The Indiana Pacers need a point guard. There are many available on the free agent market. Some of the more intriguing options are restricted free agents, which historically hasn’t been an area where the Pacers have pursued players. Would that change with players like D’Angelo Russell and Malcolm Brogdon?
Restricted free agency is difficult for teams to dive into. Once you agree to an offer sheet with a player, your cap space is held hostage for 48 hours while the player’s original team decides whether or not to match the offer. If they do decide to match, many backup options will have likely signed elsewhere. The Pacers would likely prefer going after these players if they were renounced by their original teams and became unrestricted free agents which could happen with a couple of them.
Russell is one of the fanbase’s favorite targets. Coming off of an All-Star season and at just 23 years old, it’s easy to see why. If Kyrie Irving joins the Nets, Brooklyn may be inclined to withdraw Russell’s qualifying offer and make him an unrestricted free agent. This would make a lot more teams interested in his services without the hassle of RFA.
Russell, the former 2nd overall pick, averaged career highs across the board with 21.1 points and 7 assists per game while upping his shooting percentage to 43.4% and his 3-point percentage to 36.9%.
With the Nets, he ran a ton of pick and rolls. According to Synergy data on NBA.com, Russell’s 11.4 possessions as a pick-and-roll ball handler per game were second only to Kemba Walker’s 11.8. These were 49.9% of Russell’s scoring chances and he was in the 67th percentile in efficiency in this play type. This would fit in the Pacers heavy pick-and-roll offense.
Zach Lowe gives a great overview of his offensive game here. He hits shots in the midrange and floater range at a very good clip (shots the Pacers like more than most teams) but doesn’t get to the rim or draw fouls.
The big question is how much would he cost? The Pacers can create enough cap space for a max offer but only by renouncing all of their free agents. They reportedly would like to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, so let’s assume they tried to keep his cap hold on the books. The Pacers would have roughly $21 million in available space. Is that enough to snag Russell? Maybe the Lakers could entice him to come back at that price with the lure of playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but the Pacers may not be able to get him without a larger offer considering how many teams may be interested. If the Nets don’t rescind their qualifying offer, they probably plan on matching anything in that range, maybe beyond. For Indiana to offer more, they could clear space by finding someone to take on Doug McDermott’s $7 million deal, which would allow the Pacers to offer Russell a max contract as well as potentially keep Bogdanovic.
Brogdon is an efficiency king. He joined the 50/40/90 club last season as he shot 50.5% overall, 42.6% from 3-point, and 92.8% from the foul line in his 64 games. The Bucks were better when he was on the court on both ends with their offensive rating improving by 2.9 and their defensive rating improving by 1.3.
Lowe has said that the Bucks won’t go over a certain number to bring him back, but it’s unclear how high they’re willing to go. Similar to Russell, the Pacers could offer him around $20 million in the first year of a contract while also retaining Bogdanovic’s cap hold. Is that number high enough where the Bucks think twice about matching the offer?
Brogdon’s excellent defense and ability to space the floor would make a terrific fit next to a healthy Oladipo. The concern for Indiana may be where the offense would come from while they wait for him to get healthy. Brogdon, who will be 27 in December, isn’t the type to create offense for himself often. He only ran just over one isolation per game but did finish in the 68th percentile per Synergy. Maybe there’s some more potential to do things here if he had to. He was right about at the league average as a pick and roll ball handler at the 51st percentile. He’s averaged 3.2 assists per game in each of the last two years so he hasn’t been a high-level creator for others either. Perhaps this is just a lack of opportunity to showcase this often with the Bucks. He played shooting guard 84% of his minutes with Milwaukee last season according to Basketball Reference.
He’s elite as a spot-up shooter as his percentages would suggest, finishing last season in the 95th percentile and 1.25 points per possession. Interestingly, he almost never shoots 3-pointers with a defender within 2-4 feet, taking just two attempts in that scenario last season. All of his 3-point attempts except for two were deemed open or wide open.
This may not mean too much besides the fact that the Bucks are really good at creating space in their offense that spreads the floor and having the MVP to draw defensive attention probably helps a lot with that. However, Brogdon is unlikely to get as many wide open looks with the Pacers. By comparison, last season’s starting point guard Darren Collison, who struggles to get his shot off against tight defense, took 10 attempts with a defender within 2-4 feet (even Aaron Holiday took five in his limited minutes). But, Collison only averaged 2.5 attempts overall despite shooting over 40% from deep. Brogdon’s production and his efficiency may take a hit leaving the Bucks system for the Pacers as he may be forced to take tougher shots or simply won’t get as many opportunities.
The increased spacing also enabled Brogdon to get to the rim more often. According to Basketball Reference, he took 49% of his shots at the rim last season, up from 37% the year before. This could also explain why he rarely took outside shots with defenders close to him as he instead preferred to drive around them to get to the basket. With the Pacers currently looking like they’ll be playing more of a traditional style with two bigs, that spacing has no chance of being as open as it was with the Bucks.
Indiana would probably be more likely to get the production of Brogdon from his first two seasons while Jason Kidd was still the coach. Still a very good player but short of those crazy levels of efficiency that he put up last season. It would seem more difficult for a team like the Pacers with one star (who is out for the first 2-3 months of the season) to pay this fantastic role player $20 million+ per season unless they believed he was capable of more. However, there are worse things that you can do with the money that sign a great 3-and-D player that helps you win games.
Speaking of worse things, Rozier might be the worst possible outcome for Indiana this summer. The Celtics point guard has shot below 40% in each of his first four seasons in the league. With Boston becoming the front-runners to sign Kemba Walker, they would have to renounce Rozier making him an unrestricted free agent and much easier to sign. He also shares an agent with Oladipo and he’s appeared on The VO Show, Oladipo’s YouTube show.
I’ll let someone that covers the Celtics explain why Rozier would be a terrible idea:
Ben Pfeifer of 8 points, 9 seconds covers the problems with Rozier in detail here.
The only thing scary about Terry would be signing him to a long-term deal. Monta Ellis had a higher true-shooting percentage in his final season with the Pacers than Rozier did last season. Pacers would be betting on a lot of improvement if they went after him.
He has not shown up in any Pacers rumors to this point but the New York Knicks are a rumored suitor.
Click on the links for discussion of other free agent point guards: