Everyone's leaning on the Pacers these days. With less than a week to go before the March 15 trade deadline, Indiana's cap space and impressive ranking in the East (pretty safely ensconced in the fifth seed) make Indiana the team every desperate NBA squad and desperate media outlet's favorite fallback trading partner. The Pacers are good but have plenty of holes; the team has the flexibility to make a transaction without having to send any players back, and personnel chief Larry Bird has never been hesitant to swing a deal or two.
One watch of one half of Pacers basketball, and the team's needs become obvious to the viewer. Indiana badly covets a point guard that can create for others, and they need more fans to fill in (and speaking as someone who lives in Indiana, Hoosiers can really "fill in") those seats at the fieldhouse with a corporate sponsor that the team plays in. Kaman and Crawford aren't solving anything, in this regard, and it's questionable as to how the Pacers can justify even meeting the salary cap limit with the league's 29th-worst attendance.
On top of that, the Pacers seem unwilling to go after both Crawford and Kaman if it means giving up something we rarely see value in -- a middling non-lottery first-round pick. This is according to the Indianapolis Star's spot-on beat reporter Mike Wells.
In most years, the 26th pick in the draft (the space where the Pacers would currently work from, entering Friday night's action) is one of the least-enviable spots to choose from, because you could be wasting a guaranteed contract on training camp fodder. This draft is deeper than most, and (more importantly to this writer, who knows absolutely nothing about this year's potential draftees) the Pacers will need a player to step in once they clear the books this summer. A contributor on a slim contract, following an offseason that might see the Pacers either whiff on free agents or stack the deck with a top-heavy team with little depth, is going to be worth his weight in gold.
Assuming the Pacers don't draft a woman. Troglodytes. Get with the times, Larry Bird.
Even with 11 players under contract for 2012-13, the Pacers have enviable depth presuming all options are picked up and the team doesn't sign and trade a litany of rotation fillers away. It's not championship depth, to be sure, and the Pacers are still lacking that franchise player in spite of Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert's past All-Star appearances, but outside of those All-Stars the Pacers boast nothing but solid contributors on tiny contracts. And yet they'll still have nearly a maximum deal's worth of cap space to spend this summer.
So to toss out a first-round selection or A.J. Price just for two months' worth of a player that might be redundant? It wouldn't be the worst deal in the world, but we can understand if the Pacers give this trade deadline a miss.
This won't stir the echoes in Indiana, though. For whatever reason, this team isn't connecting with fans; possibly because we're all out of money and like staying home to take in the Pacers on TV or radio (the team sports possibly the best radio/TV combo in the biz).
If the Pacers make a deal, it has to be for someone that stirs the imagination of those who are bored with this team. Not just because of the exposure that deal would create, but because the team needs a superstar. We don't often talk in these terms, but the Pacers need a game-changer, and someone opposing teams just can't counter. Sometimes team ball just isn't enough; and this part is being written in a vacuum, irrespective of the team's attendance woes.
It has to be for Rajon Rondo. It has to be for Steve Nash. It has to be for someone that absolutely tips the scales. Because Indiana has size, interior scoring, frontline depth, help on the wings, and able defenders all around. They have a fantastic third guard that happens to start, in Darren Collison. They have everyone besides the guy that can create a 12-2 run on his own. They need Rondo, or Steve Nash. Neither, unfortunately, might end up in Indy; though both would work in any number of two or three-way packages that would take advantage of Indy's many movable parts and cap space.
(Ray Allen, sublime player that he is, will not be included in that stratum. And not for Tyler Hansbrough and a first-round pick, a deal that makes no sense for either the Pacers or the Celtics.)
Beyond that, there's really no point. If the Pacers do pull off a trade for a lesser light, it'll blow up on Twitter that afternoon, 14 websites will come out with analysis of the deal, and it will be an absolute afterthought by the time Ersan Ilyasova turns 25 years old on May 15. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The Pacers won't be winning a championship this year, but they're one of the deeper teams in this league even in cost-cutting mode, and they've done a terrific job in Frank Vogel's first year considering the new parts, shortened season, and "wait 'til 2012-13"-stance. If the Pacers pass on any moves during this trade deadline, it shouldn't be a disappointment to the team's fan base.
And it wouldn't kill them to go to a few games, now and again.