What's Next for Indiana Pacers After Re-Signing David West
Now that the power forward has reportedly agreed to a three-year deal, it's time to shift focus and figure out what to do next.
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski broke the story, reporting that West and the Pacers were in the process of finalizing a deal worth $36 million over the course of the next three seasons.
With a player option in the final year of the contract, we can safely assume that there's either an even split of $12 million per year, or it's slightly frontloaded to give the team future flexibility in the face of the luxury tax.
If the latter is true, West will likely make around $13 million during the 2013-14 season. Given the fact that the Pacers need to extend Paul George to what should be a max contract soon, there's no way Larry Bird is letting the front office backload the deal.
Regardless, the main target has been acquired (it will become official once the moratorium lifts on July 10). Indiana's primary pieces are still in place for another run at the Miami Heat, but the Pacers can't be done making moves quite yet.
Let's take a look at what comes next.
Where Do They Stand Now?
This West move was the second made during the offseason, as the Pacers have also agreed in principle to a deal with C.J. Watson.
The specifics of the Watson contract have not yet been released, but he's presumably making more than the $1.1 million he opted out of with the Brooklyn Nets. Let's estimate that Watson makes $2.016 million during the 2013-14 season, which means that Indiana would be using its bi-annual exception (BAE) on him.
Right now, the Pacers would have a depth chart that looks like the one below:
- Point guard: George Hill, C.J. Watson
- Shooting guard: Lance Stephenson, Orlando Johnson, Gerald Green
- Small forward: Paul George, Danny Granger, Solomon Hill
- Power forward: David West
- Center: Roy Hibbert, Ian Mahinmi, Miles Plumlee
That roster, assuming a projected rookie salary of $1,246,680 for Hill and $12 million for West, features 12 players and already totals $65,190,707. This is before the qualifying offers for Jeff Pendergraph ($1.875 million) and Ben Hansbrough ($988,872).
If you're wondering what the relevant salary-cap numbers are here, we've got you covered.
Hearing early projections given to GMs and owners in May have NBA salary cap rising to just $58.5 mil next season. This season: $58.044 mil— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 3, 2013
NBA teams being told PROJECTED luxury-tax threshold for next season:$71.6 million. Reminder: Projections not binding until full July audit— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 3, 2013
If ESPN's Marc Stein is correct, that means that the apron, set $4 million above the luxury-tax threshold, will come in at $75.6 million. That's the number that the Pacers absolutely can't exceed, as they're strictly prohibited from doing so after using the BAE.
And if Hansbrough and Pendergraph are brought back to fill out the roster with 14 men, that pushes the financial expenditures to $68,054,579. That's well above the soft cap, but fortunately well below the apron.
For this section, I'm going to assume that the restricted free agents are signed by other teams to pricetags that the Pacers can't afford to match.
If that's the case, we're still working with the depth chart given up above.
The Pacers are pretty much set at every position in the starting lineup. George Hill and Lance Stephenson are the weak links, if such a thing exists in this five-man lineup, but neither of them will hold the franchise back. Stephenson in particular proved his value during the postseason, helping slow down LeBron James during the Eastern Conference Finals.
Signing Watson helps provide depth at point guard, as D.J. Augustin showed that he clearly wasn't the answer during his short-lived stay in Indianapolis. Danny Granger can also be a great scorer off the bench if the Pacers don't trade him, but upgrades are needed at some of the other positions.
Orlando Johnson would be a fantastic third option at shooting guard, but he shouldn't be a primary backup. The same can be said about Gerald Green, who has proven that he's much better at creating highlights than playing productive basketball.
A similar story unfolds at power forward, where the depth chart is empty behind the newly re-signed West. Solomon Hill and Ian Mahinmi can both capably play the 4, but it's not the natural position for either of them.
Finding backups at shooting guard and power forward should be the priority with what little money is left for the Pacers. They'll be looking to sign ring-chasing veterans, targeting experienced players who might be willing to settle for minimum, non-guaranteed contracts.
At shooting guard, expect to hear names like Chauncey Billups and Daniel Gibson. At power forward, Josh McRoberts, Vladimir Radmanovic and Anthony Tolliver. Landing someone like Billups at a reduced price would be a dream come true, but a player of Radmanovic's caliber and experience is much more likely.
Basically, this means the Pacers won't be adding any more difference-makers this offseason. They've already filled in the two biggest holes (the vacancy left by West and the lack of backcourt depth), and anything else would be gravy.
How Does This Set Up the Pacers for 2013-14?
The basic changes in Indiana involve losing a bit of frontcourt energy, upgrading the backup point guard from Augustin to Watson and adding Granger back into the mix. Sounds like a major positive to me.
Let's not forget just how close Indiana came to dethroning the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference and advancing to the NBA Finals at the conclusion of its 2012-13 campaign. The Pacers had the Heat on the ropes, forcing them to play a Game 7 to advance to that final clash with the San Antonio Spurs.
Now this squad is poised to be even better.
Paul George is still developing, and he'll be an MVP candidate if he can improve his consistency from the perimeter and stop turning the ball over as frequently. Signing Watson will help with the latter, as George won't have to serve as the primary ball-handler so often when Hill takes a breather.
Which is the best team in the Eastern Conference?
Lance Stephenson also started taking major steps forward, especially on the offensive end of the court. Continued improvement from him is a must if the Pacers hope to move one round further during the 2013-14 season.
With West back and Roy Hibbert looking like he did in the playoffs, not the beginning of the regular season, Indiana must be considered one of the true favorites in the East.
It's impossible to rank the three premier teams in the conference before seeing how the rest of free agency plays out for the Chicago Bulls and Heat, but those two and the Pacers are in a tier of their own going into the rest of the offseason.
That wouldn't have been possible without West and Watson.
Note: All contract information comes from Spotrac.com.
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