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Should Rakeem Christmas remain in the rotation?

With a 31-30 record, the Indiana Pacers currently occupy 7th place in the Eastern Conference standings.  If the team wants to make a push for a higher seed in the playoffs, these remaining 21 games are of the utmost importance.  

As the playoffs get closer, the Pacers and other teams will be looking to solidify their rotations.  Since the All-Star break, Rakeem Christmas has provided a nice boost of energy as the backup center, his effort has been contagious for the bench, and his last name has only added to Pacers’ lore with wonderful (or terrible) Christmas puns.  

Christmas, who was drafted in the 2015 draft by the Timberwolves, traded to the Cavaliers on draft night, and then later traded to the Pacers during the summer for a future 2019 second-round pick that can be traced all the way back to when the Pacers drafted Dale Davis, had yet to receive meaningful minutes on the big stage in his career until now.

The Pacers matchup versus the Memphis Grizzlies on February 24th provided Christmas, who averaged 17.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in his senior season at Syracuse, his biggest opportunity to date in just his ninth career game played, and he did not disappoint.

“I’m really proud of Rakeem being called up and he sparked us and played huge minutes,” said 4-time All-Star Paul George after the Christmas debut.  “It’s a tough task playing against Zach (Randolph) and Marc (Gasol), but he did an unbelievable job.  I thought he could have helped us a lot earlier.”

With veteran Al Jefferson unable to suit up due to dental pain, Christmas filled in. The athletic center played 14 solid minutes while posting four points, five rebounds and a block.  These are not eye-popping numbers, but the energy Christmas provided off the bench would help lift his teammates to victory over the Grizzlies, ending a then 6-game losing streak.

“I’ve been waiting on him,” said Glenn Robinson III, the newly minted NBA Slam Dunk Champion. “I think the whole team has been waiting on him to make the move.  I don’t know why they don’t play him.  He screens, he rebounds.  It’s crazy, like signing a dude for (two) years and don’t play him.  I’m just happy he did his thing.”

Since joining the rotation against the Grizzlies, Christmas, who was a D-League All-Star last season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, has appeared in four consecutive games. Christmas has averaged the following stats per game in this stretch:

15.8 minutes – 58% FG made – 4.8 points 

4 rebounds – 0.75 blocks – 3.5 fouls

While fresh off his inspiring play in his debut, Christmas elaborated, “I just wanted to come out and do what I do.  That’s what I did and that boosted everyone’s confidence, and we started enjoying the game and getting after it.  My team has been great, very encouraging for me.  They kept telling me to wait my turn.  Tonight came and it’s been great so far.”

While Christmas struggled in his last game against the San Antonio Spurs with four fouls, three turnovers and only a single point, rebound and block, his first three games were impressive for a player in his first meaningful time on the court. Against the Houston Rockets, Christmas put up a career-high 10 points, three rebounds, and was +19 while on the court.

While playing limited minutes, the talent and desire are there for Christmas.  The biggest hindrance for him receiving more playing time seems to be himself.  If he cannot limit his fouls, then McMillan may not keep him in the rotation.  This has been an issue through his time with the Mad Ants as well.

If Christmas can keep up his tenacity while not fouling as much, he should become a solid staple in the Pacers’ rotation.  The Pacers bench has looked much better without Al Jefferson on the court since Christmas joined the rotation as Rodney Stuckey and Monta Ellis have both played well since the All-Star break as well. This may have something to do with having more of a roll threat in the pick and roll than the slow, plodding Jefferson. The upside for Indiana to play Christmas over Jefferson is clear; by giving Christmas more experience, the Pacers will be better off in the long run.  

Larry’s team + Rakeem’s dream = Larry Christmas!

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The Paul George Situation: Should the Pacers be worried?

As the trade deadline was approaching, most Pacers fans expected some smaller moves to be made by the team. Some bench help to keep Paul George happy perhaps.

The Pacers were shopping around their 1st-round pick since it will be in the late teens, early twenties range, and the expectation was that maybe they’d do a similar deal like last year’s draft day acquisition of Thad Young from the Brooklyn Nets.

Then, seemingly out of the blue, the quiet rumblings of Paul George being traded started to become loud shouts. Pacer and NBA fans were glued to Twitter to see what would happen at the Deadline.

