Indiana Pacers 2014 NBA Free-Agency Big Board: Ranking Top Targets

Poch de la RosaContributor IIIJuly 5, 2014

Indiana Pacers 2014 NBA Free-Agency Big Board: Ranking Top Targets

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    Former Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson is an attractive prospect for the Indiana Pacers.
    Former Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson is an attractive prospect for the Indiana Pacers.USA TODAY Sports

    The Indiana Pacers must set their sights on several top targets during the NBA free-agency period. 

    A Jameer Nelson or Chandler Parsons in Indy blue and gold will help the Pacers win that elusive first NBA title. There are other attractive prospects on the market. With the team at an impasse with unrestricted free-agent shooting guard Lance Stephenson, per Chris Broussard of ESPN.com, and the acquisition of three free agents, anything can still happen.

    The Pacers, who finished 17th in three-point sniping last season, clearly addressed their needs for more outside shooting and more offense off the bench by agreeing (subscription required) to terms with C.J. Miles, Croatian forward Damjan Rudez and Western Michigan Center Shayne Whittington. 

    While this is a good development, Indy still needs a playmaking point guard and another player who can step in for Stephenson should he decide to bolt. 

    Our top free-agent prospects are ranked according to their capabilities, how they fit Indiana's needs and their value for money. 

    As of July 3, the Pacers have committed $70.4 million in guaranteed money with the luxury tax threshold pegged at $77 million, per 8points9seconds.com's Tim Donahue. 

    It should be another interesting offseason for the Pacers. 

Honorable Mention: Maurice Williams and Steve Blake

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    Mo Williams has done a credible job as a backup with the Portland Trail Blazers.
    Mo Williams has done a credible job as a backup with the Portland Trail Blazers.D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

    Mo Williams

    2013-14 stats: 9.7 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 4.3 APG, 0.1 BPG, 0.7 SPG

    2013-14 earnings: $2,652,000

    Status: Unrestricted free agent

    One of the Pacers' primary needs is a playmaking point guard. Should the team decide to stick to George Hill at the starting 1-spot, it needs another quality backup aside from C.J. Watson to run the offense in case Hill becomes inefficient. An erratic Donald Sloan is not the answer as the Pacers' third point guard.

    Mo Williams, who has thrived in a sixth man role the past several seasons, can both run the offense and provide scoring, per ESPN Dallas' Tim McMahon: 

    Williams has career averages of 13.3 points and 4.9 assists per game and has performed well as a sixth man for teams that have made the Western Conference semifinalsthe (Los Angeles) Clippers and (Portland) Trail Blazersin two of the past three seasons. 

    The 31-year-old is capable of running an offense and playing off the ball. But he's looking for a raise after declining an option to make $2.8 million in Portland 

    Williams offers veteran experience to a Pacers team ready to make another NBA Finals run. 

     

    Steve Blake 

    2013-14 stats: 6.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 5.6 APG, 0.1 BPG, 1.0 SPG

    2013-14 earnings: $4,000,000

    Status: Unrestricted free agent 

    The 34-year-old Blake, an 11-year NBA veteran, has a high basketball IQ but is understandably in decline. Nonetheless, he ought to be a valuable contributor as a third point guard who can hit the outside shot and stabilize the flow of the offense. 

    McMahon offers his take on Blake:

    The 34-year-old Blake's intelligence and competitiveness made him a Kobe Bryant favorite during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he's declined as an athlete. He's a decent three-point shooter and passer, but he's not nearly the off-the-dribble threat that (Devin) Harris is. Heck, he might not even be the off-the-dribble threat that (Jose) Calderon is. 

    Again, the priority is to get a starting playmaking point guard. If Hill sticks around once again, Blake should provide some much-needed stability and leadership for the Pacers. 

    Indy can release Sloan and offer Blake the veteran's minimum for an 11-year player worth $1.448 million for 2014-15. 

6. Trevor Ariza, Small Forward

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    Trevor Ariza was instrumental in the rise of the Washington Wizards last season.
    Trevor Ariza was instrumental in the rise of the Washington Wizards last season.USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 stats: 14.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.3 BPG, 1.6 SPG

    2013-14 earnings: $7,727,280 

    Status: Unrestricted free agent 

    Okay, he doesn't come cheap. However, getting Trevor Ariza will be a good investment for the Indiana Pacers. 

    Ariza is a solid two-way player. He can score from the perimeter and is a terrific defensive player, as evidenced by his 1.6 steals per game in 2013-14. He should fit right in with the Pacers, a team known for its defense. On that note, as good as Indiana was in that area, they faltered occasionally last year in defending the perimeter, particularly the three-point arc. Ariza can help remedy that.

    He should mesh well with the Pacers while backing up Paul George. Vogel can slide George over to shooting guard (a position he played when Danny Granger was still the starting small forward) on occasion while playing alongside Ariza to make for a formidable and versatile tandem.

    Since Indy doesn't have much cap space, the most realistic means to get Ariza is by way of a sign-and-trade deal with the Washington Wizards

    However remote that possibility may be, a stud like Ariza should be on the Pacers' radar. 

5. Rodney Stuckey, Shooting Guard

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    Rodney Stuckey averaged 13.9 points, 2.3  rebounds and 2.1 assists for the Detroit Pistons last season.
    Rodney Stuckey averaged 13.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the Detroit Pistons last season.USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 stats: 13.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.1 BPG, 0.7 SPG

    2013-14 earnings: $8,500,000

    Status: Unrestricted free agent 

    If Lance Stephenson is no longer in an Indiana Pacers uniform, Rodney Stuckey is a good option to replace him via the free-agent market. 

