Caught in the Web Indiana Pacers blog: Barbosa deal could have big impact on lineup, rotations

Barbosa trade could have big impact on lineup, rotations

March 15, 2012 - On the surface, the acquisition of guard Leandro Barbosa from Toronto for a second-round NBA Draft pick and cash considerations today adds backcourt scoring punch, experience and versatility to the second unit.

It could mean much more than that.

The trade, announced today by the Pacers, could be the domino that sets in motion a major transformation in the Pacers' starting lineup and rotations.

It may signal George Hill's eventual promotion to the starting point guard slot.

If that move is to happen, it likely wouldn't happen soon. Barbosa will have to get comfortable with his new team, and Coach Frank Vogel will need some time to look at different lineup combinations before deciding his course of action.

"I think anything's possible," Vogel said. "I don't think that's where we're looking at (Hill) right now but he's playing very good basketball and when a guy takes off like he's taken off recently you've got to look at all the options and we'll do that each day."

At 6-3, 191, the 29-year-old Barbosa has been one of the league's most consistently productive bench scorers. He's averaging 12.2 points in 22.5 minutes for the Raptors, shooting .436 overall and .360 from the 3-point line. For his career, he has averages of 12.6 points, .463 overall and .390 from the arc.

Like Hill, he can create his own shot in isolation and knows what to do with the ball when the shot clock is winding down. He can play spot minutes at the point but is more comfortable and effective at shooting guard.

Barbosa was the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2006-07 when he averaged a career-high 18.1 points with Phoenix. The Brazilian is in the final year of his contract with a reported salary of $7.6 million. Because the Pacers are more than $14 million under the salary cap, they can afford to absorb the pro-rated remainder of his salary

"He's going to add great depth to our already strong bench and we know he's an extremely explosive scorer, a sparkplug, always has been in this league," Coach Frank Vogel said. "We're just excited to add more veteran leadership, a guy that's been in deep playoff runs and we're excited about him being able to come in and help us as we try to make a deep playoff run this year.

"He's a great reader of defense, great in the open court, as fast as anybody in the league. We want to play fast and he just adds to our speed. And he adds to our ability to execute simple actions like pick-and-roll and pin-downs and gives us another 3-point shooter which quite frankly is a welcome bonus. You can never have enough shooters in this league."

An argument could be made Hill has been the Pacers' best player recently. In two games since returning from a sprained left shoulder, he has racked up 28 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Bigger than the numbers has been the timing, as Hill has been in the middle of the game-turning stretches in consecutive victories over the Trail Blazers and 76ers.

He scored 17 in a 111-94 rout of Philadelphia Wednesday night, including consecutive 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter that gave the Pacers a 15-point lead and quelled a rally by the Sixers.

"He's definitely going to continue to be a huge part of what we're doing," Vogel said of Hill. "I envision his role increasing more than it has been. We've just got figure out where we're going to distribute the minutes. We'll look at different combinations over the next couple of weeks and make sure we're utilizing our depth to the best of our ability."

Collison has slumped of late, averaging 6.5 points, 3.5 assists and .340 shooting in the last six games as backup A.J. Price has seen increasing playing time down the stretch. If Collison does move to the second unit, he would combine with Barbosa to give the Pacers two of the fastest guards in the league.

The Pacers did not make a move for a backup center, a need that has been mitigated by the strong play of Lou Amundson, who had a career-high 21 points against Portland Tuesday and has made 13 of his last 14 shots in two games.

"The way he's been playing lately, I don't know if we're going to get better from anyone than what Lou has been giving us recently," Vogel said. "We're pretty excited about what he's doing and excited about our whole team. We've got great depth at every position and we're getting ready to make a run."