This was shocking to the Pacers fan base that has consistently been told that Paul George was not on the market and essentially untouchable. But now the Pacers may trade him? Why would they even consider this? And are some Pacers fans actually on board with getting rid of the superstar?

Let’s break it down the situation and bear with me, this is a bit long.

The Contract:

Paul George’s current contract runs through the 2018-2019 season, but that last season is a player option for George. PG is making $18.1 million this season, and $19.3 million for next year.  Because of the huge increase in the salary cap in the past few seasons (from $70 million in 2015-2016 season to $94 million currently), Paul George will definitely opt out of his current deal after next season and become a free agent as the cap continues to rise.

If for some reason he did keep his player option for that last year, it’d be $20.7 million. Luol Deng and Evan Turner are making more than $18 million per season in this cap climate. It would be a complete shocker if he opted in.

For his new contract (wherever it will be) Paul will fall under the 7-9 year player max bracket or 30% of the cap. So for instance in 2018 he could make $30.6 million for that season. (Up from the 20.7 million he’d make if he doesn’t opt out) Also there is the Designated Player Exception in the new CBA for star players drafted by their teams trying to re-sign them and prevent them leaving like a few stars have in recent years (Durant). Players can sign a 5-year extension on their current deal with their original team, while all other teams have only a max of four years to offer a player in free agency. So the Pacers would get to offer another year of security and $30+ million more than any other team.

(Here comes the math) Per Nat Newell of the IndyStar on Dec 15 2016 in his article entitled What does the new CBA mean to the Pacers and Paul George? The league calculates max salaries from a slightly lower figure, roughly $96 million off the cap of $102 million (2018-2019). Another team would be able to start an offer to George at 30 percent of that figure – $28.8 million. The other team can offer a 4.5 percent raise each season: $30.1 million, $31.4 million, $32.7 million for a total of $123 million over four seasons.

The Pacers can offer an extension on George’s $19.3 million contract for 2017-18. If George qualifies for the DPE: The 35 percent offer would be $33.6 million in year one of the new deal (3.5 million more than another team). They can offer 7.5 percent raises over five years: $36.1 million, $38.6 million, $41.1 million and $43.6 million for a total contract of six years, $212.3 million.

In other words, the Pacers can pay George more in year one than another team can pay him in year four. The Pacers would be able to offer $26.4 million more over four years and $70 million more total over 4.5 seasons. More in raises and more each year if he stays. But, PG needs to qualify for the DPE first.

For Paul to qualify for the new DPE he has to have on his resume either a MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, or one of three All-NBA teams the previous season he signs. OR been on All NBA/DPOY in two of the previous three seasons, or MVP once. We all know he has never been MVP or DPOY but he has made All-NBA teams. All-NBA 3rd team in 2013, 2o14, and 2016. 2015 being the season lost due to the broken leg injury.

That leg injury could end up costing PG a lot of money since he needs two All-NBA teams in three seasons. So two of three in these years: 2015, 2016, or 2017. Paul has to make an All-NBA team this year to qualify and chances right now are slim. Go through the Forwards in the NBA right now LeBron/Kawhi, Durant/Green, Butler/Hayward, along with guys like Millsap, Anthony Davis now at the four spot because of the Boogie trade, Melo? The top six spots will be tough to crack for George this season. Even with an injury to a top player like Durant, it’s going to be a challenge.

This should make the Pacers worried. They will no longer have that trump card to offer an extension to George this off-season and would have to hope that he qualified next season before he becomes a free agent.

If he doesn’t, then the field is more level between what Indiana can offer and what all the other teams can offer. I asked Steve Kyler from Basketball Insiders on Twitter what the Pacers can do if PG doesn’t land on an All-NBA team.

Basically the Pacers have some room to play. They can offer slightly larger annual raises and an extra contract year but that normally is minimal when we’re talking this kind of money with the cap on the rise each season. The same advantages home teams have wasn’t enough to get Durant to stay in OKC either.

The biggest card the Pacers have is to convince Paul to pick up his player option in 18-19 then they’ll increase his salary next year (renegotiate the team cap) in 17-18 by $11 million or the amount he would get if he signed a new contract under the new CBA cap.

