Tag Archives: featured

Breaking down what T.J. Warren brings to the Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers new acquisition T.J. Warren brings a versatile scoring ability that should give his new team a boost offensively next season. In a deal that came as a surprise, Warren’s production eerily matches his predecessor in the starting lineup and he’ll have his first opportunity to play for a team that expects to win a lot of games.

“It makes me feel great,” Warren said of the Pacers making a deal for him. “I feel like every day matters here. Every day is taken seriously. I’m ready to contribute to that.”

After a five-year start to his career stuck in a perpetual rebuild in the desert with the Suns, it’s understandable why he feels that way.

For the Pacers, it was a trade offer they initially didn’t think was serious according to ESPN’s Amin Elhassan. All they gave up was cash and salary cap space and they received a capable scorer in Warren and the 32nd pick in the draft (which they flipped on draft night for three future second-round picks).

“We weren’t expecting that one,” Kevin Pritchard told Mark Montieth of Pacers.com of the Warren trade. “But when it came, we made the decision in five minutes. We knew it was the right thing.” Continue reading Breaking down what T.J. Warren brings to the Indiana Pacers

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Malcolm Brogdon makes perfect sense for the Pacers

The Indiana Pacers addressed one of their flaws from last season by bringing in Malcolm Brogdon as their new starting point guard.

The Indiana Pacers finally got a running-mate worthy of sharing the backcourt with Victor Oladipo in the form of Malcolm Brogdon. The 26-year-old former member of the Milwaukee Bucks isn’t a short-term solution or specialist serving as a band-aid — he is the future of the position for Indiana.

Last season we saw how the Pacers couldn’t score when it mattered, especially in the playoffs. but that won’t be an issue with Brogdon. He isn’t an efficient but safe player like Darren Collison was. He isn’t a defensive maven that might go a month shooting 28.4% like Cory Joseph did.

Numbers-wise, Brogdon averaged 15.6 points per game on a 50.5/42.6/92.8 shooting line while handing out 3.2 assists and grabbing 4.5 rebounds. Of the players that recently served in the role he will with the Pacers, no one scored more, was more accurate, or rebounded better than Brogdon. Continue reading Malcolm Brogdon makes perfect sense for the Pacers

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? Continue reading Final touches the Pacers can make in free agency

Indiana Pacers cash in on their flexibility with Brogdon, Lamb

The Indiana Pacers will look very different than its last iteration when the new season starts after making some major moves on the first night of free agency. Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb are arriving and Bojan Bogdanovic and Thad Young are departing.

When Kevin Pritchard took over for Larry Bird as President of Basketball Operations, he immediately set out to have a lot of flexibility in the deals that he signed and the roster he constructed after completing the trade for Victor Oladipo. Darren Collison and Bogdanovic both got two-year deals with partial guarantees for the second season to give the Pacers plenty of options. Cory Joseph was acquired with just two years on his deal.

Even while signing short-term contracts, a fantastic culture was created behind their 3T mantra of toughness, togetherness and trust as well as the sheer positivity of Victor Oladipo permeating through the entire franchise. The chemistry of the group was the best they’ve had in recent memory.

They could have tried to cash in on the flexibility to an extent last off-season by letting Darren Collison, Bogdanovic go with their small partial guarantees but Pritchard remained patient waiting for the right opportunity and kept the overachieving team together one more season while still keeping the books relatively clean for the next off-season with short deals (Tyreke Evans and Kyle O’Quinn for one year, no new deal for Young who opted into his player option).

All of it led to this summer with Indiana having more cap space than they’ve likely ever had that could be used to sign free agents or make trades with teams looking for cap space. For Pritchard, this period could end up defining his tenure with the Paces as much as the Oladipo/Paul George swap for better or for worse. The big questions were what would he be able to do with the large amount of available money for a team that hasn’t had much success in attracting free agents over the course of its existence and whether that flexibility that he worked hard to maintain lead to anything at all.

It’s hard to imagine a better scenario coming to fruition than what transpired last night (at least one that’s realistic) in what was a whirlwind in the first 45 minutes of free agency.

Continue reading Indiana Pacers cash in on their flexibility with Brogdon, Lamb

Pacers Free Agency: Russell, Brogdon, Rozier

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.

D’Angelo Russell

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%. Continue reading Pacers Free Agency: Russell, Brogdon, Rozier

Writing is on the wall for many Pacers free agents

One thing appears certain for the Indiana Pacers as the off-season approaches: changes are coming. With so many veteran free agents on the roster and the team getting swept in the first round, they’ll be looking to make upgrades.

Based on the comments from Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard at Wednesday’s press conference, the writing may be on the wall for more than a few major contributors from last year’s team including Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Tyreke Evans, Wesley Matthews and perhaps even team captain Thad Young.

“We’re willing to think big,” said Pritchard.  “… I’m super proud of this team, but we have to improve our talent.  The Boston loss was as challenging a series as I’ve ever been a part of. I thought we’d win a few games. We all have to look in the mirror and look at our process. We’ve got to get better.”

To get better, Pritchard seems focused on upgrading the offensive end. Specifically, he’s looking for a creator.

“We need some creation,” Pritchard said of what the team needs to improve. “We need a guy that can break down a defense … When [Victor Oladipo] played, he was that creator. When we signed [Tyreke Evans], we wanted him to be that creator.”

He also mentioned needing more shooting, wanting to get faster and wanting to have an improved passing team. He pointed out that this creator doesn’t have to be a guard but these comments seemed focused on a few players that may be looking for new teams: Collison and Joseph, who both do a lot of positive things but creating for others is not a strength for either.

While the pair of guards do a tremendous job taking care of the basketball and have very high assist-to-turnover ratios that put them among the league leaders (3.67 for Collison and 4.01 for Joseph), they also rarely take any chances with the ball and only make the safe pass. They aren’t guys that break down the defense with ease by getting to the rim and forcing defenders to help.

Collison loves to take a big man in isolation after a switch but rarely attacks the basket in those scenarios, instead going for a pull-up, mid-range attempt and struggles to make quick post entry passes to bigs wanting to take advantage of a mismatch.

Joseph is one of the league’s best defensive guards but went through an entire month near the end of the season where he couldn’t make a jump shot. He’s likely best suited to be a backup and that’s probably Aaron Holiday’s job in 2019-20.

“I feel he should be a rotational player next season,” McMillan said of Holiday. “There’s certainly some areas that he’s going to need to grow, but I like what he brings to the floor. He’s a young kid that has a great deal of confidence in himself. I think he can help us. … He certainly should be in the rotation next year.”

McMillan praised the tempo and shooting of Holiday, two of the things that Pritchard wants to add to the team. McMillan did mention that he can play both guard positions, so still hypothetically possible there would be room for both of Joseph and Collison on the roster. However, Holiday’s rotation spot alone would seem to seal the fate for at least one of them.

While Pritchard talked about the importance of continuity to a team, it’s clear he doesn’t plan on simply bringing everyone back. Especially after that playoff series, he knows the team has to get more talent to get deeper into the postseason even with Oladipo.

“I tend to (focus) on how do we keep this core together and add to it,” Pritchard said. “Our goal will be to add to this team and keep it together. I think there are some special players.”

It seems safe to say that after a disappointing year with Evans, the Pacers won’t be re-signing him again to be that creator Pritchard covets either. With Evans coming off a 1-year deal and no Bird Rights, the Pacers would have to use cap space to re-sign him, making it even more unlikely that he’ll return. That also applies to Wesley Matthews, who may search elsewhere for a starting gig anyway based on his reasoning for joining Indiana after getting bought out by the Knicks.

One player that Pritchard did say was a creator on the roster already is Domantas Sabonis.

“I think he wants a bigger role, and I think we have to figure out how to get him a bigger role,” said Pritchard on Sabonis. “He is a major force offensively. He can be a player that has huge impact not just as a sixth man. Maybe as a starter but that’s yet to be seen.”

Could that bigger role come at the expense of Thad Young’s place on the team? Young was lauded by Pritchard for his leadership after Oladipo was injured but not much was said about his upcoming free agency or trying to bring him back.

