Sorry for the absence on the blog. I was off for awhile so I could go do this:
The NBA Draft and the start of the free agency period coincided with my honeymoon week, so I'm just now catching up on the plethora of moves made by the Pacers over the past few days. Here's a quick look at each:
RE-SIGN DAVID WEST (3 years/$36M)
After signing a two-year deal worth $20M with the Pacers two summers ago, West got a bit of a raise, and an extension on years - the final year being a player option. Indiana's front office talked about making West their top priority this offseason, and they came through on that promise. The power forward will turn 33 next month, but his leadership and presence are just as important as his basketball skills, should they decline over the life of the contract. It's no coincidence that West's arrival has sparked the franchise's surge to NBA Championship contention, and most fans should be fine with the team perhaps overpaying a bit to retain him.
SIGN CHRIS COPELAND (2 years/$6.1M)
This move won't be official for another few days, but the Knicks are going to be unable to match the Pacers' offer sheet due to cap constraints. Copeland shot 42% from three last season, which would've easily led the Pacers. George Hill was the top-shooting regular from long distance at over 36%, but the bench (Augustin 35%, Green 31%, Young 30%, B. Hansbrough 26%) really struggled in that area. The 29-year old Copeland kicked around the D-League and overseas for years before cashing in after just one productive year with a team in New York. Sound familiar? Gerald Green's backstory was nearly identical, and he flopped last year after parlaying one good half-season with the Nets into a $10M deal from the Blue and Gold. Hopefully, Copeland proves to be more useful. Ideally, he's a stretch four at 6'8, and can play up to three different positions. The Pacers' biggest need this offseason was to get some scoring pop off the bench, and Copeland, although limited, should bring that to the table.
SIGN C.J. WATSON (2 years/$2.2M)
The Pacers signed Watson to a low-level deal, persumably using a portion of their mini mid-level exception. Considering the team paid D.J. Augustin three times that amount last season, the contract should be viewed as a bargain. The 29-year old is an instant upgrade at backup point guard over Augustin, especially on the defensive end. While he's hardly a three-point marksman, Watson did shoot a career-high 41% from beyond the arc last season, and is a 38% three-point shooter over the course of his career.
SIGN DONALD SLOAN (Multi-year, undisclosed)
Sloan is already joining his fifth team in just two seasons, so he's nothing to write home about. In 56 career games, he's shown himself to be somewhat capable (4.7 ppg, 38% FG, a solid 5.5 apg/per 36 min.), and did average almost 25 minutes per game for the woeful 21-win Cavs during his rookie season in 2011-12. Remember A.J. Price? That is the role that Sloan will likely play. He's a deep rotation guy, but for a third-string point guard, you could do worse.
DECLINE TO OFFER TYLER HANSBROUGH
To me, this decision was somewhat surprising. It may not be saying much to call Hansbrough the Pacers' best bench player last season, but he was. He always brought energy, even if it seemed spastic at times, and was an effective rebounder and defender. Understanably, Hansbrough wants to start somewhere and that wasn't happening here in Indy. While he was far from a disappointment, Hansbrough was nothing more than a useful bench player who was taken several selections before All-Star caliber point guards like Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, and Jeff Teague in the 2009 Draft. Thinking about what could've been with that 13th pick is always going to sting a bit, as Hansbrough seems destined for a career as a reserve.
DRAFT SOLOMON HILL
For the second straight year, the Pacers used a pick in the 20s to reach for a player who was universally viewed as a second-round talent (he rated 79th on Chad Ford's big board). It's hard to get excited about Hill after an unremarkable four-year career at Arizona. The 6'7 forward is more of a wing player, and was an effective three-point shooter during his senior season. The scouting reports say that Hill is also an excellent rebounder and an adequate defender. However, with the Pacers in immediate need of bench scoring, and with players like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Allen Crabbe still on the board, I don't love the pick.
DECLINE TO OFFER JEFF PENDERGRAPH
At the very least, I thought the Pacers would offer Pendergraph and see if they could keep him around. They did draft a backup forward in Solomon Hill, but like 2012 selection Miles Plumlee, Hill will likely be a long-term project and he's more of a 6'7 wing player. Pendergraph rarely cracked the rotation until late in the regular season, but was effective in small spurts, and did provide those um... theatrics - for lack of a better word - in the pre-game huddle. San Antonio has a knack for finding hidden gems, so I fully expect Pendy to average 10/8 for a 60+ win Spurs team in 2013-14. It would only be fitting, no?
Besides signing David West, Indiana's #1 priority was improving the bench, and it appears that they're on their way to doing so. As of right now, the Pacers bench is Watson-S. Hill-Copeland-Sloan replacing Augustin-Young-Hansbrough-Pendergraph. On paper, that looks to be a superior second unit.