What’s the plan with 2-way player Alex Poythress?

Alex Poythress signed the new 2-way deal this off-season with the Indiana Pacers. This new type of contract allows the Pacers to retain his rights while primarily keeping a player with their G-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

The Pacers also still have 15 NBA roster spots available, so 2-ways don’t count against the actual roster count. The player can also spend up to 45 days with the NBA squad.

Poythress, to this point in the season, has spent very little time in Fort Wayne. He’s played in only six of the team’s first 17 games while averaging 20 points, 9 rebounds and 2.7 assists with the Mad Ants.

He’s spent most of his time with the Indiana Pacers on the NBA side, but he hasn’t played often other than garbage-time minutes while with the team. He’s played in nine games this season, averaging just three minutes of action per game.

The Pacers recently sent down first-round pick TJ Leaf to the G-League to get some consistent playing time and seasoning and put Poythress into the rotation against the Brooklyn Nets.

Poythress didn’t make a lot of impact through individual statistics, finishing with one block and one missed shot attempt in the 5-minute stretch that normally goes to Leaf, but the team finished the game as +4 in that stretch. He got on the ground for loose balls and was a part of some solid team defense.

It doesn’t sound like much, but the Pacers had been struggling to find that 9th-man for the rotation as Leaf had struggled with a net rating of -12, which is by far the worst among rotation players. The Pacers were rarely putting their starters back in during the second quarter in a situation that was better than when they came out.

Poythress seems to be a better fit for this role currently because he can make a positive impact without scoring the ball unlike Leaf at this point in his career. Poythress knows he’s not going to get a lot of shot attempts in his role and he’s good with that.

“Down there [Fort Wayne], you have to be more aggressive,” said Poythress before the Nets game, “… but here, you just gotta play your role because they have scorers and what-not.”

He later said he’s here to provide energy and defense and knows he’s not going to be putting up 20 shots, “They have Victor and Myles for that.”

But even after those minutes went well, Poythress has been stuck to the bench in the Pacers next two games, only getting in for garbage time again against the Atlanta Hawks.

Instead, the Pacers dusted off Al Jefferson against the Celtics (-3 in three minutes in a game the Pacers ended up losing by one) and Joe Young (-4 in 13 minutes though his numbers likely got worse in garbage time) against the Hawks.

McMillan said after the Hawks game that it’s going to depend on the matchup for who plays as that extra guy in the rotation. The Pacers next game is against the Nets, so we’ll see if Poythress gets to play again.

As those 45 days with the NBA team start to dry up, you have to wonder what the plan is for Poythress with the team. The Pacers haven’t been saving those days for emergency use and have an open roster spot so he could easily be added to the NBA roster by converting his contract.

The Milwaukee Bucks recently released Gary Payton II after all of his 45 days were used up, so it’s not guaranteed that the team will simply add him to the roster. It’s hard to see the Pacers doing the same there, but it’d be nice to have some more actual rotation time on film of Poythress before the Pacers needed to make that decision.

Once the Pacers have that open 2-way, Jarrod Uthoff or Ben Moore will be likely candidates to get the open slot. The team’s other 2-way player, Edmond Sumner is almost ready to make his debut for the Mad Ants as he is returning from a knee injury.

Update: The Pacers have recalled TJ Leaf to the Pacers.

This complicates matters further for the Pacers. It’s unclear right now if Poythress will go back to Fort Wayne but it’s unlikely the Pacers would have recalled Leaf unless they intended to play him.

Poythress may have played well in his one chance and might not see another in the near future.

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