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Pacers Summer League: The surprising, the solid, and the underwhelming performances in Las Vegas

Indiana Pacers Summer League squad will not leave Las Vegas without a victory after winning their consolation game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Alize Johnson and DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell combined for 49 points and 23 rebounds to lead the way for Indiana as many players sat out with minor injuries.

This was surprisingly the most fun game to watch over the course of the week. With Aaron Holiday, Edmond Sumner, Brian Bowen and Goga Bitadze all out, Johnson and Akoon-Purcell carried the team and provided an entertaining finish to Summer League play for Indiana.

Let’s take one last look at how the important players performed this week in Vegas:

Alize Johnson

We’ll start with the star of the final game. Johnson put on a clinic in non-stop effort for rebounds on the offensive glass and had secured a double double in the first half.

He finished the week with three double doubles and showed that effort on the glass consistently. He averaged 16.4 points and 9.6 rebounds.

In Thursday’s game, Johnson’s transition passing was on full display as he had five assists and four of them set up 3-pointers. He has great ability in getting a defensive rebound, pushing the pace and either going all the way to the rim or finding an open teammate in transition.

Johnson started off 0 for 6 from behind the arc but made 3 of his last 9 attempts from long distance in the final two games. Even with his struggles shooting the long ball, he was one of only a couple Pacers with an efficient shooting percentage as he made 48% of his attempts overall. A consistent jump shot is the biggest thing he could add to his game to increase his odds of success in the league.

Johnson has a partial guarantee on his contract that the Pacers will have to make a decision about next week but there would be minimal salary cap benefits to cutting him, there’s already two open roster spots, and he still looks like a player that has the potential to find a niche in the NBA.

Aaron Holiday

Holiday sat out the final game with a sore hip but made just 6 of 26 shot attempts in his last Summer League game and shot just 30% on 69 shot attempts over three games. You probably heard more expletives out of frustration from Holiday this week than made shots. It was not an encouraging week for the second-year point guard out of UCLA.

He was among the leaders in points scored per game at 22.3 but got increasingly inefficient. His decision making as the lead ball handler left a lot to be desired as he took tough shots in the lane and struggled to make the right reads on his passes. The lack of a true center and shooting on the roster didn’t help, but the Pacers certainly were hoping for a better showing from someone in line for a rotation role.

It’s important to note that this is just Summer League. Holiday’s performance here doesn’t mean that he won’t succeed by the time the regular season comes around. His week looks a lot better if he’s able to make some open shots but there are clearly things for him to improve on before training camp if he doesn’t want to be in a tighter than expected battle with T.J. McConnell for those backup minutes.

He did show some flashes of good things with some tough finishes at the rim and some excellent transition defense.

Brian Bowen II

Bowen looked deserving of that 2-way contract. He missed the final game with a sore back. On Thursday, he had his best game in Vegas as he put up 17 points and 7 rebounds. In the first quarter of that game, he scored 9 points in a stretch of about 45 seconds. He shot the ball better than anyone on the roster.

Bowen made some nice passes throughout his three games including this behind-the-back pass that set up a Johnson 3-pointer. He moved the ball well, played within himself. He led the Pacers in field goal percentage by making half of his 22 shot attempts while averaging 12.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He’ll be someone to keep an eye on throughout this season.

DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell

DAP looked like one the Pacers best players on the roster throughout his five games and was easily the best player of the NBA hopefuls looking for a contract. He finished off his Summer League time with a 13-point fourth quarter that saw him hit a couple threes and have a few nice takes to the basket. He averaged 14 points and 6 rebounds.

Akoon-Purcell could be a candidate for the other 2-way contract the Pacers have available. He struggled with finishing at the basket at various times in Vegas but had some impressive moments getting to the rim. It sometimes seemed like he was just out of gas. Shooting only 37% this week the big negative for him. He played a little with the Denver Nuggets in his rookie season so he has some NBA experience.

Goga Bitadze

Bitadze missed Summer League because of issues with his getting his visa approved in time. It was finally all resolved today and he was back in Indiana, but there was no real point in rushing him out for one exhibition game with no practices with his teammates. We’ll have to wait until preseason to get our first look at the first-round pick in a Pacers uniform.

Edmond Sumner

Sumner got just one game before a foot injury that kept him out of many of the practices prior to Summer League also held him out the rest of the week. He agreed to a new 3-year deal with the Pacers this offseason and looked a little anxious to prove he was worthy of it in his one game. He missed his first six shots and struggled with his handle. It was a forgettable performance.

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Pacers Summer League struggles continue

Indiana Pacers had another rough game overall in the Las Vegas Summer League as they lost 102-84 to the Detroit Pistons. Aaron Holiday struggled with running the offense against an NBA-caliber defender and Goga Bitadze (visa issues) and Edmond Sumner (sore foot) missed the second game.

As always, the results of these Pacers Summer League games don’t really matter but some of the details can give us insight. Here’s positives and negatives to takeaway from the second game.

Aaron Holiday

This was not a good game for the Pacers second-year point guard. It raised concerns about his ability to run an offense at an NBA level based on his decision making. In the first half, he went 2 for 9 from the floor and had four turnovers. Bruce Brown of the Pistons made his life difficult on offense and forced him into tough shots and Holiday didn’t do himself any favors by jumping in the air with nowhere to go. Continue reading Pacers Summer League struggles continue

What to watch for during Pacers Summer League

Indiana Pacers start their Summer League play on Saturday in Las Vegas. It’s a chance to see the rookies Goga Bitadze (if his visa issues are worked out) and Brian Bowen II for the first time in the blue and gold and to watch for a lot of the team’s younger players (Aaron Holiday, Edmond Sumner, and Alize Johnson) in larger roles than the normally have as they try to make their case for more playing time.

The results of the games may be meaningless but you can gain some insight by what happens during them. It’s always important to never overreact to anything good or bad during Summer League. A good week in Vegas doesn’t mean a player is destined for stardom and a bad week doesn’t mean they are doomed to be a bust. It can be a positive or negative sign for the player’s career certainly but it’s not definitive proof one way or another.

These games do have real consequences. Solomon Hill is the biggest example of that for the Pacers. Hill played so poorly in his third trip to the Orlando Summer League in 2015 that it likely factored into the team’s choice to decline the team option on the fourth season of his rookie contract. It ended up working out great for Hill, who ended up with a huge payday from the Pelicans after a half season of solid shooting, but these games help inform team’s decisions and guys are playing for their NBA lives in many cases.

Schedule:

The Pacers are scheduled for four games in Las Vegas and will play a minimum of five games, depending on how they do once tournament play begins. Many of the players that are likely to be on Indiana’s roster may only play those first four games, perhaps only three.

  • Saturday, July 6: Grizzlies at 7:00 p.m. on NBATV
  • Monday, July 8: Pistons at 5:00 p.m. on ESPNU
  • Tuesday, July 9: Hawks at 5:30 p.m. on NBATV
  • Thursday, July 11: Raptors at 6:00 p.m. on NBATV

Goga Bitadze

The Pacers first-round pick hasn’t been able to practice with the rest of the Summer League squad because of visa issues, but the hope is that he’ll be able to meet the team in Las Vegas to play at least a few games.

This would be the first chance for most Pacers fans to see the rookie in game action since he played professionally in Europe. In Europe, he was dominant as a teenager. He won the Adriatic League MVP award in 2019 and won the EuroLeague Rising Star and Adriatic League Top Prospect awards as well. Continue reading What to watch for during Pacers Summer League