The Pacers' Off-Season Shake-Up
*Photo via the Star
After two straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances, the Indiana Pacers have had a busy offseason, after what was a lackluster 2014-15 season. Following the end of the season, Pacers’ President Larry Bird talked about his plans to restructure the team in order to play a smaller, more up-tempo style of play. The off-season has been nothing but a direct showing of that.
Prior to the NBA draft, veteran power forward David West, informed the Pacers he was opting out of his contract to become a free agent (he eventually signed with San Antonio Spurs). Following this, Roy Hibbert decided to opt-in (which led to him being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers).
At the draft the Pacers drafted Myles Turner out of Texas and Joe Young from Oregon. Turner is similar in several ways to Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh. He’s versatile enough offensively to score inside as well as step out and knock down a jumper, the type of center the Pacers were looking for. Joe Young is an aggressive scoring guard, who averaged 20.7 points per game his last year in college.
The Pacers wasted no time when free agency started, meeting with veteran shooting guard Monta Ellis. After one meeting and despite being offered more money by the Sacramento Kings, Ellis signed a four-year, $44 million contract. Ellis is the type of up-tempo scoring presence, the Pacers have lacked in recent years.
Following this, the Pacers agreed to bring back Rodney Stuckey on a deal worth $21 million for three years. Stuckey was crucial last season in keeping the Pacers in the playoff hunt, and his presence on the second unit will be a huge boost. They were also able to unload Roy Hibbert to the desperate Los Angeles Lakers for only a second round draft pick; however, they managed to create $15 million in cap space. This increase in cap space allowed the team to re-sign Stuckey, as well as sign former Lakers’ center Jordan Hill. Hill has always been a relatively productive player on lackluster teams, and his athletic ability could allow him to be the perfect role player on this new look Pacer team.
The last move completed by the Pacers was trading small forward Damjan Rudez for Chase Budinger of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Budinger is an athletic forward who is capable shooting the ball from distance. Although it is unlikely Budinger will start, his ability to shoot and run the floor will amplify the bench.
As Larry Bird said, “going small and playing faster is the goal” and the moves this offseason follow that statement. The Pacers’ expected starting lineup this upcoming season is
PG - George Hill
SG - Monta Ellis
SF - C.J Miles
PF - Paul George
C - Myles Turner/Jordan Hill
Notable Reserves: J. Hill/M. Turner, R. Stuckey, C. Budinger
How this smaller lineup will work is uncertain, but it looks like they will rely more on scoring than defense, unlike the Pacers’ teams of the past five seasons.
Follow Kory Waldron on Twitter: @KoryWaldron