State of the Cap: Indiana Pacers
By Josh Redetzke
2007/08 Indiana Pacers Payroll: $62.8 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $7.2 million over cap
[img_assist|nid=3881|title=Jermaine O'Neal - AP Photo: Duane Burleson|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=358]The Good: After such a dismal season, is there really anything good for Pacer fans to look at? Not really, but a few positives do exist. For one, Jamaal Tinsley was relatively healthy, playing in 72 games. His 12.9 scoring average was the second best in his career and his 6.9 assists per game were the most he has had in four years. It's a good thing Tinsley is finally contributing since he has a contract that will pay him nearly $7 million a year the next four years.
Second-year player Danny Granger also had a solid season. He nearly doubled his scoring average from his rookie season and shot a respectable 45.9% from the field. The Pacers will retain Granger's services the next two years under his cheap rookie contract. Considering the rest of their roster, that makes Granger the best value on the team by a landslide.
Does anyone still remember Jonathan Bender? Indiana sure does. The medical retiree finally comes off the books this summer and saves the team $7.8 million in cap space. Bender never got a chance to develop because of knee injuries. His chapter with the Pacers now comes to a close.
The Bad: Indiana was 20-19 when they completed a trade with the Golden State Warriors to land themselves Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy. The Pacers hoped the trade would improve chemistry and provide a second-half surge. Instead, they went 15-28 the rest of the way and missed the playoffs entirely.
Now, the team is stuck with Murphy and Dunleavy's incredibly horrible contracts, each with four years still remaining. Murphy's deal totals $42.2 million and Dunleavy's $37.4 million in the same time span. Incidentally, the main players they gave up in the deal, Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson, each have three years remaining for less money. Murphy had his worst season in three years and didn't come close to the double-doubles he used to average. At least Dunleavy somewhat improved his stats as a Pacer, though it's doubtful that he'll be able to put up numbers worthy of the high salary coming his way. We'll have a better idea next season how each player will fare with their new team, but so far the results haven't been good.
Another player who hasn't panned out is guard Marquis Daniels. 7.1 points and 1.3 assists is not the way to earn $20.5 million over the next three years. Daniels has been a major bust since coming over from Dallas.
Jeff Foster will be a Pacer for two more seasons to the tune of $5.7 and $6.1 million. That's a lot of money for such a one-dimensional player. He doesn't block shots, doesn't pass well, doesn't score, he just rebounds. I would expect more than 8.1 boards per game from a specialist making that kind of dough.
The Future: Where is this Pacer team really going? They won't have any cap space for the next few years and the current group of players did not play well together. They will also have to get acclimated to a new coach next season since Rick Carlisle was fired. Can we really expect different results next year?
Jermaine O'Neal is the cornerstone of the franchise and still puts up nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds a game while blocking shots like crazy. But for an average of over $20 million dollars each of the next three seasons, O'Neal needs to be doing more to make Indiana a winner instead of simply putting up nice stats. For the third consecutive year, O'Neal played in less than 70 games and the Pacers have won fewer games than the year before. He is simply not getting the job done.
On the other hand, perhaps O'Neal's supporting cast is the one to blame. Like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Jermaine doesn't have another star player to help him out. The burden is his alone and obviously he isn't up to the task. O'Neal has an early termination clause in his contract that he could exercise next summer. It's doubtful that any player would leave $40 million dollars on the table, but if Indiana can't find him any help and they endure another season like this one, the possibility does exist. The Pacers are used to winning and postseason play. The word "rebuilding" normally isn't in their vocabulary and it might have to be added soon.
Free Throw: The Pacers could sure use some young talent to develop alongside O'Neal and perhaps even emerge as a star. Unfortunately, they gave away their first-round pick to Atlanta in the trade for Al Harrington, a player that isn't on their roster anymore. They also traded away their second-round pick in a deal for James White, who didn't even play a minute for Indiana this season. As of right now, the Pacers have no picks in the 2007 NBA Draft, widely considered one of the stronger drafts in years. Indiana's timing could have been better.