The Indiana Pacers announced their roster for the Orlando Summer League earlier this week. The roster features many familiar faces including five players likely to suit up for the blue and gold next season and will be coached by Popeye Jones, Pacers assistant coach. The team will play five games that will run through the heart of the NBA free agency madness from July 2 through July 8 (Pacers schedule below). No one’s playing in the Summer League without something to prove and we’ll look at what some of the key players on the roster need to work on.
In a rare occurrence for a Summer League roster, the likely starting lineup may all be with the Pacers once the regular season starts: Joe Young, Glenn Robinson III, Rakeem Christmas, Shayne Whittington, and rookie Georges Niang. While the overall results of the Summer League do not matter, all of the players have plenty of motivation to play their best as they are all either fighting to keep their NBA jobs, trying to prove they deserve more minutes next season, or just attempting to get the Pacers or some other NBA team to give them a contract or an invite to training camp. If any of the Pacers players under contract need any extra motivation, they can look at Solomon Hill, whose final season of his team option was declined after his atrocious play last season in the Summer League (of course, it worked out well for Solo as he waits to cash in on a big free agent deal thanks to his much improved play over the back half of the season).
Something to Prove:
- Joe Young: Last season, Young and Myles Turner were the stars of the Orlando Summer League as both were named to NBA TV’s All-Tournament Team. Young led the league in scoring with 22.5 points per game and showed his general ability to get buckets. Young probably has the most potential minutes available if he has a good showing through the week. He’s already been living in the gym this summer and has added strength and is up to 197 pounds from 180 pounds last season. Nate McMillan and the coaching staff know that Young can score. They’ll be looking to see how well Young defends, particularly in the pick and roll, and how he well he can run the offense. McMillan has told Young that he wants to see how he can lead a team this week and Young has already taken that to heart. Young can start to earn the trust of his coaching staff for him to be the backup point guard. If Young plays well especially on the defensive end, the Pacers may not be in a rush to re-sign Ty Lawson or look elsewhere for a free agent.
- Rakeem Christmas: Christmas spent basically all season in the D-League last year with the Pacers affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. He performed well, earning an All Star nod in the developmental league. So why did Shayne Whittington seem to get the call up and any spare minutes with the Pacers when an opportunity came? Defense. Defense. Defense. Christmas has plenty to work on in that area. With the Pacers backup front court options wide open after Lavoy Allen (especially if Ian Mahinmi isn’t re-signed), Christmas could be on his way to carving out a role for himself in the big leagues if he can show quality play and effort on the defensive end. Otherwise, it could be another year in Fort Wayne.
- Georges Niang: I wrote about the Pacers rookie and a little about what his game is like here. The 50th pick in the draft can do a lot to prove himself worthy of the Pacers offering him a contract, which is never guaranteed for a second-round pick. Especially when you’re picked that late in the draft. Niang has a ton of skill on the offensive end and will need to continue to show he can score against (almost) NBA-level competition. The defensive end (I’m starting to see a theme here) is Niang’s biggest challenge. Niang will likely get minutes during the summer at both the 3 and the 4 and will need to show he can defend at least one of these positions this week to help make his case for a roster spot. Niang is confident in his abilities and cites his basketball IQ as a huge asset that allows him to be at the right places on the defensive end based on intense study of game plans and opposing tendencies. The problem for Niang is that it’s unlikely there is much of a scouting report for these games, so Niang will have to rely more than he would like on his athleticism, which is not his strength.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson went through some stretches last season of being in rotation and flashed a smooth shooting stroke and highlight-reel dunking ability. The young wing looked lost on the other end of the court, particularly while defending off the ball. GR3 has all the natural athleticism that could make him a valuable 3 and D asset and just needs to show that potential is there for him to become that one day. Robinson’s contract does not become guaranteed until August 1st, so the Pacers could decide the waive him before that date with no penalty on the cap or in their pockets. Currently, Robinson is behind both Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles on the bench and needs to continue to show improvement to earn minutes next season.
- Shayne Whittington: Whittington is another player with an unguaranteed contract that needs to prove he’s worth keeping around. Along with Christmas, he spent most of the season with the Mad Ants. Whittington will be playing at the center spot during the Summer League and will be trying to show that he could be a potential stretch five option for the Pacers. Like I said before, the Pacers front court rotation has a lot of minutes up for grabs currently, and if Whittington can show a consistent jump shot and solid defense, he could get a shot to earn a spot in the rotation in training camp.
Among the Other Guys on the Roster:
- Nate Wolters: Wolters is trying to find his way back into the NBA after spending a year in Turkey. The former second-round pick played with the Milwaukee Bucks and New Orleans Pelicans before last season.
- Jaron Johnson: Johnson averaged 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in the D-League last year. Oh, and he also can do this:
- Armani Moore: This guy from Tennessee blocks shots with more emphasis than anybody.
- Dyshawn Pierre: The only guy to ever get accidentally pantsed during a basketball game.
Pacers Summer League Schedule:
- July 2 – 1:00 p.m.: Indiana Pacers vs Orlando Blue (Pacers 93, Blue 66)
- July 3 – 1:00 p.m.: Indiana Pacers vs Charlotte Hornets (Pacers 70, Hornets 80)
- July 4 – no game
- July 5 – 5:00 p.m.: Indiana Pacers vs Detroit Pistons
- July 6 – 5:00 p.m.: Indiana Pacers vs Oklahoma City Thunder
- July 7 – no game
- July 8 – TBD
Each game will be televised on NBA TV and you can stream the games on the WatchESPN app. Broadcast teams will include Rick Kamla, Joel Meyers, Greg Anthony, Stu Jackson, and Vince Carter.