Indiana Pacers: 5 Weaknesses They Need to Address Before the Trade Deadline
Sitting at 23-13 and fourth in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers have used a mix of youth and veteran experience to surge in the standings and rank among the surprise teams in the league.
Yet as a 20-point drubbing at the hands of Chicago showed, the Pacers still have weaknesses that they should consider addressing before the trade deadline and their playoff push.
Here are five weaknesses that Larry Bird and the Pacers front office should be concerned about:
1. Backup Center
Roy Hibbert's improvement was evidenced by his first All-Star appearance and near double-double numbers of 13.1 PPG and 9.6 RPG.
That being said, Hibbert is still prone to foul trouble and only manages 29 minutes per contest, which is the lowest among his fellow starters.
Perhaps most worrying is Hibbert's recent slide in production. Last year many felt that Hibbert ran out of gas towards the end of the season, and with a shortened grueling schedule, the potential for another dip in production is a real concern.
Even if Hibbert can keep up his much-improved play, backup Jeff Foster is dealing with back trouble and rent-a-center Louis Amundson has played well but is serviceable at best.
One answer to finding a backup center would be New Orleans' Chris Kaman, who is averaging roughly 12 points and eight rebounds a night.
A few weeks back, the Hornets pulled Kaman from the lineup in anticipation of trading their starting center before reversing course. Still, if the right deal is offered, it's hard to see New Orleans not agreeing to move him.
The Pacers could offer a combination of A.J. Price's expiring contract and a draft pick in return for Kaman.
2. The Bench
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The bench was supposed to be Indiana's greatest strength, and while it's been good, it has not been as consistent as hoped and advertised.
Tyler Hansbrough has been up-and-down, Jeff Foster has spent much of the season nursing a tender lower back, and George Hill has battled through his own injury.
The Pacers are still searching for a sixth man who can consistently come off the bench and add instant offense.
O.J. Mayo is that guy. The Pacers have been pining after Mayo for some time now. Twice in the last two years a deal involving the Memphis swing guard has fallen through, and while Memphis seems reluctant to move him, conventional wisdom would say that the Pacers could indeed finally land him if they're aggressive enough.
A trade for Mayo would probably have to include a first-round pick and perhaps both A.J. Price's expiring contract and Dahntay Jones, but such a deal would be well worth it for the Pacers, as Mayo is a rare combination of size and quickness and can score in bunches.
3. Ball Movement and Offensive Efficiency
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Contrary to mounting criticism against him, Darren Collison has been a steady leader and solid running the point. More importantly, he has helped set the tone on both sides of the ball.
That being said, the Pacers rank 28th in the league in assists per game and too often seem to lose the rhythm of their offense.
While some of the lack of offensive flow can be traced back to the play-calling and the offensive system, Collison has at times appeared to struggle between finding the balance of attacking and scoring on offense and being a pass-oriented point guard.
Nevertheless, unless the Pacers can work out a deal that wouldn't break the bank with the Celtics for Rajon Rondo, the Pacers should keep Collison and work with him on becoming more of a facilitator.
Whether that means opening up with the offense or working on Collison's timing and decision-making, the Pacers would be best served to keep their young up-and-coming guard and help him to improve.
But if Rondo is available, first and second-round picks, Darren Collison and perhaps Dahntay Jones would be an equitable trade that would position the Pacers to really challenge Miami and Chicago in the East.
4. Backup Point Guard
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A.J. Price is playing well and seeing increased minutes in his role of backing up Darren Collison. While his effort and stats have been a pleasant surprise, the Pacers would be best served to go out and bring in a more experienced guard with higher potential.
Three players currently on the trading block come to mind. Utah's Devin Harris and the Clippers' Eric Bledsoe and Mo Williams are all former starting point guards who have fallen out of favor with their current teams and might thus be available at bargain prices.
If the Pacers still have their first-round pick, trading for any one of these three players will solidify the backup point guard position and add more scoring pop off the bench.
Spelling Collison with someone who could come in and pick up with similar production would be a great luxury come playoff time. Williams, Bledsoe and Harris all could add over 10 points and four assists a game.
5. Finding Ways to Keep Both George and Granger Involved
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One issue that will continually follow the Pacers as long as both players are on the same team is whether or not Paul George and Danny Granger can coexist on the same team.
While many will succumb to the tantalizing fantasy of a trade with New Orleans that would land hometown hero Eric Gordon, George and Granger on the wings is actually an advantage and not a weakness for the Pacers.
While George may be playing outside his natural position, he has progressed nicely from last year and appears comfortable in his role at off guard.
More importantly, playing George alongside Granger allows the Pacers to be versatile and aggressive defensively by sticking George, a lockdown defender, on the likes of LeBron, Rose and D-Wade.
Even for a talent like Gordon or Monta Ellis, trading Granger would be be more disruptive than beneficial.
As the Celtics can attest to after trading Kendrick Perkins, a major shakeup can often hurt team chemistry and backfire in unexpected ways.
Overall, George and Granger are more of a strength than a weakness.