2011-12 Record: 42-24, second place in Central Division, eliminated in Eastern Conference semi-finals by Miami Heat
2012 NBA Draft: F Miles Plumlee (Duke, 26th overall pick), F Orlando Johnson (UC Santa Barbara, 36th overall pick, originally selected by Sacramento Kings
Offseason Losses: G Darren Collison (traded to Dallas Mavericks), G A.J Price (signed with Washington Wizards), F Dahntay Jones (traded to Dallas Mavericks), Team President Larry Bird
Resigned: G George Hill (5 years, $40 million), C Roy Hibbert (4 year, $56 million, Portland Trail Blazers offer sheet matched)
Projected Starting Line-Up: PG George Hill, SG Paul George, SF Danny Granger, PF David West, C Roy Hibbert
OFFSEASON GRADE: B +
After advancing all the way to the second round of the NBA Playoffs and at one point having a 2-1 series lead over the eventual NBA Champion Miami Heat, the Pacers organization decided to play it cool this offseason and make subtle, yet important moves to improve its chances moving forward.
After stating one month prior that he had no intention of leaving, team president and former Boston Celtics great Larry Bird decided to step down from his position after 4 years with the Pacers, citing shoulder and back problems as the reasons for his departure. Named the NBA Executive of the Year for 2012, Bird was extremely instrumental in constructing this Pacers roster and making them credible in the Eastern Conference once again.
Bird will now be replaced with former team president Donnie Walsh, who has spent the last 3 seasons as the president of Basketball Operations with the New York Knicks. Under Walsh, the Pacers qualified for the NBA playoffs 16 out of a possible 17 years. He was also responsible for drafting Pacers legend Reggie Miller, as well as acquiring Amare Stoudemire and trading for Carmelo Anthony during his time in New York. Donnie Walsh has a proven track record and should be able to maintain the level of success Bird has brought to this franchise.
A couple of core roster members from last seasons playoff team signed long-term deals to remain a part of the Indiana Pacers for the foreseeable future. Newly appointed starting point guard George Hill agreed to a 5-year, $40 million dollar deal while first time all-star Roy Hibbert had his 4 year, $56 million dollar offer sheet by the Portland Trail Blazers matched by Indiana.
7’2 big men with as much skill as Hibbert has are anything but a dime a dozen in this league. Outside of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, Roy Hibbert is arguably one of the best pure centers in the NBA today. His scoring numbers (12.8), rebounds (8.8) and blocked shots (2.0) all saw an increase in 2012. No matter what the offer that was presented, the Pacers front office had every intention of matching, and rightfully so. $56 million over 4 years seems like a reasonable price for a gifted big man with as much potential to get even better like Hibbert.
George Hill’s progression as a starting point guard (13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.2 steals per 36 minutes) basically signalled the end of Darren Collison’s run in Indiana, as he and backup guard Dahntay Jones were dealt to the Dallas Mavericks for center Ihn Mahinmi.
Darren saw his scoring totals (10.4) and assist numbers (4.8) dip in 2012, as well as his overall role with the team. Collison was benched in favor of Hill, and Coach Frank Vogel and the Pacers didn’t look back from there. Rather then having him sulk on the bench next season, it was probably best to get some sort of value on him before his numbers dipped even further (possibly). I would still argue the point that Collison could have been one of the better backup guards in the league for the Pacers (a role he thrived in as a backup to Chris Paul in New Orleans), but that’s all ifs and buts now.
In Mahinmi, the Pacers get a big man who showed some level of potential while as a backup for the Mavericks during their 2011-12 Championship run. He can rebound the basketball and hit the 15 foot jump shot if need be, but his lack of toughness and physicality in the paint could be a detriment to this team. Luckily for him, he won’t be expected to do a heck of a lot as he will only play spot minutes as the primary backup to Hibbert off the bench. Indiana truly did need a legit backup center, but I do wonder if the asking price was a bit too high.
To replace Darren Collison, the Pacers signed former Charlotte Bobcats point guard D.J Augustin to fill his role. D.J had his growing pains as the starter in Charlotte, but he should be effective in a lesser role for Indiana. If anything, playing for a playoff contender rather than the worst team in league history should inspire Augustin.
Gerald Green also found himself coming over to Indiana this summer, signing a 3 year, $10 million dollar deal. Best known for his jaw-dropping dunking ability, Green actually did show enough as a backup for the Brooklyn Nets last season (12.9 points, 48% from the field, 3.5 rebounds) to warrant this deal. He’s improved his shooting touch and his overall change in attitude has been a breath of fresh air. After struggling for years to find a consistent home in the NBA, it’s good to see hard work pay off for Gerald Green.
In perhaps the most confusing move of this years NBA Draft, the Pacers selected Miles Plumlee out of Duke University with the teams 26th overall pick in what was considered by many to be the biggest reach of the night. Many mock drafts had Plumlee going as late as the middle of the second round, making his late first round selection all the more peculiar. He’s a tremendous athlete with a great work ethic and an excellent motor, but his overall basketball skills are severely lacking. With a guy like Perry Jones III still on the board at that pick, it makes me wonder what exactly the Pacers saw in Miles during his pre-draft workouts. If anything, he will be a poor-mans Tyler Hansbrough for this basketball team.
With the main core of Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger, Paul George and George Hill still in tact, it’s hard not to like the Pacers chances heading into next season.
The moves the Pacers made this offseason weren’t exactly game-changers, but they at least won’t hurt this teams chances after an amazing 2012 campaign.
Resigning Hibbert and Hill, acquiring a solid backup point guard in Augustin and signing a freak athlete who has shown great improvement in Green adds up to one productive offseason for this franchise.
OTHER OFFSEASON RECAPS: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports