In a shocking 11th hour trade, the Indiana Pacers did one of two things: improved their championship odds greatly or completely destroyed their season. The short-term effects of the trade remain to be seen, but it’s the long-term effects that could become the major storyline.
Upgraded Bench Unit
The bench becomes even better, at least on paper. Turner, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft — same one as Paul George and Lance Stephenson — is averaging 17.4 points, 3.7 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game. Now to be fair, Turner is putting up those numbers in a fast-paced offense that doesn’t have a franchise guy leading it, but they are still impressive given his previous three seasons.
The Pacers’ bench has become a sore spot as of late. Despite the success the bench had to start the season, Granger and Luis Scola had become inconsistent as of late, which meant the starters had to pick up the slack. The benches underwhelming performances since the New Year could be the reason behind the Pacers’ current slump. Adding Turner and Allen, and Andrew Bynum, to the mix could liven up the second unit, kick-starting the Pacers once again and propelling them to the NBA Finals.
Demoralization of Current Players
While the trade looks like an improvement on paper, letting your longest tenured player and veteran leader go, could be detrimental to the teams morale. Fans and team personnel always want the players to show loyalty to their team, but teams rarely show loyalty to their players. Granger was the Pacers’ franchise player through their darkest years, when no fans filled the Fieldhouse and the team failed to make the playoffs year after year.
To many, including myself, Granger has earned this one last shot at bringing a championship to Indiana. Knowing that no matter what you do for the team, including accepting a demotion, means that your safe, could be an eye-opener for many on the team. Losing a veteran presence, one who mentored many on the team including George, could do more harm than good. The Pacers already struggle when met with adversity in games, so the question becomes how will they manage this adversity? One can only hope they come out stronger than before.
Now to be fair to Pacers president Larry Bird, if the 76ers call you up, offering young talent for the price of a struggling veteran in the last year of his contract, then you make that trade. Granger had been back barely two months after suffering multiple injuries that kept him out of 100-plus games over the past year. During his 29 games back, he was averaging 22.5 minutes, 8.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists, his lowest totals since his rookie season. The 76ers essentially offered the Pacers a younger, healthier and cheaper version of Granger.
With the short-term effects out of the way, lets talk about the long-term ramifications this trade could have. A lot of the Pacers’ future is riding on whether or not they win a championship this season. Beating the Miami Heat is their biggest step, followed by their performance in the Finals. If they somehow lose to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals or get blown out in the Finals then we could see a slight blowup of the core, which Turner now makes even more possible. Turner is a 6-foot-7 guard who can play both guard positions. That ability gives the Pacers flexibility when it comes to re-signing Lance Stephenson or trading George Hill.
Re-signing Lance Stephenson
Stephenson has transformed from forgotten bench warmer to All-Star snub in less than two years. His base salary is under $1 million this season, but experts say his value could be close to $8 million a year when this season is over.
It’s a very good possibility that the Pacers are unable to afford Stephenson if he demands anywhere close to $8 million a season. Thanks to George’s superstar ascension, he received a max contract which will hinder the Pacers ability to re-sign their own players. But that is where Turner, with his qualifying offer and potentially cheap price tag, come into place.
Turner couldn’t replace a lot of what Stephenson does, but then again not many can. If push came to shove, Turner would be a viable replacement and a much cheaper one of the next four years. He would get next year to prove his worth to the Pacers and then look to sign a long-term deal.
There is, however, another way for the Pacers to keep Stephenson at a high pay rate and keep Turner around if he proves to be worth it.
Trade George Hill
The second long-term effect the Turner trade opens up is the possibility of trading George Hill. Hill is a hometown hero and somewhat of a fan favorite, but his contract and inconsistent play has made him a prime candidate to be traded. He makes $8 million a year, has produced 10.9 points, 3.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game this season and continues to be a liability on defense.
The Pacers don’t need a point guard who needs the ball in his hands 90 percent of the game, but they could use one who can guard quicker opposing players and be more consistent each game. Oh wait, they already have a guard like that and his name is Lance Stephenson.
Stephenson, for the most part, doesn’t hold onto the ball for 15+ second when running the point, can penetrate and make plays off the penetration, can keep up with quick guards and basically does everything that Hill does, but better. Turner gives the Pacers the ability to trade Hill for some bench players, move Stephenson to point guard and then insert Turner as the starting shooting guard.
There is still a lot to be seen from this trade, and if Turner doesn’t produce off the bench then these potential long-term effects become pointless. Bird and the Pacers are in win-now mode and it appears no one, including their own players, are going to stand in their way.