Mar 27, 2013 1:40 AM EDT
A back injury has sidelined David West for five straight games, but the Indiana Pacers have gone 4-1 over that stretch thanks to strong play from Tyler Hansbrough.
The four-year veteran, who will become a restricted free agent this summer, Hansbrough is averaging 14.6 points and 10.8 rebounds in just 26.2 minutes of action as a starter. He’s shooting 47.4 percent from the field and averaging 4.8 free throw attempts.
He doesn’t bring the same level of play defensively as West, but his constant motor leaves him on the right side of numerous hustle plays. At least over the short term, he has shown he can more than hold his own as a power forward asked to do more than just provide energy and aggravation off the bench.
Hansbrough has played a majority of his career games off the bench, 200 as a reserve against 36 as a starter, but there is enough of a sample size to suggest that he’s at least as effective -- if not more -- given more minutes.
Hansbrough Per Game Career Splits
Starter: 26.7 minutes, 14.1 points, 6.9 rebounds on 49.9% shooting
Reserve: 18.5 minutes, 8.1 points, 4.3 rebounds on 40.5% shooting
An effective bench player who has provided a scoring punch off the bench to a Pacers team that has lacked some offensive depth this season, Hansbrough is proving his worth in a larger role at a very opportune time. West isn’t expected to miss an extended period of time, likely to return during Indiana’s upcoming four-game road trip, but his injury might end up costing Indiana more than they know.
Of course, if the back injury lingers it would be a fatal blow to the Pacers’ chances of challenging in the postseason, but the excessive cost could be revealed this summer.
If the Pacers issue Hansbrough his $4.1 million qualifying offer, he’ll become a restricted free agent in a market short on young, scrappy power forwards. If they don’t, he’ll be unrestricted without the ability to match any offer he receives. A team with more money to spend and minutes to allocate could offer him a contract larger than one Donnie Walsh and Kevin Pritchard would be willing to provide.
Retaining Hansbrough and the continuity of the second unit is something the Pacers want to do, but keeping him in blue-and-gold becomes much more important if they aren’t able to convince West to re-sign. Paul George might be the All-Star and the combination of Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert might make close to $30 million combined, but West is the backbone of the franchise.
If West leaves, the Pacers might need to pay Hansbrough above market value as it is.
As unorthodox as his jumper may be -- I liken it to a jumping jack -- someone is going to pay Hansbrough around at least $6 million to $7 million annually. Hell, the Brooklyn Nets are paying Kris Humphries $12 million this season.
As well as Hansbrough has played in West’s absence, he has shown an ability to play starter’s minutes effectively over his career. Since the Pacers used the 13th overall pick on him in 2009, he is averaging 16.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per 36 minutes. He doesn’t have the best shooting percentages and his range doesn’t extend too deep, but his ability to draw contact and get to the line makes him a more effective scorer.
Hansbrough ranks behind only James Harden, Dwight, Howard and Kevin Durant in free throw attempts per 36 minutes. His ability to get the line carries value in foul accumulation as well, forcing opponents to the bench earlier than anticipated.
Numbers have indicated that he can handle a bigger role for quite some time, but just a few months before his next contract is worked out Hansbrough is getting the opportunity to showcase just how effective he can be offensively and on the glass.
His play has helped the Pacers tread water without West, but it might hurt them come negotiating time.
Mar 22, 2013 2:39 PM EDT
There are only a few NBA players averaging at least 10 points, seven rebounds and one block per game while also shooting 55% from the field this season. LeBron James, Al Horford and Serge Ibaka.
Oh, one more. Amir Johnson.
Rudy Gay brings star power to the Raptors. DeMar DeRozan has athleticism and promise. Andrea Bargnani offers a polarizing effect on fans. Johnson? He brings his lunch pail.
Known for his grit and toughness, Johnson is enjoying a career year in Toronto. Plays aren’t run for him, but he still manages to get his points with elbow grease and hard work on the offensive glass. He grabs 12.4% of his team’s missed shots, ranking 13th in offensive rebound percentage. That helps explain his 56.5 eFG%, better than all but 10 players.
“I’m not worried about getting big numbers; I’m worried about getting wins,” Johnson said. “I really want to get one of those playoff spots.”
Unfortunately, there will no postseason for the Raptors. They stand eight games back of the Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth seed in the East with a little more than a dozen games left.
“We’ve been through a lot of ups-and-downs. At the beginning of the season we struggled and then we lost a couple of games in a row with the [Rudy Gay trade], but we’re starting to get along and improve,” Johnson reflected. “Not every team is perfect, so it’s a process.
“We just have got to keep working hard. When we get opportunities, we’ve got to take advantage and always work hard.”
Johnson, who signed a five-year, $34 million deal with the Raptors during the famed 2010 offseason, is better known as a barroom trivia answer than for his solid NBA game. He was the last high school player drafted in league history. The Detroit Pistons used the 56th overall pick on him in 2005, the last draft before the NBA age minimum was increased.
“I think it was on Jeopardy,” Johnson said with a hearty laugh. “It’s good to have kind of like a trivia question associated with your name, but that’s pretty much all it is for me.”
He may have closed the Moses Malone prep-to-pro lineage, but Johnson’s unique basketball journey doesn’t end there. He got his feet wet in the D-League long before teams and players started to embrace the minor league approach. In 40 games across two seasons (during his rookie and sophomore years) for Fayetteville and Sioux Falls, he averaged 18.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks on 64.2% shooting. More importantly than the numbers, he played more than 30 minutes a night when he would have rode the pine in Detroit.
“I actually asked to go down in the D-League. I was just working out so much and I didn’t see the floor,” he admitted. “I figured I would go down there and play a little bit. It definitely improved my game and I would say that it was basically like my college years. I developed a lot down there.”
Seven years since Johnson asked for a demotion, NBA teams have begun to regularly shuffle young players up-and-down to the 16 D-League teams. Each of the league’s 30 teams has an affiliation, often -- but not always -- based geographically. It’s not inconceivable to think that every team could have an affiliation of their own sometime in the not-so-distance future.
“It’s not a punishment,” Johnson said. “It’s not something you should put your head down about; you can use it to your advantage and get better.”
Why, then, is there still a bit of a stigma when a player doesn’t stick in the league?
“I have no idea why that is,” Johnson responded. “Any young player in the league, I’d tell them what it did for me. It’s a stepping stone; I used it to get better.”
Feb 21, 2013 6:19 PM EST
The Boston Celtics ended up completing a trade a few hours before Thursday’s deadline, but no member of the Big Three was involved. Boston sent Leandro Barbosa and Jason Collins to the Washington Wizards for Jordan Crawford.
Barbosa, who tore his right ACL earlier this month, proved to be a nice trade chip with an affordable, expiring contract. There were whispers that the Celtics were floating Fab Melo in talks, but it was clear that Ernie Grunfeld didn’t want any future salary commitment.
Collins also has an expiring contract, while Crawford carries a $2.16 million salary for 2013-14 and can be issued a qualifying offer of $3.2 million in 14-15. It was expected that the Celtics would re-sign the Brazilian Blur, but Danny Ainge now will have some work to do with close to $72 million already committed for next season.
The Wizards essentially dealt Crawford for two bodies and a small amount of cap savings. Barbosa is still waiting for his MCL to calm down before undergoing surgery on his ACL and Collins will have Emeka Okafor, Nene and Kevin Seraphin ahead of him on the depth chart. The move accomplished two things for Grunfeld -- ridding himself of the somewhat enigmatic Crawford and saving more than $2 million next season. Washington now has a little more than $65 million committed to 11 players (including Trevor Ariza’s $7.7 million player option and the $7.8 million amnestied deal of Andray Blatche).
There may have been underlying issues between Crawford and Washington, but it’s somewhat surprising that they couldn’t turn him into some sort of tangible future asset. However, the Wizards have relied on better ball movement since John Wall returned from injury and a one-on-one player like Crawford simply doesn’t fit with that scheme. That made it clear the 24-year-old wasn’t a fit now or going forward.
Grunfeld himself mused that he couldn’t get much in return for Crawford, but in actuality he should have been able to land at least a late second-round pick. I mean, wouldn’t Melo (a project big man due $1.3 million next year) be at least something? Crawford has been an average NBA player over the last two seasons (at the very least in terms of PER).
Grade for Washington: D+
Ainge didn’t make a big splash, revealing that he feels the Celtics can make a run come playoff time. That’s not guaranteed. With 28 games left, surpassing Atlanta for the sixth seed is really all that Boston can hope for at this point -- and the likelihood of that happening diminished when the Hawks held onto Josh Smith. The Bucks, 76ers and Raptors are all hoping to leapfrog the Celtics down the stretch. They have just 12 home games remaining and five games against the four teams they’ll be battling for positioning.
This deal was a classic give-and-take for the front office. They added a potent bench scorer, but had to further deplete the frontcourt in the process. My expectation is that Ainge will search for a buyout/free agent big man to sign for the final two months of the season. If they don’t do so soon, Chris Wilcox will be in for increased minutes. We will also see a smaller lineup featuring Jeff Green at the four.
Crawford should improve an anemic offense that averages just 102.2 points per 100 possessions, better than only five other teams. He has averaged .511 points per minute since he was a first-rounder in 2010. Playing with a second unit in need of an offensive punch, Crawford will have plenty of shot attempts and certainly won’t pass them up.
The Celtics share the basketball extremely well. Without Rondo, only Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are averaging more 9.3 shot attempts per game. Crawford was playing bench minutes for Washington before he fell out of favor and shot 11.8 times.
Crawford has never and will never shoot the basketball with great accuracy, but improved selection would increase his percentages. He’ll need close to 10 shots to flirt with double figures. That’s fine with Crawford, but Doc Rivers might have other ideas. His poor percentages are a direct result of poor selection. He can finish around the rim and is a decent outside shooter, but is hitting just 34% of his long twos this year. He doesn’t shoot substantially better from three-point range (35%), but at least that shot is a more efficient one.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Crawford should get better shots in Boston’s post-Rondo injury offense, but there is risk involved. The ball typically stops with Crawford, which could hinder movement. As mentioned above, his penchant for isolation offense is the reason he fell out of Randy Wittman’s rotation.
Defense isn’t Crawford’s strong suit, but the Celtics should be able to hide him when possible. He’s undersized for a shooting guard, which doesn’t help, but an injection of effort would make up that. Rivers and Garnett have transformed poor defenders into adequate ones several times, which is promising, but doing so with Crawford might be worthy of mention on their resumes.
Grade for Boston: B+
The worst case for the Celtics here is that Crawford can’t earn minutes and becomes the ninth man off the bench. With Barbosa injured, that’s essentially the package they sent to Washington. Crawford carries future salary obligations, but his contract is very tradable.
Some will cringe, but if Crawford meshes well they could shop Courtney Lee this summer. He is set to make $5.2 million next season and with Rondo expected to return healthy, a four-guard rotation of Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jason Terry and Crawford would be undersized but feature enough defense to account for Crawford’s offensive mindset.
Sep 06, 2012
Doubted by doctors, opponents, coaches, entire cities and Hall of Fame committees, nothing has stopped Reggie Miller or kept him quiet. Twenty five years after he was drafted and more than six years since his last game, there are no more doubters.
Jul 11, 2012
While Roy Hibbert may struggle to live up to a contract that will pay him an average of $14.5 million per season, putting him among the NBA’s top 30 highest-paid players, the Pacers actually played their hand rather well.
Jul 07, 2012
Ray Allen will sign a contract with the Heat that will be worth a fraction of what he could have been able to sign with Boston, which tells you everything you need to know about how much he wanted out.
Jul 01, 2012
Bringing back Kevin Garnett means the Celtics aren’t going to endure a significant transformation this summer.
Jun 29, 2012
On Washington's transformation, the Austin Rivers mess, USA vs. International, Damion Lillard anointed at point guard, Boston's back-to-back picks and how Meyers Leonard fits with Portland.
Jun 12, 2012
Danny Ainge has three paths to select from in what will be his most critical offseason since he acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007.
Jun 08, 2012
The adulation LeBron James receives for carrying the Miami Heat to a 98-79 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals may last less than 48 hours, but it’s absolutely deserved nonetheless.
May 25, 2012
These Pacers won’t want to hear anything about a moral victory, but the young team represented themselves very well against the most-hyped and newsworthy team in the NBA.
May 23, 2012
The Indiana Pacers were in position to steal Game 5 from the Miami Heat until late in the second quarter when Danny Granger landed on the foot of LeBron James after a three-point attempt, spraining his left ankle.
May 22, 2012
It seems as though every spring a role player breaks out on the playoff stage, lifting his team to a victory and his own profile at the same time. Brandon Bass became the latest member of that club; scoring 27 points in Boston’s 101-85 Game 5 win over Philadelphia.
May 22, 2012
From the moment Paul Pierce fouled Andre Iguodala, clearly the turning point in the game, the Celtics outscored the 76ers 48-28 riding an unlikely playoff hero by the name of Brandon Bass.
May 21, 2012
While David West and Roy Hibbert went missing for the Pacers, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade played brilliantly and were supported by Udonis Haslem.
May 18, 2012
The Pacers didn’t shoot a high percentage, making 43.4% of their shots, but they were effective because of the best passing we have seen from them in the postseason. They assisted on 20 of their 33 field goals (61%), the highest percentage through eight games.
May 16, 2012
The Pacers won Game 2 at Miami by counteracting the Bosh-less small lineup, protecting the paint and enforcing their will physically.
May 15, 2012
Limiting Kevin Garnett was a project for the 76ers in Game 2 and their relative success isn’t guaranteed to carryover throughout the series. Doc Rivers and the Celtics will make adjustments to get Garnett better looks going forward.
May 15, 2012
The 76ers outlasted the Celtics and won an 82-81 decision, a game that was ugly for more than 40 minutes until the clubs went back-and-forth answering shot after shot until Philadelphia was left standing.
May 14, 2012
If the Pacers are going to challenge the Heat, or perhaps even win this series, they have to continue to defend well while also converting easy opportunities. Miami played great defense in the fourth quarter, but you could argue that Indiana was better on that end of the floor.
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