It’s the post-trade-deadline buyout season in the NBA and many recently-released veterans are now looking to join playoff teams. Players like Terrence Jones, Andrew Bogut, Luis Scola, Mike Scott, and Brandon Jennings have all been bought out of their deals and are now free agents.
Should the Pacers be looking to add someone after being unable to add depth at the deadline? The Pacers went this route last year with Ty Lawson, who gave Pacers hope in his brief debut, but spent most of his time in Indiana injured during the regular season and mostly ineffective during the playoff series against the Raptors.
The Pacers do currently have a full roster of 15 players and all have guaranteed deals, so they can’t just sign any free agent without either waiving or buying out another player on the roster. If the Pacers go after one of these players, they’ll have to part with a young player like Joe Young, Georges Niang, or Rakeem Christmas, or they could look to buy out Aaron Brooks, who is now out of the rotation, much like they did with Chase Budinger last season. Kevin Seraphin could also be a possibility.
Of the young players, Christmas is probably the least likely to be waived now that he’s played fairly well in his first opportunity to play meaningful minutes with Al Jefferson out the last two games with a dental issue. It’d be surprising if the Pacers gave up so soon on rookie Georges Niang, who might be an offensive asset as a playmaking four with a high basketball IQ if he ever gets a chance to play.
Young hasn’t shown much promise since his last season’s West-Coast road trip and has struggled to find his shooting stroke without consistent minutes. He’s shooting just 21.7% from 3-point range in both seasons of his career to this point and still seems like a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. He’s the most likely of any of the young players to be let go at this point.
Brooks is a possibility if he’s unhappy with his current role with the team and wants an opportunity to play elsewhere. The problem with getting rid of Brooks is that if Rodney Stuckey or Monta Ellis get hurt again, which has been an issue for Stuckey throughout his time with the Pacers and for Ellis this season, then Brooks would be needed back in the rotation. Young has yet to show that he’s capable of being a quality rotation player as a point guard in the NBA.
The Pacers also have to consider how this will effect team chemistry. Joe Young is a distant cousin of Paul George, so it might not be a good idea to cut his relative after he’s already dealt with being unexpectedly in trade rumors during the deadline. It might not be a big deal, but it could be. With anyone on the roster, it depends what they mean to the rest of the team behind the scenes. Before the All-Star break, there did seem to be some rumblings about poor team chemistry but it seems unlikely that Brooks, Seraphin, or any of the young guys would have been the root of that issue.
Would letting go of any of these players and adding a new one hurt team chemistry even further or help it? It’s another factor that Larry Bird and the Pacers will have to consider before adding anyone. Lawson didn’t seem to have any negative effect last year, but another midseason free agent pickup in Andrew Bynum did not help the Pacers chemistry in the midst of The Struggle in 2014.
The Pacers do have about $4 million in cap room if they look to add a player for the remainder of the season.
Here’s a look at top options for the Pacers on the market if Bird does look to add someone.
Terrence Jones: Jones was released by the Pelicans after they acquired DeMarcus Cousins in a heist from the Kings. They may be regretting it now that they’ve had to waive Omri Casspi, who is injured for the remainder of the season. Jones is a playmaking four that the Pacers could certainly use as a backup off the bench. He averaged 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds in nearly 25 minutes per game this season with the Pelicans. Jones could be a similar player to Thad Young, but with less outside shooting ability, and allow the Pacers to have the same type of player in at the four position for 48 minutes instead of the offensively-challenged Lavoy Allen or the playing-out-of-position Kevin Seraphin.
Mike Scott: Scott was let go by the Phoenix Suns after acquiring him in a trade from the Atlanta Hawks and is having a horrid year shooting the ball. He’s a stretch four shooting just 15% from 3-point land this season. The Pacers bench has been far better this season when they surround Al Jefferson with players that spread the floor and if Scott can re-find his stroke, he would help with the spacing of the second unit. You may remember him lighting it up against the Pacers in the first-round playoff series a few years ago. Scott was also arrested on drug charges over the summer of 2015 that may cause the Pacers to look elsewhere.
Luis Scola: The former Pacer was bought out by the Brooklyn Nets today. Scola averaged about 5 points and 4 rebounds in just 12 minutes per game for the lowly Nets. Scola has used the 3-point shot much more frequently since leaving the Pacers and shot 40% from 3-point range just last year. While his percentages are down to 34% this season, he could still help stretch the floor for the second unit. He’s always going to be playing as hard as he can, but he is slow and defense has never been a strength for the 36-year-old veteran.