Paul George's gruesome leg injury changed everything about the Indiana Pacers' outlook for the 2014-15 season. However, it apparently won't quiet the continued rumblings about Larry Bird shopping All-Star center Roy Hibbert.
Matt Dery of New Detroit Sports 105.1 reported the rumblings have grown louder over the weekend, pointing toward the Pistons as a potential trade partner:
Greg Monroe remains a restricted free agent and looks no closer to a long-term deal with Detroit than he was a month ago. The Pistons have an offer on the table similar to Josh Smith's four-year, $54 million contract, per Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, but chatter differs on the dollar figure. Responding to a fan query on Twitter, Monroe said the numbers being floated in the media are inaccurate:
Because he is a restricted free agent, Monroe is in a difficult spot. He can either sign whatever long-term deal the Pistons have on the table or sign a one-year, $5.48 million qualifying offer and then test unrestricted free agency next summer. The latter, nuclear option involves leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table—something few young players are willing to do.
As for a Hibbert-for-Monroe sign-and-trade? That has roughly a negative-infinity chance of happening.
The flaws in logic are pretty obvious here. Hibbert heading to Detroit creates a positional redundancy with Andre Drummond. Both players occupy space within five feet of the basket when not involved in pick-and-rolls offensively. Having them on the floor at the same time would somehow lead to more constricted spacing than the Pistons had in 2013-14—which is saying something.
The Pistons see Drummond as a foundational piece. There is little to no chance they would add an All-Star quality talent at his position and risk affecting his confidence. Drummond might benefit from learning how to better use his body by playing with Hibbert, but the risk-reward sheet is heavily tilted toward the former.
The potential reward here for Indiana is easier to see, albeit still under a flawed premise. Monroe is 24 years old and more likely to be in his prime for whatever Bird decides to do with his next core. The Pacers would run into some redundancy with David West and Monroe, but Monroe might wind up being a more effective offensive center, anyway. West can also become an unrestricted free agent next summer if he exercises his player option.
More likely, the Pacers are merely trying to recoup value for Hibbert. Sean Deveney of Sporting News first reported last month that the team was "quietly" shopping the Defensive Player of the Year runner up. There were also foreign reports, via Sportando, floating around saying Hibbert was offered to the Phoenix Suns in a package for Goran Dragic.
These rumblings follow a pattern indicating Indiana brass has decided its current core cannot compete for a title.
Lance Stephenson signed with the Charlotte Hornets this summer after seemingly butting heads in negotiations over a few million extra dollars. Stephenson and Hibbert were seen as two of the chief causes of an internal rift that helped sink Indiana's run last season.
Stephenson and Evan Turner allegedly got into a fight on the eve of their playoff matchup with the Atlanta Hawks. Hibbert famously called out his teammates after a March loss, calling them "selfish." The seven-footer also came under scrutiny for his lack of production down the stretch. He averaged only 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game on 39 percent shooting after the All-Star break, a run of befuddling play that carried into the postseason.
"When Roy loses his confidence, he struggles at times," Bird told reporters in June. "I hope he can come back strong. I hope he can do the things necessary to get better."
With George expected to miss most or all of 2014-15 due to a compound fracture to his tibia and fibula suffered in a Team USA scrimmage, Pacers brass needs to assess how they want to rebuild. Amin Elhassan highlighted the difficulty of potentially blowing up the core:
Hibbert can hit unrestricted free agency next summer and may decide he needs a change of scenery amid the criticism. His trade market is limited at the moment. But it'll be interesting to see how the Pacers' apparent push to move on plays out.
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Contract information via Sham Sports.