How will the Pacers improve upon the league's second worst bench?
Despite the impressive run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals by the Indiana Pacers, the organization enters the offseason in need of a few key answers.
The Pacers hard-fought series against the Miami Heat was to be expected after taking the very same team to the brink in a thrilling six-game series in last year's semifinals. However, throughout the series it became evident that the Pacers lacked a few pieces that would help put them over the hump against the world champions.
With the offseason now upon us, the front office has a few holes to patch up this offseason. The Pacers bench was exposed in the Conference Finals, as well as throughout the entire season. The bench ranked next to last, as they averaged a lousy 24.1 points per game. The question the organization faces in the coming weeks is how to redesign the second unit to manage more production. I see a few possible scenarios in the near future.
The much-anticipated return of Danny Granger, provided the team holds on to the eight-year veteran, should boost the team’s overall scoring. This will primarily help the bench scoring as either he, or Lance Stephenson, will likely come off of the bench and provide that much-needed scoring threat.
Another viable option for the Pacers could come through a tremendous free agent class. The Pacers lack a facilitator in the second unit and it is apparent when watching how the bench operates in the half-court offense. However, signing a backup point guard, or another scoring option, for the bench can be risky considering the overwhelming need to resign David West, which will nearly put the team at the luxury tax.
A few options, however, at the point guard position this offseason will be Detroit’s Will Bynum, Atlanta’s Devin Harris, Golden State’s Jarret Jack who may have played himself out of the Pacers price-range, or the Bulls Nate Robinson.
In what way will Indiana improve it's second unit?
Those are just a few options that could possibly come in to facilitate the second unit and boost the scoring. Another way the team can boost the bench through the free agent market is to bring in a sharpshooter, like that of Kyle Korver or J.J. Reddick. The 32-year-old Korver makes sense to me here, as he is aging and wants to contend on a team that plays together and plays with tenacity, something that he reportedly felt Atlanta lacked.
Free agency can be a very tricky art to master, especially when you’re a smaller market nearing the luxury tax. The Pacers front office, however, has done well in the past luring in bigger names to join the franchise, with David West being an example.
So, the last option for this team to rebuild the bench comes through the draft. This option is risky because not every talent pans out in the first few years. The Pacers want immediate contributions, so it places even more importance on drafting well. Indiana currently holds the No. 23 and No. 52 overall selections.
With the team’s first round selection, I look for the Pacers to try and find that sharpshooter it currently lacks. He could come in the form of former Wolverine Tim Hardaway Jr., or maybe even possibly D-League standout Glen Rice. Jr. The added addition of an immediate scoring threat who can also put the ball on deck and drive could do wonders for this second unit.
The team could also draft a facilitator to provide the balance and guidance needed to make things run more smoothly when the starters need a breather. Facilitators likely to be on the board when the Pacers are on the clock are Pierre Jackson, Isaiah Canaan, and Nate Wolters, to name a few. However, these guards are more of a combo threat, more known for their shooting abilities rather than being efficient passers throughout their college careers.
The Pacers could also draft big, and according to Chad Ford’s latest mock draft, he believes Kelly Olynyk will be available come pick No. 23. Olynyk being available is the only way I see the Pacers drafting big. His ability to shoot the ball from deep is unparalleled among big men in this draft and would help the second unit stretch the floor. An added bonus is his high motor at the offensive end, which would draw comparisons to that of Tyler Hansbrough, who will likely be wearing a different uniform next season.
There are many directions this team can go. Answers, in some way shape or form, will be provided in the coming weeks. The NBA draft will be next Thursday, June 27 and that night should reveal a lot about which way this front office is looking to go.
I believe it will be some sort of combination of keeping Granger to see how he, and his knee, handles the comeback, drafting well and relying on one of the draft picks to contribute right away. Growth from Orlando Johnson and Gerald Green as players will be needed as well.
Whichever way it falls, it is certain that this team can and will be near the top of the Eastern Conference for years to come. The past week of the NBA Finals have proven just how hard it is to win a NBA title. Can the Pacers make the right moves this offseason to put them over that final hurdle?