Call me a fan of the Pacers; they are the type of team I try to build in fantasy basketball, but always end up with something closer to the Wizards (I suck at fantasy). The last game saw the Raptors put up a lot of really bad jumpers, while the Pacers annoyingly hit a lot of open ones. The Raptors offense has gotten better since that game, but the Raptors need to get some cheaper baskets to open things up some.

Tim Donahue and Jared Wade from Eight Points, Nine Seconds (a Reggie Miller reference) were gracious enough to answer a few of my questions:

True or False: David West was the best free agent signing of the summer.

Tim True – Granted, I haven’t done an exhaustive comparison, but I’m hard-pressed to imagine any other free agents bringing as much of what their new team needed – toughness, maturity, leadership – as David has brought the Pacers. Despite individual numbers that are low for him (18.3 PER, .430 eFG%), he has been a big part of Indy’s 7-3 start.

Jared True. Look at West’s individual numbers and he doesn’t jump out as someone who has been a major difference-maker so far, but just his presence has been huge. He has been a key cog in the spacing and ball movement that has helped Indy’s starting lineup be the second best 5-man unit in the league so far among those that have played at least 100 minutes. And this doesn’t capture his effect off the court. He is a no-nonsense, grown-up presence in the locker room who all the players have praised for being a team leader since day one.

There’s been some rumblings about Grangers role on the team moving forward with the emergence of Paul George; does he finally get traded, and what will the Pacers want in return? (who are you pining for?)

Tim I have never really put much stock into any Granger trade rumors. He’s what I call a “zero sum” trade asset – meaning it’s hard to do a trade where you significantly improve the team after taking Danny off of it. Paul George isn’t ready yet, and wing depth isn’t great for the Pacers. Indy can get more value out of Danny on the floor than they can in any trade – at least for now.

Jared I don’t see any way Larry Bird trades Granger this season. Perhaps if he can’t pull out of this shooting tailspin, but then you’re not going to get much back. In the summer, I could see it. But George would have to show more. Danny remains the most dynamic offensive player on the team and while West and Hibbert have shown something up front, the Pacers would need to get an equivalent perimeter threat back in return.

Is it time to start mentioning Larry Bird in the same breath with the other top executives in the league?

Tim I think it’s time to recognize that Bird is a good, solid head of the Pacer organization, but so many test remain before you can consider him a top exec. Keep in mind, the Pacers haven’t won more than 37 games since he took over from Donnie Walsh. I love his patience, and that alone may put him in the top half of the execs of the league – but it all has to translate to success on the floor and in the playoffs first.

Jared It’s too early for that, but he has done a much better job navigating the salary cap hell Indiana was in than most people were giving him credit for even six months ago. He just waited and waited and waited. His endgame was seizing an opportunity to trade for a guy every team would love on their bench in George Hill and signed West to a top-notch contract, all the while stacking up young, cheap, promising assets. The roster is probably still one big piece away from being any more than the Hawks have been the past few seasons, but even that is a big leap forward from the doldrums this franchise has muddling through the past four years.

Match-ups

Point Guard
It pains me to say this, but we’re missing Bayless; Jose needs some relief. Collison made a lot of things happen for his teammates last game, and has show range on his jumper. I’d rather Calderon keeps him on the perimeter and gets a hand up on him when he shoots then let him start attacking the defense off the bounce then kicking to an open wing for a three.
Edge: Even

Shooting Guard
DeMar can’t give Paul George 7 open looks from beyond the arc like he did last game; or the guy is going to hit 4 of him like he did. Not sure wtf is going on with DeRozan, but he’s had since Wednesday off, and needs to do better. An easy way is to get to the line, which requires him to attack paint, which requires him to get his head in the game. Put some pressure on George on defense, and hopefully his legs wont be in every shot he takes.
Edge: Indiana

Small Forward
It’s great to have Kleiza back; Wednesday against the Kings he took away 14 minutes from Butler/Johnson. It’s not like he’s going to play 30 minutes tonight, but a gradual increase in court time will only help things out. I can deal with 10 minutes each for Butler and Johnson a game; max. Good luck with Granger tonight.
Edge: Indiana

Power Forward
I like the different looks Indiana can throw at the 4. Between Hansbrough and West, they can trot out beast after beast. If Bargnani can’t go tonight (listed as questionable), Davis wont be cutting it. If he can, he’s going to be playing injured, which could make things worse.
Edge: Indiana

Center
Get used to seeing this tonight: Hibbert  backs Johnson/Magloire down from the elbow for a layup. The play from any forward other than Bargnani has been inconsistent at best. While Amir has had some big games recently, he’s had a tough time with large centers, only mustering 2 points the last time out (although he did grab 10 boards). I’m not high on this match-up at all.
Edge: Indiana

Injuries

Toronto
Jerryd Bayless – Ankle, day-to-day
Andrea Bargnani – Calf, questionable
Aaron Gray – Heart, out

Indiana
George Hill  - Back, should play
Tyler Hansbrough – Eye, should play
Danny Granger – Ankle/Food Poisoning, should play

Keys to the Game

  • Rotate on the perimeter; the Pacers had 10 very clean looks from beyond the arc the last time out. Have to make them work for their baskets, and not give them 3 Mississippi’s to shoot
  • Defend the paint; Magloire did a good job on Hansbrough, frustrating the kid. The front court needs to throw elbows, knock people down, and not concede an inch
  • No second chances; I’d like to see the Raptors give up less than 10 offensive rebounds tonight. The Pacers will take plenty jumpers, with plenty rebounds
  • Control the pace; can’t get into an up-and-down game with the Pacers. They have a lot of guys who can get out on transition and open things up. Need to slow it down and grind them into the ground

The Line

Nothing has been posted yet, but with Bargnani injured and possibly out, I don’t like the Raptors chances.

Photo Credit: Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images

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