Solid. Marc Jackson had an excellent playoff run, substantially increasing his scoring totals
as well as his assists. He still has some life left the main worry is whether the NBA will
install a 5-second count to take away his bread and butter post game. Travis Best is a good backup although his
playoff impact this year was sharply reduced from the '98 season. Hopefully Best will have
a better year in 2000; his energy and athleticism are badly needed.
Reggie, Reggie This is not
the place for a long discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of Miller's game. Let's
just say getting to the rim and creating (although Miller knows every trick in the book to
draw fouls) and defense (less than one steal a game) are not his strongest suits. He still
needs to be the man in the fourth quarter though, and I doubt he will want to be
remembered for his ineffective performances against New York at crunch time this year.
Jalen Rose can play anywhere
from 1-3 and will remain a critical player for the Pacers. Rose has been somewhat
inconsistent but has often been the only Pacer to be able to score off his own dribble.
His three point shooting in 99 (26% regular season) was a disaster and he had a poor game
5 against the Knicks (six points, five fouls.) But if the Pacers are ever going to make
the Finals, Rose has to be part of the story. He will also have a lot to play for in 2000
with his contract expiring.
As my draft pick indicates, I think the Pacers should not
re-sign Fred Hoiberg, now a free
Bottom line is that the 2 guard should be a strength for
the Pacers against all comers, but if Reggie isn't getting it done, the Pacers became
Father Time Marches On for both Chris Mullin and Derrick
McKey Mullin upped his FG% to nearly 48% in the playoffs
after a disappointing 41% in the regular season, and carried the Pacers on occasion, such
as the game 4 win in New York. But the end of the line is clearly nearing for Mullin. If
McKey can regain his health he offers more rebounding and passing ability as well as a
better man-to-man defensive presence. Both players are under contract through 2001, but
even if both are healthy and suffer no sharp deterioration the Pacers will be at best
breaking even at the SF slot compared to other elite NBA clubs.
Rose can also see minutes as
a 3, as can some of the big men. The Pacers need to make a decision about seldom-used Austin Croshere, who played in 27 regular
season games (42% shooting) but only 1 minute in the playoff. Croshere's rookie contract
expires next year, and so far the Pacers have almost nothing to show for their '97 choice.
Davis and Davis. Dale and
Antonio Davis are both locked up for long-term contracts
(through 2003), which is a blessing for franchise stability these are two very solid
players but a curse for Pacer fans dreaming of a more offensively gifted player at the 4
spot. The Davises average over 17 boards and about 2.5 blocks a game, as well as about 17
points, and Dale Davis is consistently among the league leaders in field goal percentage.
But in the Knick series you knew New York had pretty much won a possession defensively
when the Pacers wound up with the ball in the hands of one of these guys (especially
Antonio) and the shot clock at 6 or less.
Perhaps Al Harrington will develop to provide a more direct offensive threat at the 4 spot the
rookie didn't play in the playoffs and saw just over 150 minutes of action in the regular
season. Harrington should be given a longer look next year.
Again, the situation is that
the Pacers are very credible at the 4 spot, but will not enjoy a matchup advantage here
over other elite teams. Moreover, the duplication of talent
between Dale and Antonio Davis limits the team's versatility, and while Dale is too good
to give up barring an exceptional offer, Antonio isn't good enough to trade away and get a
quality offensive big guy in return. The Pacers may be stuck here, which ain't bad, but
isn't enough to be a strong point on a championship team, either.
The End of the Line: Has Rik
Smits had it? The Dutchman averaged less than 12 points a
game in the playoffs, down from a 16 ppg playoff career average and his 14.9 points a game
in the '99 regular season. Feet problems may now force Smits out of the game after 11
strong years. It would be difficult to exaggerate what a blow a Smits retirement would be
to the Pacer franchise: There is no immediate successor in training, no center in the
draft, and no starter-quality pivot on the market. If Smits does quit the Pacers could
probably muddle by with a center-less lineup for long stretches and remain a 50 win team,
but title talk will be out.
Sam Perkins, who said in May
he was "running on fumes," has one more year left as a backup. Perkins had an
unremarkable regular season, but he was a real force in the sweep of Milwaukee at 9 ppg.
His shooting percentage went up drastically in the playoffs 51% from the field, including
46% on 3s. A fair question is why his minutes fell at the same time, from 16 a game in the
regular season to 11 in the playoffs, including almost no role against the Knicks
(especially after Ewing went down.) Perkins will be back for one more trip and should
still be able to provide good defense and the occasional shooting streak.
The Pacers should probably re-sign Mate Skelin, the 7 footer from Croatia, as
insurance. Warm body Mark Pope
is already under contract for 2000.
The short-term prospects are all dependent on Smits. After that, there will have to an overhaul and younger players brought
in. A consistent in-the-paint scorer is badly needed, as well as fresh legs for defensive
pressure and the glass. In terms of this draft pick, it's
high time the Pacers got someone who can actually play in the near term and add a fresh
wrinkle to this aging team.