below his market value (and then some), he's gone. Face it. The Pacers cannot afford him as is. And if he goes, so do these Pacers.


    Coach Frank Vogel will still guide them to incredible defensive heights, and Bird has shown he can plug holes on the cheap. Plus, George and Hibbert. They will still be good. In a shoddy Eastern Conference, even great.
    But these Pacers, the league-best Pacers, are on the clock.


    "You think about what we're doing, us being No. 1 in the East," George said of Stephenson's All-Star candidacy, per USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt. "Him being the leader in triple-doubles in the league. It goes to show how big of a part he is to our team."
    Too big to afford; too expensive to keep. Too vital to replace, disallowing the Pacers from extending their fairytale dominance beyond this season

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Good article, I'd say he's dead on but our future isn't that dark. I don't think there is any way that we're as good next year but I trust in Bird that we'll still be a contender for years to come. We'll be a contender with our without Lance.
    Last edited by Pacerized; 01-25-2014 at 08:45 PM.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    I'm not terribly worried about losing Danny because I have faith in Orlando and/or Solomon to step up as they improve, but it's the idea of going back to a lame backup PF that worries me.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    I think Orlando Johnson can be a key bench piece for us next season. Solomon Hill may even get some burn next season as well. I think we can compete for a title for many more years, especially if we re-sign Lance

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    An article like this could have been written about the Thunder a few years back too when they had to lose Harden for not much return at all. Is it possible we lose Stephenson this off-season? Sure, but I think we will do everything in our power to not lose him and if we do retain him a core of next year Hibbert (28) and Paul George/Lance (24) is a core that will compete for a pretty large window. Will next years team in all likely hood be worse than this years team? Yes probably but that doesn't mean we just fall from basketball relevancy. I mean hell we could be a LOT worse next year and still be huge favorites to at least be a top 2 team in the East again, an accomplishment that doesn't seem too tough these days. Also it is not like our bench is setting fire to the world right now anyways, sure Scola has been a big upgrade to Tyler and Watson is a big upgrade to DJ and Granger playing healthy is nice but our bench is still not amazing by any stretch so even if we do downgrade the bench next year out of necessity our bench production probably won't falter too much. We also have a guy named Larry Bird running the show so am I a little worried that our team next year won't be as good as this year's team......yeah sure but am I worried we have a tiny 1 year window like this suggests definitely not.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    If the Heat break up our starters will get us to the finals next year. Hardly a 1 year window.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Quote Originally Posted by VideoVandal View Post
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    An article like this could have been written about the Thunder a few years back too when they had to lose Harden for not much return at all. Is it possible we lose Stephenson this off-season? Sure, but I think we will do everything in our power to not lose him and if we do retain him a core of next year Hibbert (28) and Paul George/Lance (24) is a core that will compete for a pretty large window. Will next years team in all likely hood be worse than this years team? Yes probably but that doesn't mean we just fall from basketball relevancy. I mean hell we could be a LOT worse next year and still be huge favorites to at least be a top 2 team in the East again, an accomplishment that doesn't seem too tough these days. Also it is not like our bench is setting fire to the world right now anyways, sure Scola has been a big upgrade to Tyler and Watson is a big upgrade to DJ and Granger playing healthy is nice but our bench is still not amazing by any stretch so even if we do downgrade the bench next year out of necessity our bench production probably won't falter too much. We also have a guy named Larry Bird running the show so am I a little worried that our team next year won't be as good as this year's team......yeah sure but am I worried we have a tiny 1 year window like this suggests definitely not.
    Right on. If we lose Lance, maybe we're worse next year, but I'm failing to see how a team with Paul George and Roy Hibbert locked in long term have a 1 year championship window.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    If we release Scola, we can get another player to fit that role. It is simpler to adjust the bench than to replace starters that have chemistry and are skilled in the role they have.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    I'd rather trade Hill than lose Lance.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Unless some minor ( trade Copeland for an Expiring ) to major ( trade Scola or GH ) trade is made between now and when Lance hits the Free Agent Market....I am heavily leaning towards the realization that there is a strong possibility that the Pacers will lose one or both of Lance or Granger .

