How the Indiana Pacers can get to Kevin Pritchard’s suggested $20 million in cap space

Kevin Pritchard shared a lot of insight into the Indiana Pacers offseason plans after the NBA Draft last night.

The Pacers selected UCLA point guard Aaron Holiday and Missouri State forward Alize Johnson but Pritchard’s comments about the rest of the roster were much more interesting.

A couple of times Pritchard mentioned that the Pacers will have about $20 million in cap space on July 1 when free agency begins.

“Where we really get better is July 1,” said the Pacers President of Basketball Operations. “That’s what this is set up to, when we traded Paul and brought in Victor and Domas, part of that whole equation was being able to set up $20 million in cap space on July 1. I’m not saying we’re going to sign a guy. I think there could be uneven trades. A lot of of things could happen with that [space].”

Pritchard said that they had their sights on a specific player selected much earlier in the draft and had a few possible deals with teams by taking on a contract to move up, but that the deals were too “cost prohibitive.” Lots of teams like the Nuggets, Wizards and Timberwolves were rumored to be looking to unload a contract and move back in the first round but were unsuccessful in finding takers.

“I wanted flexibility to add a real player this summer July 1,” said Pritchard. He mentioned them wanting to stay disciplined and avoid taking on a bad contract now as they are about to get to their $20 million in cap space.

For the Pacers to get that $20 million number, there are a couple of ways that it could happen.

The salary cap is $101.2 million, so the Pacers would need to be near $81 million in total salary and cap holds to have a real $20 million in space. Let’s start with looking at who on the roster the Pacers are likely to keep and see how much we have left.

“Everything is so fluid but at the end of the day, we said our top six, seven guys we wanted to have back and then make additions,” Pritchard said after the draft.

The top six or seven guys are in all likelihood the following: Victor Oladipo ($21 million), Myles Turner ($3.4 million), Domas Sabonis ($2.6 million), Darren Collison ($10 million), Bojan Bogdanovic ($10.5 million), Cory Joseph ($7.9 million) and Thaddeus Young ($13.7 million).

Young is the likely “or seven” guy as he has a player option that he has not yet decided on. Pritchard confirmed that Cory Joseph has opted in officially and they’ve received the paperwork.

“We’ve had a few conversations with his agent, but at the end of the day it’s his decision,” Pritchard said of Young. “We’d like to have him back. We’d like to keep this core.”

Young seems a little unhappy with what the Pacers are willing to offer long term in a deal as he tweeted out a few things yesterday.

Based on these tweets, Thad seems to want to return to Indiana but he may be looking for a longer deal elsewhere if the Pacers aren’t willing to give him more security in a contract as he just turned 30 yesterday.

“I think he’s exploring what he can get, but we have no indication either way,” said Pritchard.

If he opts in, those seven players add up to $69.1 million.

Aaron Holiday ($1.9 million) and TJ Leaf ($2.4 million) are locks to be included on the Pacers roster.

Monta Ellis’s dead cap from his stretched out $2.2 million can added as well.

That’s 9 roster spots for a total of $75.6 million. For the Pacers to get $20 million in space, this total can only get up to $81 million.

That leaves the following players: Al Jefferson ($10 million only $4 million guaranteed), Lance Stephenson ($4.3 million team option), Joe Young ($1.6 million unguaranteed), Ike Anigbogu ($1.5 million), Alex Poythress ($1.3 million). There are also free agents Trevor Booker ($1.5 million cap hold) and Glenn Robinson III ($1.5 million cap hold).

Joe Young is almost guaranteed to be waived after the drafting of Holiday. Jefferson would have to be waived to stay under that mark but $4 million gets added to that total.

That puts the sum at $79.6 million.

The big question mark remaining would be fan favorite Lance Stephenson. His $4.3 million team option would not allow the Pacers to get to $20 million in space in this scenario. It’s possible that Pritchard was rounding up but including either Anigbogu and Poythress (or similarly cost against the cap that would come from their empty roster spot cap holds) that would push the total closer to $16 million in space if the holds were rescinded on Robinson and Booker.

Another way that the Pacers could get to that $20 million while keeping Thad Young is if they could come to an agreement on a deal in the range of 3 years, $30 million, which would save the Pacers $3.7 million in space this year and push them back up $20 million overall while keeping Stephenson. But the closer we get to Young’s decision date, it seems that either that’s not enough for Young or that the Pacers aren’t even willing to offer that. And the longer this takes, the more likely it seems that he could opt out with no long-term deal in place. His agent is likely gauging interest among other teams and seeing if he can find a better deal than whatever the Pacers are offering that Young is currently disappointed with.

If Young opts out and goes elsewhere, that’s $13.7 million in cap space that the Pacers gain, the Pacers would have about $20 million in space even without waiving Jefferson or anyone else if he opts out. So it’s possible that Pritchard’s $20 million was projecting if Young opted out, but it didn’t sound like it in context.

Pritchard wanting to keep the “top six or seven” players is an interesting number as it seems to cut the line right at Stephenson, who is probably number eight. It’s still highly possible that he’ll be back, but it doesn’t seem as guaranteed as you would think.

Stephenson is a good rotational player for Indiana at a cheap price, so if Pritchard decides to cut ties with the energetic, crowd-pleasing guard, he’ll have to have something lined up that he wants to use that space for. Simply cutting him and then coming up with nothing better to replace him with wouldn’t be a good look to the fanbase that just lost probably the second most popular player on the team.

One of those guys that Pritchard targets could be Marcus Smart, the Celtics restricted free agent, who has been rumored as a target for the Pacers since during the season.

Whatever happens, it should be an interesting few weeks as Pritchard scours the trade and free agent markets with a minimum of $10-16 million in cap space and a maximum of over $30 million.

“They wildly overachieved and they deserve to see if they can build on that,” said Pritchard. “It’s my job to add a few more players, a few more pieces that could help them get past the first round or make the playoffs.”

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