Re-negotiation on this front by adding more years (up to the 2018-19 season) would also put Paul into the 10+ years veteran bracket when this new contact is done, which makes him entitled to 35% of the cap then and even more money. Paul was drafted in 2010 so his 2019-20 contract would fall under the 10+ year vet.

Kyler feels if the Pacers keep PG and are not able to re-sign due to the DPE requirements, it’s a Kevin Durant situation all over again. Not enough money in the end to matter when the situation for a finals run isn’t there.

The Pacers then have two options with George without the DPE:

  1. Trade him.
  2. Try and re-sign him, but risk him leaving for nothing.

Option 1: Trade Paul George. Many different times that this could potentially happen before he hits free agency. You could do it during off-season, closer to the draft once you know everyone’s draft order, or wait until next year’s trade deadline. There is the threat too however of teams knowing he won’t resign with the Pacers so they won’t offer very much to trade for him when they know they can just wait till he’s a free agent.

If Paul doesn’t want to stay, then the Pacers have to get something for him without seeing him walk for nothing. The argument though has been brought out that wouldn’t your star employee be more involved in how the business is run if he truly is your future? It didn’t seem to be the case during the deadline.

The Pacers would only trade Paul George if they KNEW he wouldn’t re-sign with them AND the deal for him was massive. Think more on the level of Carmelo Anthony trade than DeMarcus Cousins (thank goodness the Pacers are not the Kings). So maybe all these rumblings this deadline was to get a feel for PG’s market value?

Rumor is Pacers ownership wanted to test the waters to see PG’s value and Larry Bird swatted away any true offers. It was going to take a massive offer to make him pull the trigger this year.

The deadline revealed that the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, and Boston Celtics were all interested in Paul George. So many options out there but so long to go before any of them could happen that we’ll save the analyzation of potential deals for another time. But I’ll just leave this little tweet here that does not help the Pacers leverage situation if they do end up trading him down the line.

There are limited teams out there with the assets to trade for Paul let alone be in the mix for a championship as was discussed earlier. Paul is 26 and his prime is right now. He doesn’t have the time to sit through a 5-year rebuild (which makes the Lakers a curious choice for him). If the Pacers trade him, it needs to be a team he’ll want to re-sign with who he views as being in an immediate contending situation for the Pacers to get the best possible deal.

Option 2 – Re-sign PG. The Pacers preferred option, but one that also includes the risk of him leaving for nothing. Remember this is if Paul George doesn’t end up qualifying for the DPE and the money difference is minimal. The Pacers want to keep him obviously. It all comes down to the Pacers individual cap space and how much Paul does love the situation in Indiana. He could end up going to another team and leaving the Pacers with nothing in return, and after watching Kevin Durant do that to the Thunder last summer, the Pacers will do everything they can to prevent that from happening to this franchise.

The Pacers do have some things going in their favor: PG does want to bring a championship to Indiana and has said in the past that he wants to be bigger than Reggie Miller here. But George added the caveat that he wants to contend for a title like when they were in the Eastern Conference Finals two straight seasons. That’s the biggest key to this puzzle if the Pacers want to re-sign him without the DPE: building this team into a contender quickly. Bird will his work cut out for him this off-season as he tries to get this team out of mediocrity and back into the business of challenging LeBron in the East.

You don’t need to be in a major market to have a ‘brand’ and George has proven that already. Paul has his PG1 shoe coming out from Nike. He’s one of only four players to have a signature shoe deal with Nike (Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving). His other partners include Gatorade, Papa John’s, Fanatics, FanDuel, NewEra, Bass Pro Shops, and 2K Sports. All from little ole Indiana.

Salary cap space won’t be an issue that they have to worry about. Right now, the Pacers team payroll is around $87 million (cap at $94 million and rising for next year). With Free Agents Aaron Brooks and Jeff Teague (re-sign please). A few players have team options: Lavoy Allen, Joe Young and Glenn Robinson III. Some have player options: Stuckey and CJ Miles. You will have to watch a few of those guys walk but you’ll still have the space left to sign both Teague this off-season and PG next season if need be.

It should be a very interesting next year in Naptown as Bird tries to build a roster to that can convince George to stay or trades away his superstar as a new era begins for the Pacers.

