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The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, offers his thoughts on the offseason plans of NBA teams whose seasons have ended.
THE PLAN GOING FORWARD
The new coach
Pacers management made it clear that the goal is to play at a faster pace.
The hiring of Nate McMillan as coach means players must adapt to a different philosophy. In the case of the Pacers, the new coach and players must conform to the style that team president Larry Bird wants to play.
Will all the changes yield a different result for a team that lost in seven games in the first round to Toronto?
It is one thing to play faster, but it’s another to actually improve.
Upside of the current roster
Even with a healthy Paul George, the Pacers’ outlook isn’t clear. Was last season one to build from or will Indiana trend toward being a team that just fights for a playoff berth?
Rookie big man Myles Turner has shown potential, but the big concern is whether complementary players George Hill, Monta Ellis, Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles have plateaued. George Hill is certainly suited to start and run the point, but Ellis, Stuckey and Miles are reserves, at best.
The challenge for Indiana is to find help in free agency or on the trade market who can complement George in the starting lineup.
Don’t take George for granted
Even though George is under contract through the 2018-19 season (player option for 2018-19), Indiana does not have the luxury of being patient.
Since recovering from a serious leg injury in 2014 that sidelined him for most of the 2014-15 season, George has transformed back into a franchise-type player.
Indiana cannot afford to tread water for the next two years and bring in B-level free agents.
By then George could be looking for a new home.
Renegotiate George Hill’s contract
George Hill, 30, is one of a handful of players this summer whose contract can be renegotiated and extended. Similar to the Nuggets’ approach with Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler last summer, the Pacers can change the compensation of Hill’s current $8 million contract. The Pacers, however, would have to use cap space to renegotiate.
Even though Hill’s numbers dipped from last season, his durability and consistency, plus a salary cap spike in 2017, should make Indiana think hard about not allowing him to enter free agency in 2017.
Can Indiana use cap space to add an A-level free agent? Have Joseph Young, Glenn Robinson and Rakeem Christmas developed enough to earn a role next season? Is there a wing on the market that is more than one-dimensional?
Even with cap space, a below-average free-agent market will make it difficult to address the Pacers’ biggest need: finding a wingman for George.
Although Ellis can back up Hill if needed, finding a reserve point guard either in the draft or free agency should be a priority for Indiana.
Even though the Pacers have Turner, there are holes on at power forward and center. Indiana does have the luxury of bringing back Ian Mahinmi with Bird rights, but the Pacers’ goal this summer should be to find athletic bigs who can play both power forward and center.
SUMMER CAP BREAKDOWN
1. Paul George
2. Monta Ellis
3. George Hill
Eligible for extension
4. Rodney Stuckey
5. C.J. Miles
6. Lavoy Allen
7. Myles Turner
8. Joseph Young
9. Rakeem Christmas
10. Glenn Robinson
Full protection after July 1
11. Shayne Whittington
Full protection after Aug. 1
FA cap holds
12. Ian Mahinmi
Full Bird rights
13. Jordan Hill
14. Solomon Hill
Fourth-year rookie restriction
15. Ty Lawson
16. Own at No. 20
FA cap holds
PROJECTED CAP SPACE
The Pacers currently have $15.7 million in cap space and their room could grow close to $30 million based on the free-agent cap holds of Mahinmi, Jordan Hill, Solomon Hill and the non-guaranteed contracts of Robinson and Shayne Whittington.
The likely scenario is for Indiana to release the cap of hold of Jordan Hill and enter free agency with $20 million in room. The Pacers can then use the space to re-sign Ian Mahinmi and exceed the salary cap to do so.
Because the Pacers did not pick up the fourth-year option of Solomon Hill, Indiana is prohibited from signing him for more than $2.3 million. However, Hill can exceed the $2.3 million salary slot if he were to sign with another team besides Indiana.
JUNE DRAFT PICKS
First round: Own pick
Second round: Own pick
Indiana has all their first round picks.
Key rights to: None
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