Fixing the early-exit teams: East
The Knicks, Magic, Sixers and Pacers all have work to do this offseason
EASTERN CONFERENCE | WEST
Indiana Pacers (37-45)
What they need: A legitimate scorer at shooting guard
Danny Granger was a go-to scorer back in 2008-09 but his jump shot has tapered off the last two seasons. For someone who shoots most of his shots on the perimeter, that's a problem. Granger is the only long-term contract sitting on the Pacers' books, and he could use a shot creator at the 2 who can relieve him of some scoring duties. Paul George isn't there yet, and Brandon Rush and Dahntay Jones are redundant as role players.
The foundation of Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert is not rock-solid, but they're cheap enough to build around. I like Tyler Hansbrough; he works hard for rebounds -- although he's still just an average rebounder at his position -- and he has developed a solid midrange game (he shot better on long 2s than LaMarcus Aldridge, for example). Hansbrough will be 26 years old next season and made enough growth last season to make the starting role rightfully his in 2011-12.
How they get it: Revisit O.J. Mayo talks or invest in free agency
The Pacers have cash. With about $25 million worth of Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford and Jeff Foster coming off the books, Indiana is one of the few playoff teams (however nominal that label may be in the East) that have the space to make big moves this summer.
But looking at the free-agent pool for shooting guards, there's not a lot to get excited about. There's no Joe Johnson or Dwyane Wade on the market, so they should exhibit some patience before overpaying for veterans Jason Richardson, Vince Carter (if he gets released) or Jamal Crawford. But there are some younger scorers in free agency (Marcus Thornton, who is a restricted free agent, and J.R. Smith are two such options) who could step in right away and give them points efficiently. In the end, restarting the O.J. Mayo negotiations may be their best option.
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