    I will say that the Pacers championship window WAS a 2-Year window starting in the 2012-2013 season.....but shrunk to a 1 year window ( this season ) the second that Granger was out of the lineup last season . Even with Hansbrough in the lineup ( eventually being replaced by Scola ), I think that a lineup that included Granger last season COULD have made it to the NBA Finals.
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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Quote Originally Posted by Major Cold View Post
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    If we release Scola, we can get another player to fit that role. It is simpler to adjust the bench than to replace starters that have chemistry and are skilled in the role they have.
    Quote Originally Posted by Magic P View Post
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    I'd rather trade Hill than lose Lance.
    I will say that there are valid arguments that choosing Scola over GH ( or vice versa ) is going to impact the Team in a major way. The question is which will be the less bitter pill to swallow and which move would have the LEAST amount of impact to the lineup.
    Ash from Army of Darkness: Good...Bad...I'm the guy with the gun.

    This is David West, he is the Honey Badger, West just doesn't give a *****....he's pretty bad *ss cuz he has no regard for any other Player or Team whatsoever.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mad-Mad-Mario View Post
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    If the Heat break up our starters will get us to the finals next year. Hardly a 1 year window.
    The question of how big this window of opportunity is depends on what happens in the offseason and whether the Pacers are able to retain either Lance or Granger.
    Ash from Army of Darkness: Good...Bad...I'm the guy with the gun.

    This is David West, he is the Honey Badger, West just doesn't give a *****....he's pretty bad *ss cuz he has no regard for any other Player or Team whatsoever.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Quote Originally Posted by BlueCollarColts View Post
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    I think Orlando Johnson can be a key bench piece for us next season. Solomon Hill may even get some burn next season as well. I think we can compete for a title for many more years, especially if we re-sign Lance
    I have little doubt that OJ or Solo will become a major rotational Player next season. The reality is that the Pacers Salary Cap situation...regardless of what we do...will not allow the FO to make a major FA signing to get a solid rotational Player.
    Last edited by CableKC; 01-25-2014 at 05:05 PM.
    Ash from Army of Darkness: Good...Bad...I'm the guy with the gun.

    This is David West, he is the Honey Badger, West just doesn't give a *****....he's pretty bad *ss cuz he has no regard for any other Player or Team whatsoever.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    1 year window? No.

    That being said, this is our best shot at it. If we can't get it done this year, I'm not sure I like our odds at it happening in the future.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hicks View Post
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    I'm not terribly worried about losing Danny because I have faith in Orlando and/or Solomon to step up as they improve, but it's the idea of going back to a lame backup PF that worries me.
    Given the comments that Vogel ( I think ) and Bird have made about Copeland...my concern is that the backup PF position will be filled by Copeland if the plan is to let Scola go.

    As to the expected question of how one may feel about having Copeland as the Backup PF to West......I will give a response that I cannot form any type of "reasonable and well-informed" opinion of having Copeland filling that role since we haven't seen him do it on a regular basis. Copeland ( for now ) has only been a very expensive "break out the cigar" or "wave the white flag of surrender" type of Player......only getting garbage minutes. To be fair, no one should really say that Copeland can ( or cannot ) fill that role without seeing him actually play as the Backup PF on a regular basis alongside the rest of the 2nd unit.

    But based off of my initial "gut" feeling...I'm not going to lie...I'm not comfortable with Copeland filling the backup PF role. I don't think that it will be as bad as Hansbrough being the backup PF....I just pray that Copeland REALLY works on his mid-range jumpshot this season.
    Last edited by CableKC; 01-25-2014 at 05:07 PM.
    Ash from Army of Darkness: Good...Bad...I'm the guy with the gun.

    This is David West, he is the Honey Badger, West just doesn't give a *****....he's pretty bad *ss cuz he has no regard for any other Player or Team whatsoever.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Awesome View Post
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    1 year window? No.

    That being said, this is our best shot at it. If we can't get it done this year, I'm not sure I like our odds at it happening in the future.
    Agreed. I've been saying this for a while now... we should be in the mix (one of the elite NBA teams) for the next several years if we can keep PG/Roy/Lance together somehow, and possibly even if we lose Lance. But THIS season is probably our best shot for awhile - we have underpaid talent (Lance, Scola), starters playing as bench players (Granger, Scola), and youth (for now - West and Scola turn 34 this year).

    This year is the sweet spot.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    If we do lose Lance we will replace him with something. It might not be a player quite like Lance and I don't know who else is a free agent after this season but I don't think it would be too difficult to find someone decent to come play with this team for 6-7 million a year. We have no idea who that player might be but we can find another piece to the puzzle with the money we'd have left.
    Can we get a new color commentator please?

