There’s perhaps no bigger need for the Indiana Pacers than a starting point guard. There are many NBA veterans hitting free agency that could fill in this role including Ricky Rubio, Patrick Beverley, and George Hill.
Ideally, the Pacers would probably look to sign someone like this to a short-term deal if they believe that Aaron Holiday will eventually take over the position down the line. Previously, we looked at possible options that could be seen as more long-term choices for the position but could be harder to obtain because of being restricted free agents:
Rubio has been mentioned in many rumors connected to the Pacers. With ESPN’s Zach Lowe and The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor both reporting that he’s a major possibility to end up in Indiana. Lowe said the Pacers will be looking at many options, including the trade market, especially if Rubio’s market gets “too frothy” but there haven’t been many other teams rumored to be connected to him except for the Phoenix Suns.
If the Suns offer him more guaranteed years, it may be possible for them to keep him away from Indiana, but Rubio, who turns 29 in October, may be more drawn to a team that is consistently in the playoffs. He’s coming off a contract that paid him just below $14 million on average. His price probably ranges from $10 – $15 million per year and with Pritchard’s general preference for short-term deals so far in his tenure with Indiana, perhaps something like 2 years, $25 million would get the job done.
While keeping Bojan Bogdanovic’s cap hold and signing Rubio to that hypothetical deal, the Pacers would still have about $9 million left in space and would also have the room exception available to fill out the rest of the roster.
Does Rubio fit the Pacers roster? It’s well known that he can’t shoot though he has improved from the truly woeful percentages of the first four years of his career and his defensive reputation is probably much better than his actual level of play on that end. On the plus side, he would add some much needed passing skill and creation for others (something Kevin Pritchard talked about wanting to add to the team). While Darren Collison and Cory Joseph were great at not turning the ball over, they also couldn’t make anything more than the simple pass. In the best situation for him, you probably surround him with shooters and allow him to make plays for others. With the Pacers currently looking like they’ll be playing a whole lot of minutes with two centers on the court together, the spacing on offense would be tight combined with Rubio’s lack of shooting.
With lineup data from the Jazz, who often played Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert together, we can get an idea of how well they played big and how well they played with more of a stretch four instead. There were two primary lineups that the Jazz played with that had by far the most minutes and both have positive results and both included Rubio. One featured two bigs and the other didn’t.
In 501 minutes, the Jazz had a net rating of 5.3 in their most-used lineup of Rubio, Favors, Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, and Joe Ingles. Overall, pretty good results. The lineup was carried by stellar defense (99.2 rating) but the offense was a slog (104.5). However, when Jae Crowder was in that lineup instead of Favors, the Jazz had a net rating of 12.8 over 476 minutes. The defense got worse but was still very good at 102.9, but the offense improved tremendously to a rating of 115.7.
The Pacers would seem more likely to have greater success with lineups that featured TJ Warren at power forward, if his shooting improvement holds, with Rubio at point guard instead of playing both Myles Turner and Domas Sabonis together. It makes one wonder if the idea of getting Rubio came before Goga Bitadze fell to them in the draft and perhaps the original plan was to start Warren at PF to get plenty of shooting around him in the lineup.
While Rubio has valid areas of concern (including puzzling, frustrating shot attempts), he still made a positive impact on both ends of the floor for a 50-win Jazz team last season. His overall PIPM was 1.4 (offensive 0.6, defensive 0.8) according to Basketball Index. This is the second highest among the veteran point guards covered here (Beverley’s is nearly identical at 1.5 [offensive 0.6, defensive 0.9]) and higher than some of the younger targets covered previously in both D’Angelo Russell (0.2 overall) and Terry Rozier (-2.2 overall). His net rating (6.3) was right in line with Donovan Mitchell (6.8) and Gobert (6.9). Utah had a higher net rating with him on the floor than off of it. He ranked ahead of both Pacers point guards and just slightly below Russell in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus. Analytics seem to be generally positive on the Spanish guard and he’s shown he can be part of a solid team (though as with everyone his weaknesses would be magnified in the playoffs).
