There are still several good bargain-bin free-agency options for the Indiana Pacers.
Bringing in lesser-known free agents who can thrive in head coach Frank Vogel's system should help address the Pacers' needs—bench depth, offense and a playmaking point guard. Plugging these holes should help in Indy along on its quest for its first NBA title.
The Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner reported on July 9 that the NBA increased the salary cap to $63.065 million—the highest amount ever. She also added more details on where the Pacers currently stand financially:
The luxury tax level for the upcoming season has also elevated to $76.829 million. The new cap and tax threshold will go into effect Thursday at 12:01 a.m. ET, the ending of the league's moratorium period which also will be the same day when free agents can sign contracts and trades become official.
On July 10, the Indiana Pacers will have 14 players signed for the 2014-15 season, including the unguaranteed contract of Donald Sloan. The best estimation of the salaries are projected to be $72,764,277.
Buckner's report clearly states the Pacers don't have enough wiggle room. Re-signing elusive free-agent shooting guard Lance Stephenson, who was offered a five-year deal worth $44 million on July 2 (per ESPN), would entail some re-shuffling in order for Indiana to remain under the luxury threshold.
Whatever the case may be, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
At point guard, the Pacers currently have George Hill, C.J. Watson and Donald Sloan. They added former Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard C.J. Miles on July 2 to the tune of four years and $18 million.
Currently, Stephenson is still in limbo.
Of course, the best-case scenario is that Stephenson stays with Miles serving as a nice backup. If he leaves, that would leave a huge void at shooting guard. Miles would be better suited as a contributor off the bench. The current free-agent pool does not boast of too many attractive bargain-bin options at shooting guard.
The best options would be Anthony Morrow ($1.027 million in 2013-14) and former Purdue Boilermaker E'Twaun Moore ($884,293 last year), both of whom can contribute with their outside shooting but not much beyond that.
Pacers president Larry Bird spoke with NBA TV's Vince Cellini and Kendall Gill (via The Indianapolis Star) on July 10 to discuss Indy's point-guard situation:
We're always looking Great point guards are hard to get. We're happy with George Hill. C.J. (Watson) has done a great job for us. But you're right, we'd like to have a guy who can break down the defenses because both them guys can play off the ball...If nothing happens, we'll just go with what we have.
Jameer Nelson, who was slated to make $2 million in 2014-15 (per HoopsHype.com), remains the Pacers' best option. He brings the veteran savvy and playmaking Indiana so desperately needs.
Should that not fall through and Hill remains the starter, the Pacers can try to make a move on unrestricted free agent Brian Roberts ($788,872 last season), a solid shooter with decent court savvy. The video above shows him going off for 18 assists back in March 2013.
As a team in need of offense, Indiana can also use somebody like former Butler Bulldog Shelvin Mack ($884,293 in 2013-14), who lit up the Pacers in several games in last season's playoffs.
Forwards and Centers
As far as the forwards are concerned, Indiana has Paul George, David West, Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and Solomon Hill. The Pacers added Damjan Rudez (whom Bird describes as "the best shooter in Europe" in the NBA TV interview) on July 2 and agreed to re-sign forward-center Lavoy Allen on July 5.
With Copeland and Rudez on board, the Pacers already have two stretch 4s. Now that Evan Turner is gone and Solomon Hill is still an unseasoned sophomore, the team could use some help backing up Paul George.
That being said, Indy can't go wrong with either Rashard Lewis ($1,399,507 last year) or Francisco Garcia ($1,265,977 in 2013-14).
Both players are unrestricted free agents, per HoopsHype.com. In last season's Eastern Conference Finals, the 34-year-old Lewis not only sniped well from the outside, he also played great defense. Garcia, 33, also shoots well from the outside and can hold his own on the other end of the floor.
At power forward, if Indiana decides to waive Scola, it can go with unrestricted free-agent bruiser DeJuan Blair ($941,000 last season), who played a prominent role with the Dallas Mavericks in 2013-14. Besides, Blair can ably back up David West and bring an inside game which gives the Pacers more options.
Bargain-bin options at center aren't abundant for the Pacers. Reacquiring Jermaine O'Neal ($2.0 million in 2013-14) to back up Hibbert (the same player he was traded for six years ago) would be a stretch, although it sure would be nice to see J.O. retire in a Pacers uniform.
The Parting Shot
There are several bargain-bin free agents the Indiana Pacers should keep in mind. Among them are Morrow, Moore, Nelson, Roberts, Mack, Lewis, Garcia and Blair.
Signing any of them hinges on several developments, particularly whether the Pacers get to keep Stephenson or not.
Whatever Stephenson's decision is, expect the Pacers to make several more moves in their quest to come out on top of the Eastern Conference in 2014-15.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all salary information is courtesy of HoopsHype.com.