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    This is a no brainer to me: keep Stephenson and cut Granger. We didn't have Granger all of last year, and we almost made the NBA Finals. I would love to keep both of them, Granger is that spark we needed off the bench last year. But you can't let a talent like Stephenson walk away.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Quote Originally Posted by adamscb View Post
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    This is a no brainer to me: keep Stephenson and cut Granger. We didn't have Granger all of last year, and we almost made the NBA Finals. I would love to keep both of them, Granger is that spark we needed off the bench last year. But you can't let a talent like Stephenson walk away.
    The problem is that letting Granger walk might not even be enough to re-sign Lance.

    And as long as we have PG and Roy, this team will have a shot at winning a title.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    We need to resign Lance. Period. He is already better than Hill, and he and PG are both 23. They are a killer tandem on the wings. Lance and PG in their primes together is more important than Hill, and if he is the odd man out, I will be sad to see him go, but it's the least of the evils.
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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Bird will just make another deal. I'm not sure what anyone is worried about. Give the man some props.

    Granger is helping some but if he's gone we are still a dominant team even better next year. Our guys are still getting better and are still not in their prime. If we only lose Danny, we will be even better next year although it will be nominally better. Paul George could very well become a LeBron James level if he packs on a little more muscle. I have zero worries about next year. If anything I wonder what excellent moves might surprise us.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Can't we just go in luxury tax for one year :-( I don't wanna lose this core.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Like others have said, I would like to think that OJ and Solomon Hill can step up and fill voids. Can they? I have no clue, but if Bird had the faith to draft them that says a lot to me.

    I do think Lance is a big time beneficary of the system though. With how he plays the game he puts himself at a huge injury risk and his style can sometimes be counterproductive. I like Lance and want to resign him, but any more than 8 million bucks makes me nervous. I am just not sure he is worth it.

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    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Quote Originally Posted by 31Since1990 View Post
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    Can't we just go in luxury tax for one year :-( I don't wanna lose this core.
    The most stupid thing an owner or GM/President could do is say "We'll go into the luxury tax if we need to because this team is worth it". It doesn't exactly give you much leverage at the bargaining table. OTOH about the most stupid thing they could do is throw away a true championship contending team over what is relatively few dollars in the grand scheme of things. You have to consider what a championship would be worth let alone what the run up to one is worth as you're on the cusp.

    You don't want to overpay for mediocre talent nor do you want to go into luxury tax land just to try and be an 8th seed but we're in an entirely different place right now. If we need to trim some fat it won't be at the expense of Lance IMO. Granger OTOH is gone IMO. That is a given. Granger is not going to be a factor in our salary situation at all nor will he be any kind of true backup plan for losing Stevenson. Maybe that idea gets tossed around as negotiating leverage but TPTB won't be actually going there when the rubber hits the road. I'm not even sure they'd be interested at the vet minimum right now. Hill might be part of some salary shedding deal if it gets down to it simply because he's probably the easiest replaced considering where everyone else in the starting lineup is right now. Then again Bird might still like his steady demeanor and Simon might like his Indy connection so he might rather just reach deeper in his pocket than make that kind of salary shedding deal.

    I still say Bird didn't return to think finances were going to hamstring him from making a championship run.

    Not only that but Herb is getting up there. He might like to be around to see a banner raised in the fieldhouse, let alone see another Finals or two played there. I just don't have these concerns that we're going to throw away the core of the team. OTOH, Granger fans might be disappointed if they think he's still a team priority.
    Nuntius was right. I was wrong. Frank Vogel has retained his job.

    ------

    "A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself in the group, for the good of the group, that’s teamwork."

    -John Wooden

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  40. #25

    Default Re: Are Indiana Pacers Operating on 1-Year Championship Window?

    Quote Originally Posted by CableKC View Post
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    I will say that there are valid arguments that choosing Scola over GH ( or vice versa ) is going to impact the Team in a major way. The question is which will be the less bitter pill to swallow and which move would have the LEAST amount of impact to the lineup.
    I'm not concerned because that's a pretty easy one to me. We all hope the squad can stick together as-is, but realistically speaking, the expendables with financial value are Copeland, Mahinmi, Scola, George Hill.

    If the choice is trade George Hill or let Lance go to another team, happy trails GH. Much easier to find a caretaker than a productive, emergent playmaker.


    It's far too early to worry about any of this, though. Winning a championship changes things, even for owners.

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