On July 14, the Indiana Pacers officially announced the signings of Monta Ellis and Jordan Hill from free agency as well as the Chase Budinger-for-Damjan Rudez trade (although apparently there needs to be a little cap maneuvering before everything is legal). Ellis arrives after spending the last two seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, whereas Hill comes from the Los Angeles Lakers after four years in purple and gold. The Lakers, of course, let Hill walk after acquiring Roy Hibbert from Indiana for a future second-round pick. Budinger is the only player to be acquired by trade and comes to Indiana after three years in Minnesota. Let’s take a look at how these new Pacers fit in with Indiana.
The Pacers have been a defense-first team pretty much since Frank Vogel accepted the position as head coach after Jim O’Brien was relieved of his duties in January 2011. Meanwhile, the offense has consistently struggled and gotten bogged down. Signing Ellis to a four-year, $44 million deal will surely help the Pacers with their “smaller and faster” style they want to employ to juice up the offense:
OFFICIAL: The #Pacers have signed veteran free agent Monta Ellis to a contract.
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) July 14, 2015
In terms of market value, this deal is great for Indiana, even though Ellis has been known to clash with both players and coaches all the way back to his days with the Warriors. Still, Indy obviously expects this deal to play out successfully.
As a player, Ellis has a skill set that Indiana greatly needs: shot creation. He’s excellent at attacking the rim, and with Indiana’s small lineup, it’s easy to look at an Ellis, George Hill, C.J. Miles, Paul George foursome and be worried about covering them on all areas of the floor.
Hill is a steady point guard who can knock down three-pointers at a solid rate, while Ellis is superior at driving and can help collapse the defense and open things up for others. Miles is somewhat limited, but he can provide some outside shooting to go along with everything George brings to the table. The Pacers’ ability to stretch the floor with their version of “small ball” will likely have teams scrambling to cover their spacing and quickness.
Sigh, Jordan Hill could have been so useful on a good team.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 22, 2014
True, Jordan Hill could’ve been so useful on a good team – and now he may get that chance. It’s quite possible that Indiana starts Hill at center after dealing Hibbert to his former team in Los Angeles, and while that (rightfully) makes some Pacers fans queasy, Hill is still useful on a team with talented players. First and foremost, Indiana will be using him as a hybrid in terms of height and mobility, again playing to the “smaller and faster” style that Larry Bird has laid out for Vogel and his team.
Hill isn’t much of a scorer, but with the addition of Ellis he’s not going to be needed as much in that area. The Pacers will need his strength in rebounding – he grabbed 7.6 boards per game in his last two seasons with the Lakers – and having him for just two years allows the Pacers to develop Myles Turner into both his game and their offense in time to find a better replacement.
Hill’s defense, though – not so great. Let’s just say Vogel will have some fine-tuning to do before the season starts in October:
Overall, Hill was probably the Pacers’ best option when they got him and even jumped to the second-best Hill on the roster (out of three – George, Jordan and Solomon) simply by putting pen to paper. Though Indiana may not keep him past his current deal, he’ll be a useful addition until then.
When Budinger entered the league as a second-round draft pick in 2012, many were skeptical of the choice and, unfortunately, they were right in doing so.
The Arizona grad was drafted by Detroit, immediately traded to Houston, and has struggled with health issues ever since. Even when healthy, his numbers lack that of a solid wing addition, although he showed some nice promise at the tail end of last year. Over at A Wolf Among Wolves, Zach Harper wrote this piece on Budinger as a season review of sorts and noted that although he’s struggled with health issues, teams can possibly feel good about the idea that he’s getting his legs back:
Regardless of whether he’s on this team or another, I think you can feel good about the idea that he’s maybe getting his legs back under him and he’s going to be able to contribute to some roster and rotation. He’s worked his ass off to get back onto the court and to be successful on some level at the end of last season. Sure, his situation frustrated fans, but his recovery and finish to the season has to leave you with one feeling about his place in the NBA.
Hope… for some team…
Well, that team is now the Indiana Pacers, and Bird made sure to mention that he’s happy with the addition of Budinger even though it meant sacrificing fan-favorite Damjan Rudez as a result. Bird told Pacers.com, “He’s a guy we think will fit in our rotation. He can shoot and drive to the basket, which works with how we want to play.”
For what it’s worth, Budinger is excited about his new team:
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) July 14, 2015
Overall, the Indiana Pacers will look much different on the court this coming season than in years past after losing the likes of David West and Roy Hibbert, but they may have found a new identity as an efficient small ball rotation team. Only time will tell as to whether or not Bird’s (and Vogel’s) master plan will work.