Before all this lockout nonsense began, it was a well-known fact that the Indiana Pacers were in pursuit of a big name big man through free agency — namely David West and Nene.
Now the lockout is almost over, it’s time to take a look at whether the Pacers really can land one of these guys, and whether they ought to try.
Currently, the Pacers have Roy Hibbert as the incumbent center and Tyler Hansbrough as the likely starting power forward, which is not too shabby but could certainly be improved on. Back-up center and free agent Jeff Foster is getting on in years and has been troubled by injury more recently, but I assume the Pacers would like to re-sign him as a sign of respect and loyalty to reward Foster for services to the Pacers over the years so that he can retire a Pacer. Josh McRoberts is more of a question mark — the Pacers showed a willingness to trade him for OJ Mayo at the end of the last season, but if they can get a him for a good price I think they’d like him to return too. As for free agent number three Solomon Jones, his career with the Pacers is as good as over.
In short, the Pacers have a core of Hibbert, Hansbrough, probably Foster and maybe McRoberts. Granger and Posey (if he isn’t tossed out beforehand) can play the four but they’re not considered ‘bigs’. Accordingly, West or Nene (and/or Carl Landry) would be a very nice addition.
The New Orleans free agent recently had major ACL surgery which is never a good sign, especially for a 31-year-old like West. Nevertheless, his stock remains high, which is why he opted out of his contract in search of the bigger dollars.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported a short while ago that several teams are interested in West, but New Orleans and the Pacers remain the frontrunners to land him. If this is the case, then I would say the Pacers should have the edge, considering the rumors surrounding the departure of Chris Paul from New Orleans. With Indiana, West can get the dollars as well as a chance to win. With the Hornets, if Paul leaves, West would be destined for the lottery for at least the forseeable future.
But the bigger question is, do the Pacers need West? He would inject a much needed veteran presence, but at 6’9″ West is somewhat undersized, and with his ACL condition up in the air, would it be too much of a gamble? Plus are West’s numbers inflated by the presence of the best PG in the league in Chris Paul? He has played with Collison in New Orleans, which might allow their pick and roll game to flourish, but whichever way you look at it, signing West comes with big risks and only moderate potential.
That said, any time a big name free agent who can make a significant impact is willing to come to Indiana, I say take ‘em.
Wojnarowski also reported that Indiana is a player in the Nene sweepstakes, along with Denver, New Jersey, Golden State, Houston, LA Clippers and Portland. Theoretically, the Pacers wouldn’t be a frontrunner, but Nene might be a good fit — a big (6’11”), defensive minded player who can rebound and run the floor but not quite the multi-faceted offensive threat West is.
Consider a frontline with the 7’2″ Hibbert and the 6’11” Nene, which would shift the energetic Hansbrough to sixth man, a role most believe he would relish. Nene could play the five with Hansbrough or the four with Hibbert, and he could easily play 30 minutes a night. Hibbert and Nene makes a more imposing defensive combo than with West, but considering how much the Pacers need a second reliable scoring option next to Granger, it’s not clear which path the Pacers would take if the gods smile upon them and make both men available.
There’s another big piece of potential news which I’ll report on next.