How good does Collison’s arrival make the Pacers?
Wednesday’s 5 player, 4 team trade which saw Darren Collison and James Posey go to the Indiana Pacers, Trevor Ariza jump from the Rockets to the New Orleans Hornets, Troy Murphy go back home to New Jersey and Courtney Lee jumping ship from the Nets to the Rockets, definitely spiced up an offseason which has been, frankly, dragging since Lebron announced his “decision” and all the free agents that can actually help a team (apart from Allen Iverson) signed up. But how can Wednesday’s trade help the Indiana Pacers? Can they make the playoffs for the first time since 2006 or are they destined for another trip to the lottery?
The arrival of Collison addresses the Pacers main weakness: the point guard spot. With rookie Lance Stephenson not ready to be a full-time starter, AJ Price coming off a serious injury and TJ Ford permanently in Jim O’Brien’s doghouse, Collison provides scoring and defense at the 1 and can grow into the role and make it his own for years to come. Posey’s arrival, while eating into the Pacers cap room for next summer, gives the team a veteran presence off the bench with a winner’s mentality who can defend the perimeter.
The Pacers have a number of players that are either not there yet in terms of development and are firmly in the “potential” category, or players that are over the hill with franchise-killing contracts. But if Danny Granger can rediscover the form that earned him an All-Star appearance in 2009 and can stay healthy, if Roy Hibbert can continue to develop his offensive game, and Brandon Rush can have a breakout year, the Pacers have a core of Granger, Hibbert, Collison, rookie Paul George and second year forward Tyler Hansborough that could do well in a few years.
So will the Pacers make the playoffs this season? While the East has got stronger due to the arrivals of players like Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer to New York and Chicago respectively, some teams in the East have got considerably weaker (Cleveland being the obvious example). With teams like Miami, Boston, Orlando, Chicago, Atlanta and Milwaukee considered almost-certs for the playoffs, that leaves teams like the Bobcats, Knicks, Nets and the Sixers fighting for those last two playoff spots.
Wednesday’s trade certainly puts the Pacers in that group with the Bobcats and the Knicks to fight for those last playoff places. If Granger and Hibbert can stay healthy and Collison can continue to build on that excellent rookie season he had while deputising for Chris Paul, the Pacers have a chance. I’m not saying they will win a playoff series, because they probably won’t and it will be a few more years and they will need to sign a couple of effective free agents next summer, but the Pacers are definitely on the right track with a nice young core to develop.