Final touches the Pacers can make in free agency

The Indiana Pacers still have a few roster spots left to fill after their big night to start free agency. With as much as nearly $6 million in cap space and the $5 million room exception, Kevin Pritchard and the front office have enough money to find some good pieces to add depth to the team.

After the excellent additions of Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb, the team’s depth chart looks something like this:

  • Point guard: Malcolm Brogdon, Aaron Holiday
  • Shooting guard: Victor Oladipo, Jeremy Lamb, Edmond Sumner
  • Small Forward: TJ Warren, Doug McDermott, Brian Bowen (2-way contract)
  • Power Forward: Domantas Sabonis, TJ Leaf, Alize Johnson
  • Center: Myles Turner, Goga Bitadze

There’s some issues with looking at it this way that over simplifies things when multiple guys can play more than just one position. Brogdon, Holiday and Sumner can play both guard spots, Lamb, Sumner and McDermott can play the 2 or the 3, Warren can play both forward positions, and Turner, Sabonis and Bitadze are all primarily centers but could all see time at the 4 as well this year.

So what do the Pacers still need on the roster?

Patience will be paramount as teams use up their cap space and then the players that are left become bargains. These last few moves may not happen for a few days to a couple weeks. Indiana is likely to add two players to the roster and leave one open space for flexibility purposes once the season gets started.

Looking at the roster, an obvious need is a third-string point guard. Indiana could use Sumner, who just got re-signed to a 3-year contract, in this role potentially as he played the point primarily with the Mad Ants, but he may be seen as more of a versatile wing in the NBA.

The key with this role is that you don’t want to get someone who would be frustrated being behind a young player like Holiday, feeling like they should be playing and the Pacers should prioritize getting the second-year UCLA guard minutes now rather than finding a veteran at the position that may be better in the immediate but hurts the prospect’s development in the long run. The role has to be clear for whoever they bring in.

My personal favorite for the spot would be Shelvin Mack. He’s a veteran that has made a nice career for himself out of Butler with 8 years of experience. He’s a career 35% shooter from 3-point range. He’ll take care of the ball well enough in a spot role. He probably wouldn’t take up any cap space as he might be able to be snagged for the minimum which would allow the Pacers could potentially save the room exception for a mid-season acquisition. (Bonus points for being able to say “Return of the Mack” once he’s signed and playing in Indianapolis once again).

Other possibilities at the emergency guard spot I like if they are willing to not play much include Jeremy Lin, Tim Frazier (update: signed with Pistons), TJ McConnell and Trey Burke. Getting some of them both at the minimum and willing to just sit on the bench a lot may not be realistic however (though Kyle O’Quinn signing on as a 3rd-string center was a surprise last season). With how young the team is, they may be inclined to try and find older veterans willing to take these final positions like Raymond Felton, Jose Calderon, Jerryd Bayless or Devin Harris.

If the Pacers prefer to use Sumner as the third-string floor general, players like David Nwaba, Ian Clark, Glenn Robinson III, Stanley Johnson, and Darius Miller would all add depth at the wing and may be able to be had for a good price. Even a third return of Lance Stephenson, though it would seem unlikely for the team to go get a fan favorite for him to just to sit on the bench most games.

If they plan on using the minimum for one spot, the Pacers would still have all their remaining cap space to use on one player (up to $5.8 million) as long as they signed the min contract first. A position to consider here is someone that can play either forward spot. My favorite choices being Thabo Sefolosha, Jared Dudley, Vince Carter and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Dudley could fill the void of veteran locker room leadership that Thad Young and the other departing vets have left behind. Sefolosha and Carter also would potentially add a sage veteran presence. RHJ would be more of an upside play at just 24 years old. He’s split his playing time between both forward positions so would add depth at two spots where the Pacers could use it.

Other possibilities (some adding more versatility in positions than others): Justin Anderson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Jonas Jerebko, Anthony Tolliver, Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams, JaMychal Green, and Ben Moore.

If Indiana only adds two players to the roster using a minimum deal and another that uses up as much cap space as they want, they’ll be able to have the room exception in their back pocket during the season in the buyout market. Last year, the Pacers were able to get Wesley Matthews at the minimum after he was bought out by the Knicks. With almost $5 million to offer, that’s some extra incentive to offer a player that may have many playoff teams looking for his services.

It’s also completely possible that Pritchard and company make a trade involving Sabonis or Turner (though it hasn’t seem likely with his public comments) this summer and all of this speculative plan goes out the window. That’s the beauty of the NBA’s whirlwind offseason. You never know what’s going to happen next.

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