Rumor Rundown: Paul George situation, Pacers trade targets

Larry Bird has been busy working the phones as the trade deadline approaches. While no deals seem imminent, lots of rumors have spread about the Pacers and what they’re looking to do before the deadline.

First, it was reported that the Pacers have been shopping their first-round pick to see if they can get a rotation-level player to help the Pacers push farther into the playoffs, and players like Brook Lopez and Jahlil Okafor have been mentioned in the past couple days.

The Indy Star reported just last night that the Pacers were still looking to add a rotational player and that Paul George would not be traded, which lined up with countless other reporters saying that the Pacers were not interested in dealing George. Nate Taylor said that his sources all told him they were looking to build around George, Jeff Teague, and Myles Turner.

Today, the Woj bomb dropped.

The Pacers are assessing the trade market for Paul George. What? What?? This hasn’t been in line with anything we’ve heard from many reliable sources in the past few weeks where the answer has always been that the Pacers were not taking calls on George or looking to trade him. But when Woj and The Vertical reports something, it makes you question everything.

Sam Amick of USA Today reported that George met with Herb Simon, Pacers owner, during the All-Star break over dinner and reiterated his position that he wants to stay in Indiana, but only if they’re contending for a title. This is something George has said since August, so it should be no surprise. George wants to be bigger than Reggie Miller, but he also wants to do that by doing the thing Reggie could never do: win a title.

The Indy Star’s Taylor says that the dinner was “celebratory and not George delivering an ultimatum.”

Even so, this has seemed to lead Bird to test the waters on what they could get for Paul George, but the deal doesn’t seem to likely to happen at the deadline according to multiple news sources seen in the tweets below. Still, it’s a big step from “untouchable” to “gauging the market.”

https://twitter.com/HPbasketball/status/834552178488520704

Meanwhile, the Pacers are still looking for options to add a rotational piece to the team for this season. Amick reported the Pacers are showing interest in Okafor, Aaron Afflalo of the Kings and Ed Davis and Allen Crabbe of the Trailblazers. Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee also reported of the Pacers interest in Afflalo.

Both Afflalo and Crabbe could help with the lack of wing depth on the Pacers, but Crabbe just signed a mammoth contract last off-season that has him making $18.5 million per season and Afflalo is a less-appealing get from the Kings than Ben McLemore. McLemore has the rest of this season left on his rookie deal and will be a restricted free agent next year, while Afflalo is much older and on a 2-year deal worth $25 million.

None of these players are likely to convince George that they’re ready to contend for a title this season, so the Pacers will be pressured this summer to further add to the team in order to be ready to contend as George approaches unrestricted free agency in 2018 when he opts out of his current contract.

If the Pacers don’t feel like they’ll be able to do enough during the off-season to get to the point where they are ready to contend by 2018, that may be when they start to look more seriously at trading George and rebuilding around Turner and Teague. Gauging the market now gives them some idea of what they’ll be able to get if that’s the road they choose down the line.

George did tell reporters after the Pacers first practice back from the All-Star break that he “would love to” finish his career in Indiana, he expects to be in a Pacers uniform after the deadline has passed tomorrow and that his sole focus right now is getting this team back on track for the rest of the season.

The Pacers will also have a lot of reasons for George to want to stay in he makes an All-NBA team either this year or next as he would qualify for the Designated Player Extension that would push a potential extension over $200 million. If he does not make the All-NBA team in the next two years, his max number would only be around $120 million. The DPE goes away if George is traded.

 

 

 

Top 10 Indiana Pacers Dunks in a Slam Dunk Contest

You may be curious after watching Glenn Robinson III’s amazing Saturday night in the Dunk Contest how many Pacers have ever competed, let alone won, a dunk contest in the past besides Trey Dog (who I incorrectly gave only a 20% chance to win). Over the 31 years of the contest including one ABA, seven different Pacers in addition to King Glenn III have competed in the NBA Contest. Zero in the one year the ABA had their contest in 1976 before the merger. Pacers ABA legend Darnell ‘Dr Dunk’ Hillman won the first NBA dunk contest in 1977 but it was a very different season-long contest back then. All 30 teams had a representative and competed one-on-one in a bracket like challenge. Until last night, Dr. Dunk had never received a trophy for the contest, but did get a check for around $15,000.

