After sneaking into the playoffs in the 2010-2011 NBA Season and giving the top-ranked Chicago Bulls a strong fight in the first round, people expected the Pacers to be good, but not this good.
Bursting out of the gates at 17-7, the Pacers turned a lot of heads before a five-game losing streak. They righted the ship after the tough losing streak, however, and ended the first half of the shortened season at 21-12.
Many Indiana fans believe that now is the time, in an unusual season, for the Pacers to take a risk and go for it all, or at the very least, to add some depth. Although the 21-12 overall record has been the most impressive part of the team's season, the five-game skid has been the most telling. Missing their offensive spark-plug George Hill due to injury, it became evident that the Pacers had a bench that had a hard time scoring.
Hill has returned, but the Pacers could still use some scoring off the bench and, for the right price, a consistent scorer in the starting lineup. With one win over the Bulls in Chicago already this year, Larry Bird, his young coach and his young team are confident they can make a run.
Here are five deals that could make the Indiana Pacers immediate conference contenders in the East.
Marion, at 33, has shown a slight drop-off from his career averages in past years, going from 16.7 points per game to 11.9 per-game. But on a team that preaches balance without a star, Marion would be the leading scorer off the bench.
Furthermore, behind the defensively oriented system of Frank Vogel, Indiana's young coach, Marion's hustle and defensive prowess would be a perfect fit.
By the same token, Marion adds experience to a team that will need it. George Hill, Tyler Hansbrough, and Marion would help form one of the more dynamic benches in the league.
Beaubois would be a throw-in as a project for Vogel. An extraordinary athlete, Beaubois is a little raw, but has definite potential, bringing outstanding defense as well as a solid 7.3 points and 2.8 assists per game. This trade would make the Pacers one of the deepest teams in the league and a tough team to score on.
Many viewed Darren Collison as the future at point guard for the Pacers when Larry Bird made the move to acquire him from the Hornets. However, although he is still young, Collison has made little improvement in his time in the league—especially as a facilitator. Averaging just 5.2 assists per game, Collison has shown flashes of being a very solid point guard but has never put it all together.
Calderon, averaging 8.9 assists per game, represents a significant upgrade at the point, averaging almost the same amount of points as Collison at exactly 11 per game. Furthermore, at 30, Calderon can still be the point guard in Indiana for years to come.
With Barbosa, he has never panned out like many expected him to, playing behind Steve Nash, but he is still very productive. Although he does not provide much besides scoring and provides little defense, Barbosa would be an explosive option off the bench for Vogel, adding 12 points per game.
Larry Bird has unsuccessfully tried to get the Grizzlies' young scorer twice in the past year. Mayo, averaging 11.9 points a game, would create an explosive back-court with Hill that would also lock up other teams defensively.
Mayo and Hill both score effectively and play above average defense and could start for many other teams. Not to mention that Mayo once averaged 18.5 points per game and still has star potential.
Mayo was runner-up to Derrick Rose for the Rookie of the Year award at one point, and could be a low-risk, high-reward player that could give the Pacers a big enough spark to score with the Bulls and the Heat.
Aside from bench production, the biggest problem for the Pacers this year has been depth in the back-court. Jeff Foster has been a solid hustle player for the Pacers, but in terms of solid production, Foster is a mediocre center.
With Foster averaging just 2.5 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game, the Pacers are in dire need of a backup for their All-Star Roy Hibbert. Kaman has averaged as much as 18.5 PPG and 12.7 rebounds per game in separate years and would be an effective scorer off the bench.
The Pacers witnessed first-hand what Kaman could do when he scored 17 points against them in Indiana. Putting up 11.6 and 7.5 rebounds, Kaman would put the Pacers in a position to have an All-Star caliber center on the floor at all times and make a serious run in the playoffs.
For any other player at the age of 38 this would be a risky move for a young team. But the elder statesman for the Suns is the picture of consistency and is still a prominent player in the NBA.
In his 04-05 MVP Season, Nash averaged 15.5 PPG AND 11.5 assists per game. This year, eight years later, he is averaging 14.5 and 8.6 PPG.
Nash would bring a wealth of talent and experience to a team that could use a real leader, and could help bring wisdom to the young players on the Pacers. Giving away Collison and Hansbrough would be a gamble, but for a player like Nash, the Pacers should pull the trigger.
Nash gives the Pacers a legitimate chance at winning the East, and past that, the NBA Finals.