Indiana Pacers: NBA Offseason Moves That Should Put Fans Back in Their Seats
It's a given in any sports league that winning is the best way to sell tickets.
In an ultra-competitive league such as the NBA, the same holds true. For the Indiana Pacers, who, according to ESPN stats, finished dead last in league attendance in 2010-11, the time to start winning again is now.
The last time Conseco Fieldhouse sold all 41 home games was in its inaugural 1999-2000 season, the same season when they represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. That was when Larry Bird coached the team for the last time and he had Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson, Chris Mullin, Dale Davis, Sam Perkins and "The Dunking Dutchman" Rik Smits on his roster.
A year after that, Indiana plummeted to 10th in the NBA in attendance, as verified by ESPN. Ever since, they have been teetering somewhere in the middle of NBA league attendance figures in the mid-2000s to the bottom of the heap last season.
Since 2007, Indiana has made the playoffs just once. During those years, the Pacers average placing in terms of attendance is 29th.
The Pacers cracked the NBA's playoff barrier in 2010-11 as the Eastern Conference's eighth seed, but they qualified with a subpar 38-44 record in a woeful conference where nine teams finished with a .500 record or worse.
For Indiana fans, perhaps the most knowledgeable in the league given the state's love affair with basketball, making the playoffs with a record six games below .500 is not the standard they adhere.
Acquiring IUPUI mainstay and Broad Ripple HS standout George Hill on June 24 was a good start for Larry Bird and company. Should the 2011-2012 season be salvaged, the Pacers are wise to explore possible acquisitions that should get Indiana fans going.
David West, New Orleans Hornets
West is one of the premier sweet-shooting power forwards in the NBA. While both Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts showed flashes of brilliance last season, neither displays the kind of scoring consistency West does. He can knock down jumper after jumper from 20 feet in, reminiscent of Chuck "The Rifleman" Person (a small forward who played six seasons for the Pacers and is now an assistant coach of the L.A. Lakers).
West is not just about scoring, though. On any given night he can snag eight rebounds to go with a steal and a block. NBA scouts might become wary of the slight dip in his scoring output the past three seasons (from 21 PPG in 2008-09 to 18.9 PPG in 2010-11).
He also played in only 70 games last season (due to a knee injury he sustained in March), the lowest since missing 30 in 2006-07. Lastly, age might be catching up on him (he turned 31 in August).
Granted, he has made a name for himself in eight NBA seasons so if there's an offseason acquisition the Pacers may want to take a serious look at, it's this guy.
Nene Hilario, Denver Nuggets
For the Pacers to go deeper into the postseason, they need to upgrade their power forward situation, primarily due to lack of experience. The Pacers are generally a young ballclub, but adding a battle-tested vet at the four spot will take a huge load off of Roy Hibbert down low.
Nene should fill that role amicably.
Nene is one of the league's best in terms of shot selection (averaged more than 60 percent from the field in two of the past three seasons), which bodes very well for Indiana should they snag him because he can be Hibbert's mentor.
In contrast to Nene, Hibbert has yet to crack the 50 percent field-goal average in his first three NBA seasons (the closest he came to this was in 2009-2010, when he averaged 49.5 percent). Bear in mind Nene is a 10-year veteran who plays center for the Nuggets, so he has what it takes to give Hibbert good, sound advice.
However, the quality that makes Nene stand out is his ability to play lock-down defense.
He may not be another Dennis Rodman, but when asked to step up on the defensive end, he will be more than happy to oblige. If he makes that transition to power forward, expect him to put up more productive rebounding numbers.
Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks
The first thing that comes to mind when NBA fans hear the name "Tyson Chandler" is defense.
Chandler is an aggressive low-post defender who swats away shots like a fly swatter does flies. He actually improved his scoring and rebounding totals (10.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG in 2010-11) after playing in a combined 96 games from 2008-10. At 73 percent, his free-throw shooting percentage is decent for a big man.
Pairing up Chandler with Roy Hibbert down low would make for a formidable combination. Chandler is also coming off his very first championship season as a Dallas Maverick, and that same invaluable experience should rub off on these Pacers.
Realistically, Dallas letting Chandler go is a longshot. Mark Cuban is too smart for that.
But somehow, someway, if a deal involving Chandler is pulled off, the Pacers should give themselves a much-deserved pat on the back for solidifying their playoff future.
Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks
Acquiring Crawford makes sense in several aspects.
For one, signing George Hill to a four-year contract all but made Brandon Rush expendable. Rush is entering his fourth NBA season, but has never really lived up to expectations after graduating from Kansas. He is due to make $2.5 million in 2012.
T.J. Ford may also find himself skating on thin ice. The Pacers may want to look into unloading him and his $8.5 million-per-year salary (and Rush's) and sign Crawford, who became an unrestricted free agent in 2011.
Crawford can start alongside Darren Collison with Hill as the main reliever at either guard spot off the bench. Crawford has had his share of nagging injuries (he missed 71 games in 2008-09), but he's played more games than Mike Dunleavy, Jr. the past two seasons. In that regard, Dunleavy may be better coming off the bench to spell Crawford.
What makes Crawford such a strong prospect for the Pacers is his consistency.
He has averaged scoring in double figures in 10 consecutive seasons. His scoring production may have tailed off in the past three seasons (from 19.6 PPG in 2009 to 14.2 PPG last season) but his 15.4 PPG average through 12 games in the 2011 playoffs is something the Pacers can definitely use in a future postseason push.
Like Hill, Crawford can play point guard and will give the Pacers more versatility and depth.