The pesky point defender would seem like a perfect fit within the Pacers culture. He’s a 3-and-D guard that has shot between 38% and 40% from deep in each of the last four seasons. Tim MacMahon of ESPN is reporting that he’s looking for a 3-year deal in the $40 million range with the Mavs, Lakers, Bulls and Clippers all mentioned as interested.
The Pacers may not be interested in signing any veterans at the position to a 3-year deal but it would be a solid value for Beverley and the Pacers would still have about $8 million in cap space after signing him (including Bogey’s cap hold). He doesn’t fit the bill as someone that can create for himself or others at all, so the team would have to add help elsewhere to check off that box but would fit next to a healthy Oladipo nicely. Ideally, they’d have someone else to take some of the offensive playmaking load in his return from injury to not put too much pressure on him returning to his old self and role immediately.
Beverley is another guy that makes an impact and his team plays better with him than without. The Clippers net rating dropped from 4.0 with him to -2.3 without him on the court this past season. He’s not a high usage guy on offense taking only six shots per game with career-low usage rate of 12% last year. 59% of his attempts came from 3-point line last season and he struggled to finish at the rim on his rare attempts in that area (49%, though he made 59% of his attempts within three feet the prior season).
He’s not great at running the pick and roll (37th percentile at 0.77 points per possession per Synergy) and most of his offensive value comes from his spot up shooting (83rd percentile). He’s probably not the best fit for this team without a healthy Oladipo or someone else to step up and be the initiator of the offense. Pritchard did say that getting a creator doesn’t necessarily need to be at the point guard position.
The former Indiana Pacers guard is technically not a free agent as it stands, but the Bucks are likely to look to save some money and waive him (Update: Shams has now reported he will be waived) perhaps in order to hang onto Malcolm Brogdon. They can waive Hill with minimal consequences to their cap situation as his contract is only guaranteed for $1 million of his $19 million salary if he is waived before July 2. There are reports that they would still be open to bringing him back after letting him go.
If he is waived, he could be on the Pacers radar. It’s unclear if he would be interested in returning after being traded for Jeff Teague just a few seasons ago, but at 32 Hill showed he still has something left in the tank during the 2019 playoffs (shooting 53.4/41.7/81.8 while averaging 11.5 points in 26 minutes) after floundering on bad teams with the Kings and Cavaliers and really struggling to make shots during his 47 games in the regular season with Milwaukee (28% from 3-point).
Hill may be a mid-level exception guy for a playoff team without cap space (~9 million). The Pacers could up the offer a bit on a one-year deal to entice him to return to his hometown once again and still have cap space to add another player or two. He may be even cheaper depending on whether NBA teams value that short burst in the playoffs or look more at his struggles during larger sample size of the regular season.
The Pacers would know what they would be getting with Hill. He’s only two seasons removed from a fantastic but injury-plagued year in Utah but he likely won’t reach that level of play again. He’ll play good defense, hit open shots, show flashes of aggressiveness that you wish was on display at all times and bring a ton of playoff experience. He’s a solid player but wouldn’t help with the need for creation a ton but can initiate offense more than Beverley.
Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo
I’m bundling these two together because the message is short and the same: don’t do it. Their names that are attached to good things they once contributed long ago are not what you would be getting now.
Rondo ranked 101st of 112 point guards in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus at -3.56. He was ranked 95th of 107 in Basketball Index’s PIPM at -2.4. There’s a reason he’s been on a different team every season since he was traded from the Celtics (six teams in last five seasons). He no longer plays defense and doesn’t add anything of value on offense either. He’s washed and has been for awhile.
Rose ranked 46th of 112 in ESPN’s RPM at -1.28, not nearly as bad as Rondo, but for all the positive he added offensively, the damage he did on defensive was greater. He ranked 50th in PIPM at -0.2, once again negating all his offensive output with his poor defense. He had some nice moments last season, including that 50-point game, and shot the ball better than he ever had previously at 37% from 3-point range. On a bad Wolves team, he was one of only a few players with a positive net rating at 0.7 and the team’s net rating dropped to -3.0 with him off the floor. He had a bounce back year last season but I would not be comfortable with him as a starting point guard and I’d be weary of handing him that type of minute workload anyway.
Click the links to read about other potential targets: