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Summer League So Far: TJ Leaf, Joe Young, Travis Leslie

The Pacers have won both of their first two Summer League games to start off the week in Orlando, beating Charlotte 84-77 today and beating Orlando 85-74 yesterday, but the wins and losses don’t really matter, it’s all about how the young guys are playing, whose showing improvement or worthy of a further look in training camp.

With that in mind, here’s how some of the Pacers roster has performed after two games:

Joe Young: Young struggled early in the first game, committing five turnovers in the first half, but he’s only had three turnovers in the next six quarters. Young isn’t trying to only score in these games like in his first two SL appearances, but is trying to show that he can play point guard at an NBA level. He’s found shooters in the corners on multiple occasions after getting into the lane and found cutters with timely passes as well. He’s put up 13 assists in the opening pair of contests. He played well against an NBA-caliber defensive point guard in Briante Weber today, which is an encouraging sign for his potential next year. Defense is still a struggle for Young as opposing point guards have been able to get wherever they want to go, but part of that is the Pacers bigs being unsure whether to hedge or not on the pick and roll.

All in all, it’s a good couple of games for Young as he’s scored the ball efficiently while also running the offense and setting up teammates with on-time, on-target passes.

TJ Leaf: Leaf missed the first game because his brother was getting married, so his first action as a member of the Indiana Pacers came today. Early on, it looked like the nerves were getting to the rookie as he had a turnover on his first two touches of the game. Once he re-entered the game in the second quarter, he seemed to settle into a rhythm and show why the Pacers drafted him with their first-round pick.

Leaf scored his first bucket with a nice left-hand drive to get past the bigger defender. He was battling a a 7’0″ 300-pound center on defense down low and while Leaf confirmed that he’ll need to add strength to his 19-year-old body while giving up some easy baskets, he forced a couple misses out of him as well. Leaf finished with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, scoring in a variety of ways. He also added five rebounds.

Defensively, his biggest issue is defending the pick and roll. He’ll have to learn how to effectively hedge on those plays instead of playing back like he does below. Kevin Pritchard and the Pacers were aware that he’ll need work on this end when they drafted him as Pritchard said that he expects Nate McMillan to make him better on defense.

Georges Niang and Rakeem Christmas: Unfortunately for the Pacers, Niang was injured just a minute into the first summer league game. He’s out for the rest of the week with a knee sprain. Christmas has missed the first two games with a sprained ankle. The timing isn’t great for either of them as they’re on the fringes of the roster and constantly have to prove they’re worthy of a spot on the roster. Niang did what he does best in those few short possessions, scoring on a nice drive to the basket and making high-IQ, quick passes. We’ll see if Christmas is able to come back later this week.

Travis Leslie: The surprise of the Summer League so far is the Fort Wayne Mad Ants alum Travis Leslie, who has scored 20 points in each of the Pacers first two games while shooting over 55% and adding 6 rebounds per game. Leslie has shown a smooth outside stroke and an ability to get up and finish with a highlight reel slam. Leslie’s a wing, but the Pacers have played him a little as a small-ball four as well. If he can keep up this level of play, he’ll at least earn a training camp invite, if not a roster spot, from the Pacers or another team in the league.

Ben Moore: Moore surprisingly played very little in the Pacers second game as they went smaller with Leslie at the four, but he showed why he’s been tapped as a potential undrafted success story in the opening game. He’s scored just two points in each of the games, but he’s not the type of player that is worried about scoring. He makes the right plays, passing the ball quickly to wherever the offense dictates that it should go, setting screens to get others open, playing solid man defense, and having the ability to switch onto anyone in a pick and roll. Hopefully, we get to see more of him the rest of the week. The Pacers signed him to a partially guaranteed contract, so he could end up as one the Pacers 2-way contract players, on the Mad Ants, or find himself a spot on the roster.

Chris Johnson and Naz Mitrou-Long: Johnson and Mitrou-Long have both shown a smooth shooting stroke. Johnson has hit multiple corner threes in each of the team’s first two games and Mitrou-Long scored 16 points in the Pacers first games.

Jarnell Stokes: Stokes is a big, strong center that has nice hands inside. He’s a player with an NBA-ready body and has played well in the first two games starting in place of Christmas. Stokes put up 10 points and 7 rebounds today to follow up his 10 points and 9 rebounds yesterday.

Myles TurnerNo, Myles isn’t playing in the Summer League, but he’s been there in support of his young teammates. Turner’s been eager to become a leader on the team and he’s taken the Summer League as an opportunity to get a head start on his new duties as face of the franchise. No one has been more into the games from the bench than Turner, getting excited whenever Young makes a good play or getting on the referees to call a charge on the opposing player.

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Video: Myles Turner just added a new member to Myles High Club & it was incredible

Myles Turner’s blocked list keeps going and Tarik Black probably won’t ever forget his introduction to the Myles High Club.

Twitter had some fun reacting to one of Turner’s finest blocks of his young career.

Turner’s off to terrific start in his second season as he has averaged 21 points, 10 rebounds, and a league-leading 3.3 blocks through the first three games.

 

Breaking news: Myles Turner is pretty good at basketball

The Indiana Pacers opened the season with an overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks last night 130-121. Paul George had 25 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists. New point guard Jeff Teague had 20 points and 8 assists. But the real star in game one was the 20-year-old second-year big man from Texas, Myles Turner.

Turner put up monster numbers of 30 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 2 steals. He hit 13 of his 19 shots, including a three-pointer in overtime that pushed the Pacers lead to four. He and Anthony Davis became only the third and fourth players since 1973 to put up 30 points and 16 rebounds in a season opener. Continue reading Breaking news: Myles Turner is pretty good at basketball

Pacers waive Shayne Whittington, put roster at 15 players

The Pacers announced today that they have waived Shayne Whittington. Whittington’s contract would have become fully guaranteed on Monday, and this puts the Pacers back at the NBA roster limit of 15 players.

After signing Aaron Brooks, the Pacers were going to have to make a decision on getting rid of a player, it likely came down to Whittington or Rakeem Christmas who were rotating as the starting center during Summer League and both spent nearly the entire season together in the D League with the Pacers affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Christmas has a contract that is fully guaranteed for this season, so Whittington was in an uphill battle to show the front office and coaching staff that he deserved that final spot on the roster.

Whittington averaged 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds while playing in only 27 games in his two seasons with the Pacers. He was signed as an undrafted free agent from Western Michigan.

Christmas stays on the roster and continues a transaction tree that goes all the way back to Dale Davis. 

Coach K: Paul George is “playing the best basketball of his life”

Team USA easily won their exhibition contest against Argentina tonight with a final score of 111-74. Kevin Durant led the team in scoring with 23 points, while the Pacers Paul George added 18 points on 7 for 11 shooting with 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals.

Coach K has been very impressed with George’s performance through the process.

“I think he’s playing the best basketball of his life right now,” Coach K said after the exhibition.  Continue reading Coach K: Paul George is “playing the best basketball of his life”

Dude, GR3 ain’t Perfect when it comes to trick shots

Glenn Robinson III visited the Plainfield Fire Department earlier today, and they had a little fun with the fire truck’s ladder.

While they were forcing Robinson to face his fear of heights, he attempted a trick shot from that high distance. It did not go like all those YouTube videos of trick shots that edit out attempts that go like this one.  Continue reading Dude, GR3 ain’t Perfect when it comes to trick shots

Myles Turner impressive during USA scrimmages

Myles Turner seems poised for a huge second season with Larry Bird complimenting his progress and new teammate Al Jefferson as a mentor, and now he’s showing off his improvement while scrimmaging against the Olympic roster for USA with the Select Team.

Yesterday, he blocked his own teammate Paul George on a drive to the rim. George even gives his teammate a little pat to say nice job after the play.

“I think just getting the invite alone is something that automatically comes with your game elevating,” George said last month. “You take that as he’s one of the best young prospects coming up. He’s only going to get better.”

George’s words before the event seem to be true already. Today, Marc Spears of ESPN and Ethan Strauss both commented on his superb play in the scrimmage.

Turner was noted with a stuff of DeMarcus Cousins (already a member of the Myles High Club) and then hitting a three at the other end by Strauss. 

Turner adding a little extra range to his shot would be huge for spacing in the offense and more importantly the block coming on a post up against one of the toughest players to guard down low is a very encouraging sign for his post defense next year.

Spears said Turner was playing like he should be on the Olympic team and not just the Select Team.

Turner’s clearly taking advantage of his opportunity to play against some of the best talent in the NBA. He was very excited for the chance to improve before the camp started.

