Pondering the Pacers: Free Agency Splashes Provide Hope for the Future

In every free agency period, you have your winners and you have your losers. Sometimes, it’s pretty easy to tell how teams fared right off the bat.

Take this year’s free agency, less than one day old: the 76ers lost Jimmy Butler to the Heat, but still won the day. Anytime you can add somebody who’s plagued your team over and over again, you do it. General Manager Elton Brand did just that when he signed Al Horford, perhaps the only center in the league who had an answer for the powerhouse Joel Embiid.

The big winner today, though, is unmistakable. The Brooklyn Nets completely took over New York basketball, ripping every Knicks fan’s heart out by landing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and seemingly won the once atrocious-looking Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade from 2013.

Amazing. Simply. Amazing.

No, Kevin Durant won’t play next year. But it’s Kevin Durant, ladies and gentlemen. If he can walk and breathe, you give the man a max contract. It’s really that simple. Kyrie, on the other hand, ruined a locker room last year. But keep this in mind: he’s not the alpha dog anymore. He won’t have the say-so that he did in Boston.

While big names were on the move, however, Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard did what he does best–sit back and live within your means. 

Pacers fans know it all too well: big time free agents are, to put it nicely, not likely to come here. In my lifetime, the biggest name Indy has landed might actually be Monta Ellis. This year, though, Pritchard got the most out of what he could do.

Even before free agency started, I liked the front office’s game plan after the trade for TJ Warren from Phoenix. Warren might seem like a “good stats, bad team” player, but he could easily supply around 15 points for a playoff team and would be more than serviceable come the postseason. Yesterday, Pritchard made a similar move when he signed Jeremy Lamb from the Hornets (who have quickly turned into a small market version of the Knicks). Lamb put up a career-best 15.3 points per game last season as second fiddle to Kemba Walker. He’ll likely assume the scoring responsibilities left by Bojan Bogdanovic, now on the Utah Jazz. 

The big splash for the blue and gold, however, is landing Malcolm Brogdon from the Bucks. No, he’s not a marquee free agent, but he’s a guy Milwaukee sorely missed in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. I don’t think they could’ve knocked off the eventual champs, but Brogdon’s steadying presence and smart play might have been enough to push it to seven games.

Brogdon was a 50-40-90 guy this past season, the ultimate stat for shooters and a club that includes only eight different players in history (Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Reggie Miller, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Mark Price, and Brogdon). He doesn’t turn the ball over hardly at all, and when you consider the fact that Darren Collison retired and Cory Joseph signed with Sacramento, Brogdon will definitely suffice and perhaps even be an improvement on the perimeter. He’ll also be a good mentor for Aaron Holiday off the bench.

When Oladipo returns at some point next season, the Pacers will be looking at a lineup something like this: Oladipo, Brogdon, Lamb, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner. A playoff team? Absolutely. 

A contender? Getting there.

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