Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Rare is the time that I bust out ShamSports.com for its use in trade machinations. There are 3,700 other ways to use it, but I'm not big on grabbing the calculator and making up hypothetical deals. And yet, with the Indiana Pacers sporting a gaping hole at power forward and the Philadelphia 76ers in the midst of what could be a complete reshaping, I think it's time for these two teams to start talking.

For a while, Indiana's plan has been to chomp down on the summer of 2011 with a heaping of cap space. As it stands right now, the team will have about $26.5 million in payroll responsibility to work beyond next summer. Even counting cap holds and what could be another lottery pick, this usually would still be about half a cap to try and rebuild with. Not bad at all.

The problem there is that we have no idea what the cap will look like once the NBA and its players hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement. I still have a feeling all the talk about a hard cap -- or the rumors about the NBA somehow finding a way to make most of these would-be grandfathered contracts null and void -- a bit nutty. At the heart of this, David Stern knows it's his talk-themselves-into-anything owners who are his problem, along with the GMs that want to keep a job and go penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Even with that in place, there still is the worry that $26.5 million in payroll and the cap space on top of it could be nothing short of Monopoly money next summer. So I wouldn't mind if the Pacers acted now.

Especially with the changing of the guard in Philadelphia taking place.

Doug Collins is in as coach, and he's long wielded a strong personnel influence from the bench since leaving Turner Sports for Detroit in 1995. Rod Thorn is in as team president, and while GM Ed Stefanski will retain his role, it's clear he'll have to run things by his former Nets boss.

Collins and Thorn were handed the keys to a promising group of youngsters, but also some well-off vets who may or may not be worth the money. Elton Brand(notes), admirable though he may be, is not worth the three years and $51 million he's owed on his contract. All the advanced stats in the world tell you that Andre Iguodala(notes) is pretty special, and we agree to a point. But we also know that poor ball-handling and iffy shot selection often mitigates those fabulous 20-9-7 lines.

So I think the Pacers should send Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford(notes), Jeff Foster(notes) (all expiring contracts) and Paul George(notes) to Philadelphia -- along with their first-round pick from next year (top three protected, losing said protection the year after) -- for Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala and Marreese Speights(notes).

There's a good chance fans of both teams will hate this deal. There's a better chance Philadelphia fans will hate it the most.

They're giving up their best player for the type of thing that continually fails to stir the optimism of fan bases, but is often times the best way out of the dumpster: draft picks and cap space.

This deal clears $20 million in cap space from Philly's books next summer, leaving it as a major player in the summer almost regardless of where the CBA hammers down. The team could have two lottery selections to work with next season, enough cap space to restart and the retained talents of Louis Williams(notes), Evan Turner(notes), Spencer Hawes(notes), George and Jrue Holliday. It could have even more cap space if the team decides Hawes is worth passing on.

To me, this is a harder sell for Indiana. It blows their cap space for next summer, and leaves them without a lottery pick for 2010 (in George) and 2011.

But with Darren Collison(notes), Granger, Iguodala, Speights (if you don't know, you will soon), Tyler Hansbrough(notes) and Roy Hibbert(notes) on hand, the Pacers will have a young, formidable team. They'll be going from league-worst production at point guard and one of the wing positions to borderline All-Star work from A.I., and not too far off (seriously) when it comes to Collison. Don't underestimate that upgrade. Toss in Speights to finish inside and the improving high-post game from Hibbert, and you have a team.

Objective analysis from an outsider looking to help both teams at once is never bound to be popular, and there's no way I can understand or work along the same lines as a fan who lives and dies with each of his team's games (though, judging by the empty seats in Philly and Indiana ...).

The last bit was a joke. I know both of these teams have rabid fan bases, and I feel like they've been jerked around for too long while their personnel bosses have put off rebuilding and instead tried to shoot for 45 wins as the absolute best-case scenario. It's time to end that.

It's time to start over in Philly, and it's time to see if a team with Iguodala at the core and a host of finishers and extra-passers around him can be bigger than the sum of its parts in Indiana. It's time to roll the dice on both ends. No more Dahntay Jones(notes) add-ons. No more "let's see if Elton gets it back."

I dig it. What say you?

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