Here’s my ranking of the top-10 dunks by a Pacers player in the dunk contest:

Let the countdown commence. And feel free to let me know where I’m wrong on Twitter @TheCorner3Ross.

#10 2013 Gerald Green: The Double Dunk

He didn’t complete it till after his buzzer so it didn’t count but the idea was impressive: cut off the net, dunk, catch the ball with the other hand, and dunk it again, all in the air during one jump.

#9 2012 Paul George: Larry Bird Sticker Dunk

Slap a sticker on on end of the backboard and dunk on the opposite end. Points for the prop. Nothing fancy on the dunk. PG took more attempts than he had stickers unfortunately.

#8 2001 Jonathan Bender Left-Hand from the Foul Line

For how long he is, it should’ve been from further away. Sadly like much of Bender’s career, his performance was a disappointment. At least he didn’t get hurt!

#7 2012 Paul George Glow-in-the-Dark Dunk

He should’ve just done it with the lights on in my opinion. This is one of the dunks that Vince Carter did in his iconic 2000 Slam Dunk performance. And as @its_whitney brought out on Twitter, he should’ve had a glow-in-the-dark ball to wrap it all together.  #MissedOpportunity

#6 2012 Paul George dunk over Roy Hibbert. 

Hibbert is 7’2″. Yes, Roy ducked a bit and PG used his hand but still impressive nonetheless. Originally Dahntay Jones was throwing a pass to George, but he couldn’t get it completed.

#5 2013 Gerald Green Off the Side of the Backboard

Lance Stephenson’s always looking for an easy assist, and no one dunks with ease and force like Gerald Green.

#4 2017 Glenn Robinson III Over PG, Boomer & a Pacemate

Over one All-Star, one mascot, and a cheerleader backwards slam. It clinched him the contest.

#3 2014 Paul George 360 Through the Legs

In my opinion, this should have won him the best dunker crown in this strange conference battle dunk contest.

#2 2004 Fred Jones bounce alley-oop reach back

The Dunk that won him the contest and made him the first Pacers player to do so. Thank goodness he threw himself a terrible pass that made this dunk awesome.

#1 Glenn Robinson III’s 2017 Opening Dunk

Left hand over two people while his head almost hits the rim. Just nuts. I hope there is a shirt with this on it soon. He earned every bit of this championship. Way to go, King Glenn III.

Just missed the cut: All of Terence Stansbury’s dunks (there are some really good ones), GR3’s 360 Dab Dunk, Kenny Williams, and Antonio Davis. (Videos below of some of their dunks)

A brief history of Pacers past performances in the dunk contest:

The very first Pacer in the Dunk contest came early in 1985 & 1986 Terence Stansbury. He competed two years for the Pacers and one for Seattle. He made the Semi-Finals both times with the Pacers but lost out to Dominique Wilkins at home in Indianapolis in 1985 and Spud Webb the following year in 86.

1991 saw Kenny Williams compete for the Pacers in Charlotte for the Dunk Contest. Kenny would not make it out of the first round finishing 5th overall. The overall champ that year was Dee Brown of the Celtics.

Now we get into some names most fans remember. The next Pacer to compete was a Davis brother. Antonio Davis in 1994. AD didn’t make it out of the first round either, finishing 5th. Maybe being ‘penalized’ for being the big in the group. The champ that year was Isaiah Rider.

Oh what could have been for the next Pacer contestant: the Pre-Durant, Durant style player. In 2001, Jonathan Bender competed for the Pacers. His length and versatility should’ve equated to amazing things on the court, but Bender’s knees never cooperated for very long. Bender didn’t make it out of the first round either, finishing 5th (I’m seeing a pattern here). The champion that year was Desmond Mason.

All these 5th place finishes. Would a Pacer ever do well in this contest? In 2004, with a field of four players, the Pacers Fred Jones showed that he could. In maybe one of the weaker dunk contests to date, Indiana Jones bested the two-time defending champ Jason Richardson for the title spot with two 50-point dunks on his way to victory.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of Fred Jones but maybe the voters were tired of J-Rich.  But a W is a W. There has only been one 3-time champ at the Dunk Contest and that was Nate Richardson. So J-Rich had an uphill battle.

