Re-signing David West is the Indiana Pacers' top priority this offseason.
Ever since the Pacers signed West in December 2011, they have made strides in the postseason, making it to the second round and Eastern Conference Finals in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Aside from his 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds, West brings his veteran leadership and savvy to the table. These are vital to a young Indiana squad that hopes to emerge as an NBA Finals contender for years to come.
West was adamant he'll stay on with Indiana.
This is my group. These are my guys. I can't see myself going anywhere else.
But what if West does depart?
This is not to say that he'll renege on his promise on purpose. West is a man of character on and off the court. Indiana Pacers fans have every reason to believe he'll sign with the team in their quest to be an elite franchise year in and year out.
However, contract negotiations do hit snags in the NBA and in sports in general. Which is why there has to be a contingency plan for Indiana in the extreme case it loses West to free agency.
Here are some options for the Indiana Pacers.
Start Tyler Hansbrough, Acquire Boris Diaw
Tyler Hansbrough has been in the NBA since 2009. In the event West bids adieu, the time may just be about right for him to start at the 4.
Hansbrough's seven points and 4.6 rebounds off the bench in 2012-13 are not exactly eye-popping numbers, but keep in mind he did an admirable job filling in for West as the starter when he was out from March 18-27 with a lower-back injury.
During that stretch, Hansbrough averaged 14.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game on 48-percent shooting. Although he does play all out, Hansbrough still has limited moves around the post, is very robotic and needs to work on his jump shot.
These are aspects of his game that more playing time can hope to fix.
The Pacers can also take a stab at acquiring unrestricted free agent Boris Diaw. Although not as young and productive as he once was, he brings playoff experience and should provide depth at power forward behind Hansbrough and Jeff Pendergraph, who can also play the 4 spot.
Make a Move For Josh Smith
Josh Smith would look good in an Indiana Pacers uniform.
Smith has been highly touted as the best free agent power forward available in the market, and with good reason. In the 2012-13 NBA season, he averaged 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists. He scores almost as much as West does, but rebounds the ball better. He clearly has the edge in terms of his passing skills, as West dished out an average of 2.9 assists last season.
Smith can also stretch defenses with his perimeter shooting. He is capable of knocking down three-pointers, something West isn’t known for at all. This should give the Pacers an added dimension at the power forward position which should boost their average offense. However, Smith shot a career-low 52 percent from the free-throw line last season.
There’s no question Smith is an elite defender. With that kind of reputation, he will contribute immensely to Indiana’s top-notch defense. He can match up effectively on any small or power forward. Imagine the Pacers trying to throw both Smith and Paul George on LeBron James in the playoffs—it should be a sight to behold.
One of the main issues with Smith is his occasional outbursts. In the past, he’s clashed with former Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Woodson. In January, he was guilty of “conduct detrimental to the team” following an incident in practice prior to the Hawks’ game against the Brooklyn Nets. Both incidents resulted in Smith getting suspended.
For Smith to make strides with the Pacers, he also must cut down on his turnovers (he averaged three per game in 2012-13). This is one area Indiana must work on collectively as a unit.
Bring Paul Millsap Into the Fold
Even before David West became an Indiana Pacer, Paul Millsap was already on the Pacers' radar.
Millsap, just like Smith, became an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2012-13 NBA season. Indiana was already honing in on him prior to the 2011 NBA Draft, per Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star.
Over the years, Millsap has proven to be reliable in terms of his mid-range game and strength. Although his 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists are a notch lower than West's numbers, he should slide into the role of a starter at power forward very comfortably.
Even though his scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage dipped somewhat from previous years, it does not present an alarming trend. Perhaps a change of scenery (he's been with the Utah Jazz for seven seasons), especially with a championship contender such as the Indiana Pacers, will serve him well.
Millsap is only 28 years old and could prove to be a valuable long-term asset. Plus, just like West, he can also make opposing defenses pay when they try to double-team Roy Hibbert down low.
Knowing David West, he'll make good on his word and remain an Indiana Pacer for the next few years. However, Indiana better have a backup plan in case things go awry.
Staring Tyler Hansbrough and acquiring Boris Diaw for more depth is an option. If this were the case, Hansbrough needs to polish his low-post moves and mid-range game during the offseason if he wants the Pacers to improve their mediocre offense.
In the long run, acquiring either Josh Smith or Paul Millsap will be the better choice for the Indiana Pacers. The team can't go wrong with either of these solid performers, especially if Smith manages to avoid being a distraction and cut down on his turnovers.
Having either of them don a Pacers uniform will help solidify that starting 4 spot in case the beloved veteran David West departs.