The Indiana Pacers are without question one of the more intriguing teams to keep an eye on as the NBA offseason continues to draw closer. Larry Bird made the decision to move on from Frank Vogel, and hired Nate McMillan as the new head coach. If the Pacers are going to get back to being a serious playoff contender, they will need to bring in a big piece or two this offseason.
Dwight Howard is set to hit the open market this offseason, and there will be a lot of teams interested in signing him when free agency opens up. Erwin Castro of SportsRageous listed the Pacers as one of the top potential landing spots for Howard, and it certainly makes sense.
Bird could pair Howard with Myles Turner in the front-court, which could give the Pacers one of the top front-courts in the entire NBA.
Last season with the Houston Rockets, Howard ended up averaging 13.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. He shot 62.0 percent from the field overall, but struggled once again at the free-throw line, at just 48.9 percent. Howard is still capable of being a dominant presence on the offensive end of the court, and has never lost his defensive prowess.
Indiana was a piece or two short of making a deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs this season. Paul George played like one of the top players in the NBA, but he did not have a legitimate No. 2 scorer. Howard could head into Indiana and immediately fill that role.
It became obvious throughout the 2015-16 season with the Rockets that Howard needs to find a place where he will be utilized often in the post. He didn't fit well with James Harden, which is why a team like the Pacers who focus on playing team basketball could make a lot of sense for the star big man.
Looking ahead at free agency, the Pacers have a lot of different options. Mike Conley and Rajon Rondo have both been talked about as targets, while Ryan Anderson has come up quite a bit as well. Howard isn't talked about as much when it comes to the Pacers, but he could be the long-term answer at the center position.
Assuming the Pacers are unable to re-sign Mahinmi, they will have to find another player to take the starting big man spot alongside of Turner.
Expect to hear plenty of rumors surrounding Howard as free agency continues to draw closer. Indiana is certainly an intriguing landing spot, but may not be the most realistic. While they may not be the most talked about suitor, there is a chance that Bird could make a play for Howard.
One thing is for sure, which is the fact that the Pacers have to be very aggressive this offseason to get back into championship contention.
Do you think the Indiana Pacers should pursue Dwight Howard when NBA free agency opens up this offseason? Would he be the missing piece to help get the Pacers back to contention in the Eastern Conference? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!
[Photo by AP Photo/John Bazemore]