When Pritchard talked about continuity, he mentioned the importance of having veterans that carry the team’s culture over year to year, era to era to the newcomers as something he learned from Larry Bird and Donnie Walsh. Young would seem to be an important piece in that regard.

Working against Young, however, are his age and his lack of shooting. Young is likely looking for one last long-term contract, but it’s unclear if Indiana wants to commit to him for a few more years. Like Joseph, he’s another player that’s phenomenal defensively but limited on offense where Pritchard sees the need to improve.

Caitlin Cooper of Indy Cornrows showed how Young’s lack of shooting ability can hinder the offense and in particular how much the Pacers can’t utilize the skills of Myles Turner because of it. Pritchard mentioned needing to get Turner more involved offensively next season and having a different frontcourt partner could help.

The Pacers also could be looking to see a lot more of Sabonis playing alongside Myles Turner as the former approaches the end of his rookie contract. It’s been a mixed bag in the first two seasons of the pairing but Pritchard seems confident in the duo.

“Good players figure it out,” said Pritchard on playing Sabonis and Turner together more often. “… I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into anything because of our flexibility. I want to build a roster that’s really good, but in my mind I see those guys playing a lot of minutes together.”

Young seems more likely to return than the pair of veteran point guards but signs may be pointing to him finding a new home this summer as well.

The one free agent that Pritchard openly discussed wanting back is Bojan Bogdanovic, who he also recognized as likely having lots of possible suitors in free agency.

“On July 1st, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a pretty good conversation with Bojan,” Pritchard said.

Bringing Bogdanovic back would be another potential option as the starting power forward besides Sabonis depending on what other moves are made by the team in the off-season. This could also be another reason that Young’s time in Indiana ends. Of all the team’s free agents, Bogdanovic seems the most likely to return.

Expect a lot of new faces in the blue and gold next season.

 

How Alize Johnson could help the Indiana Pacers this season

As the 50th overall draft pick, the Indiana Pacers rookie Alize Johnson has an uphill climb to make an impact on an NBA roster.

That’s nothing new for him. He’s been the overlooked underdog throughout his high school and college career. His story of small high-school guard as a freshman to junior college to Missouri State is well known by Pacers fans by now.

“I have to do things different,” Johnson said before Summer League play. “Being the underdog I have to show some things that I can do consistently. Rebounding is effort. I’m all about hard work and getting into the gyms. Not really being the most athletic person, but just having the grit to go up there every time and get it is something that’s still in my blood. I have siblings back home and a family rooting for me, so when I’m up there grabbing rebounds, that’s what I’m doing it for.”

If you watched him play in Summer League, you were likely to get at least a little caught up in the Alize hype as his high-motor rebounding was on full display and his ability to start the fastbreak was a highlight of the Pacers play in Las Vegas.

“When you’re picking that deep in the draft, the likelihood of that player succeeding, the percentages are certainly working against him,” Pacers GM Chad Buchanan said after the draft, “so you look for like one trait or one skill that a guy possesses that would give him a chance. And Alize has two things for me; he has tremendous motor, and he just has an innate ability to track down rebounds.”

Pacers coach Nate McMillan caught Alize fever during the exhibition games in Vegas.

Continue reading How Alize Johnson could help the Indiana Pacers this season

Victor Oladipo sees the East as wide open, Pacers ready to do something special

Victor Oladipo is making his media rounds lately and appeared on ESPN’s morning show Get Up! to talk about a variety of topics including being traded twice, about the state of the Eastern Conference after LeBron James decided to go to Los Angeles and about that missed goaltending call in the playoffs.

Michelle Beadle, one of the hosts of the show, wanted to know what players in the East felt like when James, who has dominated the conference, decided to go to a Western Conference team.

“When I first heard about it, I was a little upset,” said Oladipo. “I like playing against the best player in the world and competing against him and seeing where you’re at.”

Despite Oladipo’s love of the competition, he does realize that this an opportunity for the team to take the next step.

Continue reading Victor Oladipo sees the East as wide open, Pacers ready to do something special