Niang sprained his knee in the opening minutes of Summer League this season during a time he was probably auditioning to keep his spot on the roster. With TJ Leaf and Domantas Sabonis added to the roster, Niang’s ideal position of power forward has become crowded.
The Pacers have 14 players with contracts on the roster. The team, per source, plans to make another move relatively soon.
Niang played in just 23 games in his rookie season after being drafted in the second round in 2016. In his four minutes per game, he scored just 0.9 points and added 0.7 rebounds and 0.2 assists.
Niang impressed in the Summer League last season, showing off his high basketball IQ on offense. It’s surprising he was never given a chance as the backup power forward last season as the Pacers struggled to find a good fit at that spot, struggling with double plodders for much of the season.
Thank you Indiana my time with the pacers organization was special Thankful to have been apart of a special year thank you for the memories
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.
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.
The first of two straight assists for Joe Young, who has found shooters in the corners often in the first two games. pic.twitter.com/2Liw6fXCee
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.
One thing Leaf will definitely have to learn is hedging on the pick and roll. This will be easy buckets for opponents in regular season. pic.twitter.com/YaLq7OqSls
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.
Ben Moore makes a lot of winning plays. Hustles, passes it to the right guy, plays D. I get why he's seen as potential undrafted success.
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 Turner: No, 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.
Tomorrow, the Indiana Pacers start their annual Summer League games in Orlando, continuing to prefer the more intimate atmosphere without fans over the Las Vegas Summer League.
The Summer League is made up of players trying to prove something whether it’s a young player with an NBA contract trying to show they deserve playing time when the real games start (like Glenn Robinson III last year) or an NBA hopeful just trying to catch the eye of some team that will give them a shot in the league (Willie Reed dominated Summer League for a couple of years before finally getting a contract from the Nets).
This is often the first time fans get to see their new draft picks play with their NBA team and get excited with their potential (Myles Turner, Paul George, Lance Stephenson).
It’s important to remember that you can’t overreact to anything that happens in these ultimately meaningless games. These are a group of guys that got thrown together a week prior and it often looks like bad pickup basketball. Some players will play great in Orlando against these young hopefuls, but struggle once the regular season starts (Joe Young). Others won’t take these games seriously and look like they don’t belong in the NBA at all, but once the regular season starts, they start to show their value and abilities again (Solomon Hill).
With that said, there’s still value in these games (otherwise, why keep doing it every year?). Here’s a look at the Pacers roster and what the Pacers will be looking for out of each player:
Joe Young: In Young’s third Summer League, his experience should make him one of the best players on the court at all times. The Pacers will be looking at how well Young can run an offense as a point guard and how well he defends on the other end. Kevin Pritchard gave Young a vote of confidence in his press conference saying he could potentially play off the ball with Lance Stephenson running the point, but Young’s clearest path to a consistent role in the NBA is if he can play at the point guard position.
According to Spotrac.com, Young’s contract becomes guaranteed tomorrow for next season, so Joe should be on the roster next year. But this may be his final season to prove he’s an NBA player as 2018-19 is a team option for the Pacers.
Georges Niang: Niang played very well in the Summer League last season, showing off his high basketball IQ and scoring ability. It’s still a surprise that Niang was never given an opportunity last year as a stretch four especially with limited spacing coming from the bench units, but Nate McMillan must have been too concerned about Niang’s defense. The Pacers will be watching Niang on that end of the court this week as he has showed in the past that while his basketball IQ gets him to the right spots, his limited athleticism gives him problems on that end.
Rakeem Christmas: For the second straight summer, Christmas is playing to keep his contract. Last year, Christmas beat out Shayne Whittington. This year the Pacers have a load of centers already on the roster: Myles Turner, Al Jefferson, Kevin Seraphin, Christmas, and second-round pick Ike Anigbogu. The Pacers did decline Lavoy Allen’s team option.
Christmas will have to show that he’s worthy of keeping around. He showed his value in a brief stretch in February as an energetic big off the bench that sets screens and rebounds. The problem Christmas had was defending without fouling. Seeing a theme yet? He’s another player to watch on the defensive end.
TJ Leaf: The Pacers first-round pick will miss Saturday’s game to be the best man at his brother’s wedding, but when he comes back, the Pacers will get their first look at Leaf in an NBA setting. Leaf shot the 3-pointer well for UCLA but on limited attempts so it’ll be interesting to see if his range goes out to the NBA 3-point line. Leaf shows off some great athleticism in finishing some dunks at the rim, but defensively he needs a lot of work, especially in the pick and roll. How well the 19-year-old rookie plays on that end will likely determine how much playing he can get this year.
Leaf’s fellow draft picks Ike Anigbogu and Edmond Sumner will not play due to injury.
Ben Moore: Moore, who the Pacers signed to a partially guaranteed contract, has been described as a potential undrafted success story by the Ringer and is seen to have potential defensively as a modern big man that can switch everything on screens. The key for Moore making a place for himself in the NBA will be on the offensive end where he didn’t show much ability to shoot at SMU.
Augusto Lima: Lima is Brazilian and is under contract with Real Madrid currently, but he could be bought out by an NBA team. He’s a 6’10” center that runs the floor well and can make some phenomenal rim protections plays. He went undrafted in 2013, but the Pacers had been scouting his progress in Europe since then.
Jordan Loyd: Loyd played at the University of Indianapolis and last season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. He averaged 15/4/4 with Fort Wayne last season and was getting some NBA attention at the end of the season. He’ll also play in the Las Vegas Summer League with the Raptors.
D-League guard Jordan Loyd is attracting NBA interest. Headed to Nets mini-camp, then audition for Clippers, Summer League with Pacers.
Bubu Palo: Another former Cyclone, Palo averaged 16.1 points and 5 assists for Sioux Falls Skyforce in his third season in the D-League.
Jarnell Stokes: This power forward has played 28 NBA games in his career over the past three seasons with the Grizzlies, Heat and Nuggets. He was a D-League All Star two years ago averaging over 20 points and 9 rebounds per game.
Chris Johnson: Johnson has nearly 150 NBA games on his resume after playing for six teams in four seasons, but spent last year in the D-League, averaging 13.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Travis Leslie: Leslie, a 6’4″ guard, played for the Mad Ants last season averaging 13.9 points and 6.2 rebounds.
Trey McKinney-Jones: Another member of the Mad Ants last season, McKinney-Jones has spent three of the last four years with Fort Wayne. Last year, he averaged 16.6 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game.
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.
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)
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)
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→
Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard seemed very pleased in his post-draft press conference that Niang was still available when the Pacers were on the clock.
“We thought very highly of him,” said Pritchard on the 23-year-old Niang, who averaged 20.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists last season. “We didn’t think he’d get to 50. We had him a lot higher on the board, so we were pretty excited that he got to 50.” Continue reading Pacers draft a playmaker in Georges Niang→