Last week, the Portland Trailblazers caught everyone off guard when they made Pacers restricted free agent Roy Hibbert a max contract offer sheet. For several days, the Pacers let everyone around the league wonder if they were going to match that offer sheet. That suspense ended Monday when word came out of Indianapolis that the Pacers will offer Hibbert a contract similar to Portland’s (H/T to the Indy Star’s Mike Wells).
The Pacers are trying to build on earning the fifth-best record in the league last season and advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
“To keep things rolling, you need to get everybody back so it’s the way it was before,” Pacers point guard George Hill said last week.
The 7’2″ center made his first All-Star team last year and has shown improvement all four years he’s been in the league. He’s also one of the few back to the baskets centers left in the league. Teams with quick front lines do give the former Georgetown standout problems, but he also gives those smaller teams a ton of problems on the offensive end. Is a max contract too much for a guy who averaged 13 points and nine rebounds per game last season? Probably, but consider the fact that without Hibbert Indy is a really small team and would have to fill the hole he would’ve left with someone like Chris Kaman who has neither the upside or defensive skill set Hibbert does. Indy is a small market team, but they also have a ton of cap flexibility. Even if Hibbert’s contract is too much, it’s nothing the Pacers can’t sustain. Small market teams can handle one bad contract, but the Pacers just need to make sure they don’t let them pile up. Donnie Walsh and Kevin Pritchard know this and signing Hibbert long term likely means they’ll continue to shop Danny Granger in part because of the size of his contract.
As for Portland, they’ll turn their attention to British big man Joel Freeland and the development of their rookie big man Meyers Leonard. No doubt they’ll also look at cheaper options like a Chris Kaman, Ian Mahinmi or Anthony Randolph. General Manager Neil Olshey will need to decide if his team is truly in a rebuilding mode or more of a reloading mode as he said during his introductory press conference. If they’re reloading, Kaman may be a more likely option because his offensive game and veteran presence would help Portland get back to the playoffs. Otherwise they may look at younger, cheaper options like Randolph and Mahinmi.