Most of us look forward to the summer. There’s the promise of warmer weather, a break from school and just getting outside and enjoying time with family and friends. Then there are those whose professional livelihoods depend greatly on what they do over the summer, and that’s clearly the life of an NBA personnel executive, especially if your roster is chocked full of free agents, expiring contracts, etc. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world of the Indiana Pacers front office as they begin to embark on an offseason that will undoubtedly test both the will and wallet of the franchise.
Let’s start with the big one, the health of Victor Oladipo. The Pacers, like a lot of teams, are notorious for limiting (kind word for it) any and all medical information regarding injuries, the subsequent rehabilitation of such and when a player is cleared to return to play.
Oladipo has opted to rehab in Florida (who could blame him), and that in itself makes it a little more challenging to ascertain accurate information regarding his current physical condition. What little that has trickled out is merely typical and provides no real basis for analysis. To date, it’s simply he’s progressing well and meeting expectations for this stage of the rehabilitative process. That’s fair game, but the reality of the circumstance is this injury was defined as significant by medical experts, and there is no real timetable or even guarantee that Oladipo can return to form. That fact alone provides even more of a challenge for the Pacers in terms of how they prepare for what may indeed prove to be a large portion of the 2019-2020 season without their starting shooting guard. Will he be ready by training camp? Highly doubtful. Maybe it’s the All-Star break, but regardless of your level of optimism, no one really knows what to expect and when he may return. That said, what are the alternatives? Do you look to retain some of the free agents who played here last season, or do you embark on the process of finding what you hope will be upgrades at both the shooting guard and point guard position? Don’t forget to factor in the limited availability of new talent and the premise that you generally overpay for free agents when trying to attract them to a smaller market. It’s hard, Pacers fans.
Forget about the marquee free agents, as they’re too expensive and have no interest in this market. The Pacers will more than likely look hard at retaining their core free agents, but that in itself falls somewhere between a crapshoot and a dream. Forward Bojan Bogdonovic had his best season offensively and earned just under $11 million in the process. The upside is he can shoot, and with the emphasis on the perimeter game in today’s NBA, that’s a huge plus. The down side is he just turned 30 and is not a good defensive player. More than likely his agent will be seeking a three- to four-year deal with a nice raise. Thaddeus Young also had a better than average campaign this year, and he, too, will look for an opportunity to secure a deal similar to that of Bogdonovic. Should the Pacers keep them both in the fold? It may be too expensive long term to do such, so it’s quite possible one of them will have a new zip code come this July when contracts can be officially tendered.
The guard positions are equally up in the air with four free agents in those positions. Re-signing Darren Collison at the right price makes sense, but it’s time to allow Aaron Holiday an opportunity to play and prove if he can cut it at the professional level.
His potential emergence would make the decision regarding Cory Joseph a lot simpler, and certainly more economical. Tyreke Evans was certainly a disappointment at just over $12 million annually, and I can’t imagine a scenario in which he returns. That leaves Wesley Mathews, who while signing cheap late in the season, was at best an up and down player. Granted, the Pacers had little choice at that point as they were attempting to rally without their best player and needed horsepower at the guard position, but it seems highly unlikely they will offer a long-term to a player of that caliber.
What other free agents might the Pacers look to bring in, you ask?
There are a number of players out there, but at what price is the question. Forwards Michael Kidd Gilchrist and Thabo Sefolosha could contribute off the bench, along with guards Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock. Are these individuals head and shoulders any better than the current crop of free agents the Pacers have? Probably not, but one thing is for certain, there should be a number of new faces come opening night, and they won’t come cheap.
Danny Bridges, who thinks there is more than one NBA owner out there who will quickly overpay a marginal player, thereby setting off a feeding frenzy for mediocre talent, can be reached at 317-370-8447, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.