NBA Rumors: Jamal Crawford and Chris Kaman Would Make Pacers Contenders

Eric BallFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 15:  Jamal Crawford #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers jumps around Ekpe Udoh #20 of the Golden State Warriors to pass the ball at Oracle Arena on February 15, 2012 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Aside from the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat, the Eastern Conference is wide open.

The disparity is huge, and the Indiana Pacers are looking to close the gap. How does adding Jamal Crawford and Chris Kaman sound?

Ben Golliver of CBS Sports is reporting that the Pacers have been added to the list of potential suitors for the shooting guard:

A league source with knowledge of the situation told later Thursday that reported talks between the Blazers and Pacers are "legitimate" and have included a scenario that would send Crawford to Indiana for guard A.J. Price and a 2012 first round pick. Indiana has sufficient salary cap space to absorb Crawford's contract without matching salaries. 

Crawford narrowed down his choices between the Pacers and Blazers in the offseason, and ultimately went with Portland. Now, with the struggles of the Trail Blazers, Crawford wants out.

The report goes on to state that the Pacers are hesitant to surrender a first-round pick with Crawford’s ability to opt-out of the last year of his deal, which potentially makes him nothing more than a two-month rental.

It’s a gamble worth taking…especially if they bring in Kaman as well.

Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star is reporting that team management is interested in the disgruntled New Orleans Hornets center:

Center Chris Kaman still sits at top of the list for Pacers, but they will not give up a 1st rd pick for his expiring contract

— Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNBA) March 8, 2012

So it comes down to draft picks.

The 2012 draft is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory, but that shouldn’t matter to the Pacers.

This is a team built to win now, and there is a real opportunity in what has been one bizarre season. With the health issues of Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade and the compact schedule, who knows how their rosters will look come May.

The Pacers, only 1.5 games back of the three seed, have a tremendous blend of talent that complements each other very well. Danny Granger is the scorer (18.1 ppg) that can create his own shot. All-Star Roy Hibbert (13.1 ppg, 13.1 rpg) and David West (12.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg) handle the post, and Paul George fills in the gaps.

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 28:  Chris Kaman #35 of the New Orleans Hornets tries to move against Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on February 28, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Hornets 99-95. NOTE TO USER: User expr
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The problem is, as currently constructed, they don’t have a reliable big man to help Hibbert defensively in the post. Kaman, 29, excels in this area while providing outstanding rebounding and the occasional bucket as well. He has playoff experience on a team that doesn’t have much of it.

Which brings us to the 31-year-old Crawford, who played spectacularly well for the Atlanta Hawks in last year’s postseason.

On top of a strong voice in the locker room, he is the long-range shooter so desperately needed.  Nobody on the Pacers that consistently shoots threes has a percentage better than 39, and that tends to clog up the elbow for West to work in. It also hampers Darren Collison’s ability to penetrate the lane.

Crawford can not only penetrate, but can keep the floor balanced with his deadly stroke and score-in-bunches mentality. For a team that is a middle-of-the-road 15th in scoring (95.2), they need a guy like Crawford to get over the hump.  

The Pacers have a strong starting five that compares with anybody aside from the Big Two. But they need to bolster their depth and ensure the lockout-shortened season doesn’t end up being the death of them.

Rarely is Indiana ever aggressive near the trade deadline, and this is proof that Larry Bird and Co. know they are on the cusp of something special and need to take full-advantage.

Regardless of if they get one of the two or both, expect the Pacers to be one of the major players over the next week as that March 15 deadline continues to creep closer.