The Indiana Pacers team that was a major nuisance to the Big 3 era Miami Heat in recent years is coming to a close. According to a new report from Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star, David West has opted out of his contract for next season so that he can pursue other opportunities.
And he might not be the only one. Roy Hibbert and several others could also hit the market come July 1 when free agency officially begins. If the chips fall a certain way, this Indiana team might look almost unrecognizable next season, despite Paul George‘s much anticipated return. Here’s more from Buckner:
“Nevertheless, West’s decision strikes two ways. Counting West, seven players from last year’s roster will become free agents and his decision gives the Pacers more spare change to try to lure veterans to the heartland.”
Entering his 13th season, West had a player option for 2015-2016 worth $12.6 million. This will mark the first time the stalwart forward has entered free agency since 2011, when he eschewed a chance to join the Celtics in favor of bringing toughness and a veteran presence to a fledgling Pacers squad. And he did just that.
All indications point to this being purely a basketball decision, as the 34-year-old West is unlikely to command the type of money that would compare with the $12.6 million remaining on his current deal. But just about any championship contender could use a player like West on its roster.
The only foreseeable hurdle would be that the seismic shift toward spacing and three-point shooting in the modern NBA might scare potential suitors away, given West’s old-school post-up game. But the 17-foot assassin is – as the name indicates – an effective mid-range shooter who could work well in a pick-n-pop oriented offense.
For the Pacers, unfortunately, some folks in the front office might still be in denial. According to NBA.com, Pacers President Larry Bird released the following statement:
“I haven’t been in touch with David or his agent, Jeff Austin. So, until then he’s a member of our team.”
But Bird and the Pacers would do well to start looking toward the future, beginning with tomorrow’s NBA Draft. Indiana owns the 11th pick, and with the possibility of losing both West and Hibbert, it’s time to start retrofitting their front-court, and there are several players who might still be available by that point, such as Myles Turner, Trey Lyles, or Willie-Cauley-Stein.