NBA Trade Deadline 2012: Leandro Barbosa Gives the Pacers Ad Hoc Flexibility
If nothing else, the storm leading up to this year's deadline has already produced a few noteworthy trades that will impact the rotations of legitimate playoff clubs. Among them, per Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, the Indiana Pacers will acquire Leandro Barbosa from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for a second-round pick and some in-season savings.
Toronto's motivations for getting something—however marginal—in return for an outgoing free agent go without saying, but Indiana's aims are far more interesting, even if they're also a bit more muddled.
What the Pacers really stand to gain from acquiring Barbosa is some semblance of rotational flexibility. Barbosa is a capable enough player to provide Indy with some bench scoring, but the possible benefit of his addition are the depth chart ripple effects he creates for an otherwise shallow Pacers roster.
Barbosa is a very clear upgrade over A.J. Price, Lance Stephenson and Dahntay Jones, and while he can fill some of their minutes with more reliable scoring production, his contributions off the bench could also allow Pacers head coach Frank Vogel to toggle through some other lineup possibilities.
Darren Collison remains the team's most effective playmaker (and a member of a very effective starting lineup), but the subplot to insert George Hill—who was previously kept on the bench to provide very necessary second-unit scoring—as a starter has floated in the background in Indiana all season. The idea in itself isn't flawed so much as curious; Hill has never shown a tremendous amount of playmaking aptitude, and though he may be a more aggressive scorer than Collison, he isn't in any way a demonstrative upgrade.
Hill does have the benefit of being something of an unknown quantity when it comes to initiating the Pacers' offense (most of his minutes have come off the ball this season, and for that matter, throughout his entire career), and he could theoretically give Indiana's occasionally stale system a bit of a different feel. That outcome just doesn't seem particularly likely, and for all of Hill's strengths, it's hard to imagine how putting the ball in his hands more would radically improve Indiana's play. Collison's limitations have been a problem but are hardly the Pacers' defining problem.
Ultimately, the redundancies between Hill and Barbosa have the potential to push one of the two players into a role as more of a creator (with either the starting unit or the reserves), regardless of the fact that neither player is particularly well-suited for it.
The Pacers shouldn't at all be faulted for scoring an upgrade with no long-term financial cost (Barbosa's contract expires at the end of the season, preserving every bit of the team's cap space moving forward), but it's difficult to portray this move as any kind of sweeping change for a Pacers team that remains entrenched in the second tier. Indiana is a little deeper than they were yesterday, but have only inched toward Miami and Chicago.
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