The Indiana Pacers are primed for an extremely bright future entering the 2011-12 regular season.
That future could get a lot brighter with the arrival of power forward Paul Millsap.
After showing surprising spunk in the postseason and looking like a team that could really compete with the addition of some key pieces last year, the Pacers have already begun making the right moves to position the franchise for success going forward.
During the draft, the Pacers acquired versatile guard George Hill in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs.
The former IUPUI standout should prove to be a fantastic addition for the club, as the Pacers were disappointed by the production from starting point guard Darren Collison in his first season with the team.
If Collison does show improvement as many are expecting him to do, Hill could also play shooting guard (behind Paul George) and serve as a reserve at both guard spots.
Heading into this offseason, the team has set itself up nicely to make a run at another integral piece of the puzzle. There's only one player currently making more than $10 million on the club (Danny Granger), and the total payroll is just a shade under $37 million prior to transactions getting underway.
Here's a look at the current roster breakdown (starter in bold):
Point Guard: Darren Collison, A.J. Price, Lance Stephenson
Shooting Guard: Paul George, George Hill, Brandon Rush
Small Forward: Danny Granger, Dahntay Jones, James Posey
Power Forward: Tyler Hansbrough
Center: Roy Hibbert
Clearly, the Pacers need to divide the $20-plus million available in cap space in an effort to build front court depth, but the area of emphasis is at power forward.
Hansbrough showed that he can certainly contribute when his number is called, but the team would be foolish to head into next season banking on him as its starting power forward.
With a plethora of cap space available, the team has been linked to two prominent free agents: David West and Carl Landry.
Each would be an improvement alongside Hibbert and Granger along the front line, but both would require multi-year contracts to bring on to the roster.
Instead of competing in the free-agent frenzy that comes with a compacted season, the team could look to explore the trade market as an alternative.
One name that hasn't been mentioned in connection with the team but could soon pop up on the club's radar is Millsap.
Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star suggested Millsap as a viable alternative to courting a free agent, and it makes a ton of sense for both parties to explore the potential of a trade.
The Jazz are just slightly under the salary cap with nearly $56 million in outstanding contracts, and the team has a surplus of size with the drafting of Enes Kanter and the return of Mehmet Okur.
With Derrick Favors also joining the party down low, it's going to be a battle for playing time among the bigs, and a young Utah team might not be looking to give Millsap the playing time he deserves.
He's only got $13.5 million remaining on his current contract over the next two seasons, and he would slide into the Pacers lineup immediately as the starter.
If the team doesn't want to invest too heavily to fill the void, Millsap could very well be a great fit for the club.
Although the franchise possesses solid cap flexibility going forward, the club has to be conscious of shelling out too much coin in the short-term as both Roy Hibbert and George Hill are restricted free agents in 2012.
Millsap would mesh well with the Pacers as a power forward capable of hitting jumpers and stretching the floor, and with Hibbert controlling the low-post, Millsap's presence could give the center even more room to work beneath the basket.
The Pacers spoke with Utah about Millsap prior to the draft, and the team is expected to rekindle those talks.
ESPN's Chris Broussard reports that the "excitement" over the Jazz's younger big men has the team shopping both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, and that would open the door for the Pacers to bring him into the fold.
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