    Indy certainly should not go after Nick Young, the best player of a bad 2013-14 Los Angeles Lakers team and a shooting guard who is not known for his defensive prowess. Other free-agent shooting guards include Vince Carter, who is still reliable but is already 37 years old, and Dwyane Wade, somebody who the Pacers cannot afford. 

    While Stuckey is not as versatile as Stephenson, he can drive to the basket and score from mid-range. Stuckey, however, is not a solid threat from the three-point area. He also needs to work on his consistency. 

    ESPN.com's Chris Broussard tweeted,"I'm told Indiana has no plans to pursue Rodney Stuckey." If Stephenson bolts Nap Town, the Pacers may want to reconsider. 

4. Mike Scott, Power Forward

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    Mike Scott averaged 9.6 points and 3.6 rebounds for the Atlanta Hawks in 2013-14.
    Mike Scott averaged 9.6 points and 3.6 rebounds for the Atlanta Hawks in 2013-14.Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    2013-14 stats: 9.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.1 BPG, 0.4 SPG

    2013-14 earnings: $788,872 

    Status: Restricted free agent

    If Pacers fans didn't know who Mike Scott was, then he made an emphatic introduction in last season's playoffs. 

    Scott scored from inside and outside, but it was his deft shooting touch from the perimeter which caught the attention of many. Who could ever forget his epic 17-point second quarter in Game 5 of Indy's first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks?  

    Or how about this nasty facial on Ian Mahinmi? 

    The Pacers are in dire need of offense off the bench, and Mike Scott can provide that. We still have no idea if head coach Frank Vogel plans to give Chris Copeland more minutes. If Copeland or Luis Scola are gone by next season, Smith can ably fill the void. He should also prove to be good insurance on Rudez's off-nights. 

3. Chandler Parsons, Small Forward

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    Chandler Parsons impressed in his third year in the NBA.
    Chandler Parsons impressed in his third year in the NBA.USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 stats: 16.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.0 APG, 0.4 BPG, 1.2 SPG

    2013-14 earnings: $926,500

    Status: Unrestricted free agent

    "Do-it-all" is how you describe Chandler Parsons. 

    Parsons continued his ascent into NBA respectability last season. He has increased his scoring and assists averages in each of the last three seasons, per ESPN. He can also hit the long ball and is a decent defender. Parsons also anticipates passing lanes well as he tallied 1.2 steals per game in 2013-14.

    He has a slightly bigger upside than Trevor Ariza and would possibly command a smaller price. Getting Parsons would give the Pacers more scoring punch off the bench at small forward, something which Evan Turner failed to consistently provide.   

    Even with Chris Copeland on board, the bench wasn't properly utilized. This resulted in Luis Scola and C.J. Watson being relied on more as last season wore on. With Parsons on board, Indy spreads out its options even more, making it an even more dangerous team. 

2. Jameer Nelson, Point Guard

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    Jameer Nelson will play for a different ballclub for the first time in his 11-year NBA career after being waived by the Orlando Magic.
    Jameer Nelson will play for a different ballclub for the first time in his 11-year NBA career after being waived by the Orlando Magic.USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 stats: 12.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 7.0 APG, 0.1 BPG, 0.8 SPG

    2013-14 earnings (per BasketballInsiders.com): $8,600,000 

    Status: Unrestricted free agent 

    The Orlando Magic waived long-time point guard Jameer Nelson on June 30. It's time for the Indiana Pacers to make a move on him.

    Eric Bledsoe is another attractive free agent, but Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears tweeted on June 8 that the Phoenix Suns guard is seeking a maximum dealsomething the Pacers cannot afford. 

    Enter Nelson. 

    He was scheduled to make $2 million with the Magic in 2014-15, per HoopsHype.com. The Pacers can sign him to a similar deal and offer him the starting position. He is a better playmaker than two-year starter George Hill.

    Nelson averaged 5.4 assists with Orlando during his 10-year stint, but he has averaged 7.2 in the last two seasons, per ESPN. He has also averaged 15.0 points in his six-year playoff resume, culminating in an NBA Finals appearance against the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in 2009. 

    The one glaring downside is his shooting percentage, which reached an all-time low of .394 last season. Nonetheless, Nelson is a risk worth takinga proven asset at the point guard spot which the Pacers sorely need. 

1. Lance Stephenson, Shooting Guard

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    Will the Indiana Pacers wind up re-signing Lance Stephenson?
    Will the Indiana Pacers wind up re-signing Lance Stephenson?USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 stats: 13.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.6 APG, 0.1 BPG, 0.7 SPG

    2013-14 earnings: $981,349

    Status: Unrestricted free agent

    Who else?

    The Indiana Pacers have taken off in the last two seasons with Lance Stephenson at the starting shooting guard spot. Two near-misses in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. Central Division champs two years in a row. No. 1 seed in the East last season. 

    None of those would have been possible had it not been for the versatile but controversial Stephenson, who was the Pacers' most consistent performer in 2013-14. Re-signing Stephenson is crucial to the Pacers' long-term success. 

    ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reported on July 2 the Pacers were dangling a five-year deal worth $44 million to Stephenson:

    The Pacers offered a five-year, $44 million contract to Stephenson, but sources said the versatile shooting guard believes he's worth much more...

    ...'Lance and his representatives aren't sure they're going to be able to reach an agreement with the Pacers,' a source said. 'It's clear they want him back and he wanted to go back, but they may not be able to come to terms.'

    It's also important to note the Pacers are the only NBA team which can offer a five-year contract to Stephenson "because it owns his Bird Rights, meaning they can also go over the salary cap," per The Indianapolis Star's Candace Bucker (via USA Today). 

    We're all hoping Stephenson stays, but if he won't, trust Bird and Co. will be ready with a Plan B. 

     

    Note: Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of July 5 and are courtesy of ESPN.com while all salary information is provided by HoopsHype.com