As Feb. 18 trade deadline approaches, the Indiana Pacers remain stranded at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a horrendous 18-33 record. Are there any potential trades out there that could turn this franchise around? Let's take a look at some rumored options floating around the NBA.
Power forward Troy Murphy is probably Indiana's best trading chip.
The 6'11" Murphy can score (13.9 ppg), rebound (9.8 rpg) and shoot the long ball (39 percent from three-point range). Sure, he can't really defend anyone, but his skill set makes him a perfect fit for any team needing a sharp-shooting big man.
The Cavs were reportedly offering 35-year-old center Zydrunas Ilgauskas straight up for Murphy, but the Pacers also wanted promising young forward JJ Hickson and multiple draft picks thrown in, which effectively killed the deal.
On paper, at least, the Pacers don't appear to be unreasonable here. Together, Ilgauskas and Hickson average 14.8 ppg and 9.7 rpg, which is comparable to Murphy's stats. Further, given Cleveland's imposing record, any future draft picks included in the deal are unlikely to be valuable. That is, of course, unless Lebron James decides to bolt at the end of the season, which would suddenly make things very interesting.
I think the Pacers have done the right thing here. The Cavs want Murphy more than the Pacers want Ilgauskas' expiring $11 million contract. Even if they keep Murphy, the Pacers are still likely to receive a decent lottery pick next season. And besides, Murphy's $12 million contract will expire in 2011. Unless they can get a young stud like Hickson and/or a couple of draft picks as well, why not just keep Murphy for another year?
On the other hand, trading Murphy (the team's top rebounder and second-leading scorer) for nothing more than an expiring contract would officially signal the commencement of 'tank mode' for the Pacers. That's not a bad thing, is it?
The Pacers would love to trade TJ Ford. Jim O'Brien actually said, "I don't think there is any doubt."
The question is, does anyone want him?
Despite being brought in as the potential long-term solution at point guard, Ford has disappointed. Last season, he was ousted from the starting line up by Jarrett Jack. This season, things have gone from bad to worse, with Ford being banished from the rotation completely in favor of Earl Watson and AJ Price.
TJ has filled in admirably for the absent Earl Watson (funeral) the last couple of games, averaging 15.5 points (on 13 of 18 shooting) and four assists, but chances are he will return to the end of the bench when Watson returns as Coach O'Brien has made it clear he will not play three point guards.
Ford earns $8.5 million this season and is certain to exercise his $8.5 million player option for next season. There are a couple of teams that may be in search of a solid point guard, though there have been no reports of any genuine trade offers.
One potential trading partner that has come up is Memphis, though with Mike Conley putting up similar numbers (and with Jamaal Tinsley backing up), this appears unlikely.
Looks like the Pacers might be stuck with TJ until the end of the 2011 season.
Veteran rebounder Jeff Foster is having a forgettable season. Troubled by a nagging back injury, Foster has only played 16 games this season and has not played at all since Dec. 19th.
Reports have confirmed that Foster will now undergo season ending back surgery, which brings an end to all potential trade rumors, the most prominent one of which was to Denver for rookie point guard Ty Lawson.
Foster earns $6 million this season and $6.7 million next season.
A few weeks ago, there was a rumor that the Minnesota Timberwolves had offered Al Jefferson (17.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.0 apg) straight up for Danny Granger (22.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.8 apg) in what would have been a franchise-player swap.
Apparently, the Pacers shot down this trade offer very quickly. Should they have given this more thought?
Granger's play has definitely regressed from last season, in part due to a troublesome foot injury. For the season, he is shooting just over 40 percent from the field and is overly reliant on his outside shot. The Pacers' woes this season has raised further questions about his leadership qualities.
However, Minnesota's president of basketball operations David Kahn recently shut down any possibility of that trade being resurrected when he said that the Timberwolves will definitely not move any of their core players before the trade deadline.
So that's that. It looks increasingly unlikely that the Pacers will make any major moves before the trade deadline. What it does mean is that we are likely to see the same team head into the next season, with possibly a top five lottery pick. Unless the Pacers can land the next big superstar in the draft, it looks like it will be more of the same until the end of 2011, when significant cap space will finally become available again.