State of the Cap: Indiana Pacers

Wed, 06/11/2008 - 11:31am

By Josh Redetzke

[img_assist|nid=1125|title=Danny Granger|desc=Icon SMI|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=451]2008/09 Indiana Pacers Payroll: $69.5 million
2008/09 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $58 million
Roughly: $11.5 million over cap


The Good:
Selecting Danny Granger with the 17th pick in the 2005 NBA draft is now looking like a stroke of genius (even though it was somewhat obvious that he shouldn’t have fallen that far). Granger exploded this season to lead the team in scoring with a 19.6 average and added 6.1 rebounds and excellent 40.4% shooting from the three point line. He is still under his rookie pay scale for one more year, which makes him one of the best bargains in the league. Considering the lack of good, young talent on the roster, it’s nice that the Pacers have someone they can plan their future around.
Another pleasant surprise was the play of Mike Dunleavy. He averaged 19.1 points and shot 47.6% from the field, 42% from downtown, and 83% from the line, destroying all of his previous career highs. He improved by a respectable 5.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Dunleavy’s hefty contract and poor numbers used to place him in the highly overpaid category, but that kind of production is definitely worth the $9.8 million he’ll receive each of the next three seasons. Now, Dunleavy must prove that he can keep it up for more than one year, and try to improve on the defensive end.

The Bad:
Jermaine O’Neal is one of the most overpaid players in the league and that distinction was solidified this season. O’Neal exercised the player-option on his contract so he can collect $21.3 million next year and $22.9 million the year after that. His decision was painfully obvious after the horrendous season he had in 2007-08. O’Neal only played in 42 games, which makes four seasons in a row that he failed to play in more than 69 games. His averages of 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds were very mediocre and wouldn’t even be worth half the money he made. Trade rumors have been hovering around O’Neal lately, but at that cost, combined with his health issues and poor play recently, I don’t know if the Pacers will get much in return.

Sadly, the list of bad contracts on Indiana’s roster is a long one. Troy Murphy is supposed to be paid $33 million over the next three years to average double-doubles, not the ordinary 12.2 points and 7.2 rebounds he did this season. Murphy is an excellent three point shooter for a power forward, but he needs to take after Dunleavy and raise his game a bit to earn that kind of dough.

For the fourth time in the past five years, Jamaal Tinsley didn’t play 53 games or more during the season. His 38% shooting also marks the seventh year in a row that Tinsley has shot under 42%. I’m baffled as to why he’ll be paid an average of $7.1 million the next three seasons. Tinsley can definitely distribute the ball, but not while jacking up long-range bricks or sitting on the end of the bench in a suit.
Even though he played most of the season, Marquis Daniels couldn’t shake the “bust” tag that he earned last year after coming over from Dallas as a free agent. 8.2 points, 43% shooting, and just 1.9 assists per game isn’t going to earn you the $6.8 million left on your contract for next season. Luckily, the year after that is a team option, one that I’m sure Indiana will not be exercising.

The Future:
Apparently, Donnie Walsh did such a good job with the Pacers that he was hired to fix the mess in New York. Aside from drafting Danny Granger, I don’t see a lot here to be proud of. This team is a mess of highly paid and underperforming players. It’s not surprising to see that Indiana is shopping Jermaine O’Neal in an attempt to rebuild. Even though they are selling on the low end of O’Neal’s value, they should still be able to get the standard young player-picks-cap relief package that is so popular these days. They can at least get more than what Memphis received for Pau Gasol. Besides Granger, the Pacers don’t have any good-looking prospects to develop, so they need an influx of young talent that a major trade can give them.

Somehow, someway, Jamaal Tinsley needs to go. He is simply too unreliable to be their point guard, which is why Indiana will probably take one in the draft (or grab one in an upcoming O’Neal trade). A talented point guard can do wonders for a team searching for a new identity. That would be a good first step in any rebuilding plan.

Free Throw:
If you are looking for tradable assets, look no further than Jeff Foster. The veteran center doesn’t really fit on a team that is starting over, but a good role-playing big man that can rebound is worth something to many contending teams. A savvy general manager should turn Foster into something they can use for their future.

Grade: D+

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