The Pacers' fantastic playoff run shouldn't obscure the fact that their bench was an abject disaster last season. Tyler Hansbrough and Ian Mahinmi were perhaps the only rotation-caliber players of the bunch. That badly needs to be remedied if Indiana is going to take the next step in its development, and already general manager Kevin Pritchard and team president Larry Bird have identified -- and secured -- one quality bench type to fill that void.
According to multiple reports, the Pacers have agreed to a two-year deal with former Nets guard C.J. Watson. The salary has yet to be reported, though Alex Kennedy of HOOPSWORLD noted that Watson will earn a wage higher than the league minimum ($1.1 million).
Watson is an easy and instant upgrade over the woeful D.J. Augustin, who had trouble defending, seeing past the initial line of defense and creating off the dribble for the Pacers last season. Indiana conceded points on both ends whenever he happened to be on the court: The Pacers' offense was 6.3 points worse per 100 possessions with Augustin in the lineup and the defense was 2.6 points worse, according to NBA.com. This, in spite of the fact that coach Frank Vogel attempted to slide Augustin around to pair him with starters and reserves alike, all in the hope of finding some combination that worked. None did, and the degree to which Augustin's poor play limited the Pacers was even more exaggerated in the postseason.
The 29-year-old Watson should be a much more useful player overall, as he trumps Augustin (who is a free agent himself) in most every regard. Augustin's one saving grace last season was that he was a decent long-range shooter (35.3 percent from three-point range), but Watson eclipsed that mark (41.1 percent) while playing both on and off the ball in Brooklyn. He's a stout defender who can keep his man in front of him and minimize mistakes, feeding into the Pacers' overall defensive success.
Watson isn't fit to run an offense on a full-time basis (he doesn't have the vision or penetration skills required of first-option ball handlers), but he's a fine reserve. He has done good work off the bench for each of his last three teams (Golden State, Chicago, Brooklyn). He should be a natural fit in Indiana.Grade: B