“I approach each day with a different goal in mind,” said Turner of his offseason to the Indy Star. “What can I get accomplished that day, and I don’t leave until I get the goal accomplished. I’m very focused and dedicated to where I want to go and where I want to be one day.”

George told the Indy Star that he believes that Turner’s work ethic and desire to improve will lead to future All Star appearances and noted his efforts to improve his body and movement.

The sky’s the limit for Turner with his tireless work ethic and an already large amount of talent. Pacers fans can look  forward to many more players becoming members of the Myles High Club through the years.

Report: Aaron Brooks expected to sign 1-year deal with Pacers

Update: Shams now reports that the deal is done between Brooks and the Pacers : 1 year, $2.5 million and will be signed this week.

Continue reading Report: Aaron Brooks expected to sign 1-year deal with Pacers

New numbers for the new Pacers

Pacers officially announced the acquisitions of Thaddeus Young, Jeff Teague, and Jeremy Evans earlier today and each player had to choose a new number from the one worn the previous season.

Thad Young will rock the former number of David West, during his Pacers time with number 21. His former number with the Nets (30) is retired in honor of ABA great George McGinnis.

Continue reading New numbers for the new Pacers

Glenn Robinson III, Georges Niang continue to impress in Summer League play

The Pacers fell to the Pistons in their third game of Summer League play after a late rally fell short as Joe Young’s tying layup attempt somehow bounced out, 80-76. Their record is now 1-2.

More important than the results of a very entertaining, but meaningless game, a couple of the Pacers young players played very well with challenging matchups.

Glenn Robinson III was up against the Pistons previous first-round pick and defensive stalwart Stanley Johnson. GR3 put up 20 points and 7 rebounds, while going back and forth matching bucket for bucket with Johnson in the closing minutes of the game.

At the same time, Georges Niang, the 50th pick in the draft, went up against Henry Ellenson, who the Pistons picked at 18. Niang put up 14 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.  Continue reading Glenn Robinson III, Georges Niang continue to impress in Summer League play

Lance Stephenson considering a return to the Pacers

Born Ready may become Reborn Ready soon. Nate Taylor of the Indy Star reports that Lance Stephenson is considering a return to the Pacers as he mulls offers from multiple teams. Both sides appear to be interested in the possible reunion.

Stephenson has played for three teams since turning down the Pacers 5 year, $44 million deal just two years ago. After a challenging year with the Hornets, he was traded to the Clippers. The Clippers then traded him during last season to the injury-riddled Grizzlies where Stephenson started to find his groove as a player again. He averaged over 14 points per game while with Memphis, but the team declined his $9.4 million team option which made him an unrestricted free agent.  Continue reading Lance Stephenson considering a return to the Pacers

Pacers Summer League Game 2 Grades and Recap

In a sluggish, whistle-filled game, the Pacers Summer League squad lost to the Hornets 80-70. Glenn Robinson III and Shayne Whittington were the only double-digit scorers for the Pacers as the team seemed to struggle offensively against a more physical opponent than yesterday’s game. The first half was hard to watch as it was dominated by officiating. You know it’s a bad sign in the Summer League when the refs are a topic of conversation for the broadcast team. If you missed the analysis and highlights from Game 1, they are here. Much more positive notes to take from that game than this one.

Joe Young: 6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 0 turnovers in 22 minutes. (2 of 6 from field, 0 of 2 from 3-point range)

Grade: B-  Continue reading Pacers Summer League Game 2 Grades and Recap

ESPN reports Pacers, Kings have discussed Rudy Gay deal

Yesterday, there were some rumblings from unreliable sources and today Marc Stein of ESPN has reported that the Pacers and Kings have discussed a potential deal that would send Rudy Gay to the Pacers.

Continue reading ESPN reports Pacers, Kings have discussed Rudy Gay deal

Summer League Game 1 Grades: Indiana Pacers 93, Orlando Blue 66

The Pacers couldn’t have asked for a much better showing from their five-rostered players in their first Summer League game as they combined for 75 points in the blowout win over the Orlando Blue, 93-66. Keep reading for a look at each of those player’s performances and some highlights.

Joe Young: 22 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 5 turnovers (8 of 12 from the field, 5 of 7 from 3-point territory)

Grade: B+  Continue reading Summer League Game 1 Grades: Indiana Pacers 93, Orlando Blue 66

Pacers & Al Jefferson agree in principle to 3-year, $30 million deal

The Indiana Pacers have made some noise in free agency. According to Woj, the Pacers have agreed in principle to a deal with veteran center Al Jefferson on a 3 year, $30 million deal.

Jefferson will immediately give the Pacers a post-scoring threat off the bench at the center position. Last season, the 31-year-old Jefferson averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds in only 23 minutes per game. Injuries have been an issue for him recently as he was limited to only 47 games last year. If you’re unfamiliar with Jefferson’s game, prepare yourself for a plethora of impressively effective pump fakes and slow moving post moves.  Continue reading Pacers & Al Jefferson agree in principle to 3-year, $30 million deal

Pacers express an interest in Willie Reed

Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders reports that the Pacers and Timberwolves have expressed interest in Willie Reed. You may be thinking, “Who?” So, let me fill you in.

Kennedy sees Reed as a potential steal in free agency, and the numbers back him up. In Reed’s first year in the NBA, his per 36 minutes numbers were outstanding: 15.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. His PER is a terrific 19.2 and has a positive Net Rating (+8) and On/Off rating (+0.4).  Continue reading Pacers express an interest in Willie Reed

Pacers Summer League Preview

The Indiana Pacers announced their roster for the Orlando Summer League earlier this week. The roster features many familiar faces including five players likely to suit up for the blue and gold next season and will be coached by Popeye Jones, Pacers assistant coach. The team will play five games that will run through the heart of the NBA free agency madness from July 2 through July 8 (Pacers schedule below). No one’s playing in the Summer League without something to prove and we’ll look at what some of the key players on the roster need to work on.  Continue reading Pacers Summer League Preview

Potential Free Agent Targets for the Pacers

The Pacers have already had a busy offseason: adding two starters in Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young before the NBA draft. These two likely starters will most likely be the biggest moves Larry Bird and the Pacers make in preparation for the 2016-2017 season. They have two remaining spots on their roster available if they plan to sign second-round pick, Georges Niang. ICYMI: Here’s an in-depth analysis on what the Pacers are likely to do with their own free agents. I recommend reading that post before this one.

Depending on whether the Pacers decide to keep any of their free agents, they are generally seen to have anywhere from $12 – 20 million in cap space (depending on whether or not they want to keep Ian Mahinmi) to spend on the last two roster spots and a potential renegotiation of the newly acquired Teague’s contract. While the Pacers could look to trade one of their ball dominant guards (Monta Ellis, Rodney Stuckey), nothing has indicated to this point that is part of Bird’s plan. During his post-draft press conference, Kevin Pritchard, the Pacers General Manager and second in command to Bird, mentioned how the Pacers see other teams having success by always having four or five playmakers on the court at all times. Bird likely sees both Ellis and Stuckey as key pieces that the Pacers will need for their plan to fill the court with playmakers. I could go on and on about the potential pitfalls here for the Pacers, so that’s another post for another day. For the sake of this article, I will assume the Pacers are not planning on trading away any of their current pieces. (I’m sure since I wrote this that Bird will quickly trade away someone before free agency even starts.)

Since the Pacers have only a max of about $20 million in cap room, we can immediately cross off the cream of the crop in this free agency class: Kevin Durant, Nicolas Batum, Al Horford, and Mike Conley. The Pacers likely never had much of a chance at any of these guys anyway despite awesome hashtags like #KevINDYrant. They will not be discussed here as viable options. One other thing that should be known about the Pacers: they do not go after restricted free agents (RFA) per the owner’s policy. So, going after young guys just coming off of their rookie contracts like Allen Crabbe, Evan Fournier, Troy Daniels, etc. will not be an option for Bird and the Pacers due to this organizational limitation.

With the Pacers starting lineup likely set barring another trade,– Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner– the Pacers will be looking for players that can fill specific bench roles with their last two spots on the roster. Here are some options (both good and bad):  Continue reading Potential Free Agent Targets for the Pacers

Nate McMillan fills out coaching staff

Indiana Pacers announced who all will be on Nate McMillan’s coaching staff. Defensive guru Dan Burke and Popeye Jones both will return, while McMillan adds Bill Bayno as his top assistant. Bayno and McMillman worked together during nearly all of McMillan’s time as a head coach with the Portland Trailblazers.

“I was impressed with him then,” said McMillan on his time with Bayno in Portland, “and always hoped I would have the opportunity to work with him again.”  Continue reading Nate McMillan fills out coaching staff