When the trades are made official July 9, the Pacers’ will add Rush, Hibbert, Ford, Nesterovic, Baston, Jack, and McRoberts, while they will part ways with O’Neal, Diogu, Bayless, and Jawai — indicating more Pacers will be on their way out in the near future.
When you look at it like that, you can start to compare some of the players on a position by position basis. Let’s start with Diogu and Rush. I think Rush has an amazing upside and would have gone higher in last year’s draft had he not had the ACL injury. I also think that he’s ready to play in the NBA right now. Diogu is another young, athletic player with a lot of upside, and I know a few people who are looking to see big things from him in the near future. Diogu is also a bit taller than Rush and is more of a forward than a 2-guard. Rush may be able to play both positions.
Next let’s look at O’Neal and Hibbert. It’s hard to lose a six-time All Star that still has a lot left in the tank, but O’Neal has big contract that would limit the team’s ability to bring in new talent. The question here really is can Hibbert fill O’Neal’s shoes? I think Hibbert is a beast. I don’t think he’ll every be the player O’Neal was on offense, but he has a good chance at being better than O’Neal on defense. At 7’2″ Hibbert has a few inches on O’Neal and Hibbert’s shot blocking ability at Georgetown was something to behold. Although O’Neal is an excellent defender, I like Hibbert’s prospects in this area. If you compare the players straight-up, O’Neal wins. Still, I think the reason this is a “win” for the Pacers is that they were able to get rid of O’Neal’s contract.
Last, let’s look at the point guards, Bayless and Ford. Bayless was predicted as a top 5 pick in the NBA draft, but fell all the way to 11th. It’s obvious that the Pacers are moving away from young potential and towards older, more mature proven talent, so I can see why they would be willing to trade Bayless to a team that wanted a top 5 talent at a bargain price. Of course, Ford is arguably also top 5 talent, but he has been plagued by injuries. It’s obvious that Ford has the skills to play the point guard position at a high level, and he has certainly lacked a consistent team environment throughout his NBA career. I think personally the only way to compare these players is to pick which you would rather have: a highly rated prospect or a injury-plagued proven talent. I think Ford’s injuries have been pretty fluky and I think that at the time they were both drafted Ford had the higher ceiling.
Of course, that leaves the rest of the players in this deal. I think the Pacers picked up competent bench players in Nesterovic and Jack, but I don’t know anything about Baston or Jawai. I think McRoberts should have stayed at Duke for at least one more year to develop a finishing move in the paint and show some ability to avoid collapsing under pressure. Really, the rest of these players are not all that impressive nor are they the focus of the trades.
On the whole, I think the Pacers made out pretty well. I also think that the size and scope of the trades will be an excellent referendum on the quality of Pacers Head Coach Jim O’Brien. He has a bunch of pretty good players, which appear to have been selected just for his style of play and which have been touted as NBA-ready. If he can’t make serious improvements in the next year or two, expect him to be feeling the heat.