The gruesome injury suffered by Paul George was a gut punch to the Indiana Pacers' hopes for another successful season among the Eastern Conference elite, particularly when taking into account the offseason defection of Lance Stephenson, their second-best wing last year. That said, their playoff hopes remain very much alive, as the East remains wide-open despite the conference being deeper than it was a year ago.
With 15 men on the roster, it seemed as though Indiana's offseason was over prior to George's injury. Now the Pacers must conduct a search for a replacement, or, put more accurately, someone who can help fill the gap. What are Indy's options? Here's a look at the cap mechanics involved followed by a list of the best available free-agent and trade candidates.
The Pacers must apply for a disabled player exception (DPE), a sort of emergency relief fund the NBA awards to teams that are over the cap to replace a disabled player who will be out for the remainder of that season. The exact amount awarded is the lesser of the non-taxpayer midlevel exception ($5.3 million) or 50 percent of the disabled player's salary. There are, however, some strings attached to that fund:
• The team can use the DPE on only one player, regardless of whether it uses the full amount or not.
• The team may either sign or trade for a player with the DPE, but the terms of the deal cannot be longer than one season. In other words, the team can either sign a player to a one-year deal or trade for a player whose deal expires at the end of the season.
• The amount of the DPE used will show up as a cap hit and subject to luxury tax, if applicable.
•There must be an open roster spot with which to acquire the replacement player.
As it pertains to the Pacers, we know the following:
• Should they be awarded the DPE, they'll get the $5.3 million amount.
• The Pacers currently are roughly $2 million away from the tax threshold.
• There are three players on the roster with partial or nonguaranteed deals whom Indiana can waive to create a roster spot with minimal cost: Luis Scola ($4.9 million due, $940,946 guaranteed), Donald Sloan ($948,163 due, none guaranteed if waived by Aug. 15) and Shayne Whittington ($507,336 due, $25,000 guaranteed).
As we defined earlier, there are two pools candidates can come from: current free agents and trade targets with one year remaining on their deals. Each pool comes with its flaws, as we're scraping the bottom of the free-agency barrel, but trading for a player means giving up assets to entice teams to deal. Here are the best available: