Sometimes I decide I'm going out to eat, but have nothing specifically in mind. So I decide, "I'm just going to start driving around and hopefully something looks good." Do you ever do that?
I wonder if the Pacers are in a similar situation in building their team. For the first time in recent memory, the Pacers are in a pretty healthy situation with contracts, but do they know what they are doing with it?
Out With the Old
Rebuilding has been difficult because of big contracts to players who shouldn't be making as much as they are. Jermaine Oneal, then TJ Ford, Mike Dunleavy, etc. have limited the front office's options, because nobody is going to take a below average, often-injured player, who is owed 30 mil over the next 3 years.
Now we have options. We can finally truly rebuild. Ever since Artest assaulted the franchise, we have just traded bad contracts for other bad contracts, to try to clean out the mess. Oneal's titanic contract brought over TJ Ford, and Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson brought over Dunleavy and Murphy.
Now Murphy(12 mil), Dunleavy(10.5), and Ford(8.5) will come off the books next year, along with Jeff Foster(6.6) and even Jamaal Tinsley (5.5-yes we are still paying him). Which means we are essentially building from scratch.
What We Have
The players who seem to be in the Pacers' plans for the future are Granger, Hibbert, Hansbrough, and possibly Rush.
I like those guys, and think they can all be pieces to a solid group, but for now I want to focus on Granger.
One of the main reasons I think we can be optimistic is that we have Danny locked up for the future as a piece to build around. People like to say that Danny isn't good enough to be a franchise player, or someone who you can build a title team around, but my question would be, "Who is?"
When you are a team like the Pacers, this is how you have to build a team. You can't let all your contracts expire then offer a max deal to LeBron or Wade, it just won't work here.
You have to find solid guys who are willing to be loyal to the franchise, sign them to a good deal and then build around them. This is exactly what Donnie Walsh did with the Reggie Miller era.
In With the New
So the question now is, where do we go from here? This is the part that is impossible to predict. Are we looking to trade our expiring contracts for draft picks? Are we trying to trade up? Trade down? Would we rather let our contracts expire and try to sign free agents next summer? Or would we rather deal them for veteran talent?
The hardest part about being a Pacers fan these last few years, is the absence of a defined plan. I know it isn't the organization's responsibility to let fans know exactly what is going on, but as a fan it is difficult to tell what we are trying to do.
Sometimes it feels like the front office doesn't know either. Like they are just driving around hungry, waiting for something to catch their attention.
Usually when I drive around not knowing where I am going to eat, nothing ends up sounding good, and I just go to Taco Bell.
The Pacers are in a position to make real, significant growth over the next year. They have more options than I can possibly list right now. Let's hope they have a plan, and let's hope they make the most of it.