The next time we saw a Pacer in the Dunk Contest was Paul George in 2012 under a new format. Paul George competed twice (again in 2014). The champ would be decided entirely by fan voting this year. PG came out strong with dunks over Roy Hibbert (7’2″). Followed by his glow-in-the dark jersey dunk (would’ve been cooler in the light) and ended with the sticker on the backboard other side of the rim dunk.

Sadly the fans voted incorrectly. As they normally do when given the power for the All Star Game (I’m looking at you Zaza Pachulia). PG unbelievably finished only 3rd with 24% of the vote. Brief former Pacers bested George in the fan vote: Jeremy Evans got 29% and Chase Budinger got 28%.

In 2013 Gerald Green competed in his third contest with his third team. An impressive alley-oop off the side of the backboard from Lance Stephenson followed by an ambitious dunk he wasn’t able to put down. He cut off the net so that he could dunk the ball, catch it with his off hand and dunk the ball again. He wasn’t able to complete it and scored low, unable to advance. The winner that year was Terrance Ross.

Paul George would come back two years later in 2014. Again though, the NBA tweaked its format. A team format was adopted. 1st round was freestyle followed by one-on-one battles. PG was teamed up with the East consisting of Terrence Ross and John Wall. The East won the night but John Wall was voted as the Dunker of the Night (by the fans).

Finally this year, I hope most of you were able to watch. 2017 Glenn Robinson III wanted to #Shocktheworld and man did he do so. While the competition wasn’t the same level as years past, Glenn capitalized. With Aaron Gordon fizzling out in the first round and Glenn scoring a 50 with his first dunk. He was easily into the final round and sealed the deal jumping over three people in an impressive fashion, bringing home the Pacers second-dunk title and a nice $100,000 for his victory.

Pacers dunkers are a combined 2-9 all time in the contest. We’ll see if GR3 comes back next year to defend and become the first Pacers Dunking Dynasty.

Dunk Contest Preview: Glenn Robinson III wants to shock the world

The NBA All-Star weekend’s premiere event is rapidly approaching on Saturday night: The Verizon Slam Dunk contest. The Pacers will be represented by Glenn Robinson III as he goes up against Derrick Jones Jr., DeAndre Jordan, and last year’s runner-up Aaron Gordon. Here’s a look at what each contestant brings to the table and their odds of winning:

https://twitter.com/TheCorner3Show/status/832237818705539073

DeAndre Jordan: The 6’11” first-time All-Star Center for the Los Angeles Clippers. Jordan continues the recent trend of having at least one big man in the field. (2016 Andre Drummond; 2015 Mason Plumlee).  Continue reading Dunk Contest Preview: Glenn Robinson III wants to shock the world

A Good Problem: Finding minutes for Glenn Robinson III

With Paul George and C.J. Miles both out the past two games, Glenn Robinson III has stepped up in their absence and led the team in scoring each of the last two games for the Indiana Pacers.

First, GR3 put up 20 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block while making 4 of his 6 3-point attempts in a landslide victory against the Brooklyn Nets.

In his encore performance against the Los Angeles Clippers, Robinson made 7 of his 9 shots for a team-high 17 points and 6 rebounds.

https://twitter.com/ipacersblog/status/805405313448996866

Now as George and Miles are nearing a return to the lineup, the Pacers have a bit of a conundrum. How do they find minutes for their budding young player that seems to be growing in confidence the more he plays while also not creating a disgruntled veteran that gets pushed out of the rotation?

Putting Robinson back on the bench and out of the rotation is simply not an option at this point as he seems to be ready to take on a full-time role at minimum as a backup wing.

McMillan is surely eager to see if Robinson can build on this momentum and keep up his recent level of performance, and here are some options that may be considered by the Pacers coaching staff.

Option 1: Start GR3

One option the Pacers could look at is moving Robinson to the starting shooting guard while moving Monta Ellis to a sixth-man role.

The Pacers briefly had Ellis come off the bench in favor of a scorching Miles, but the experiment only last a single game. Ellis already plays a lot of time leading the second unit and his skill set has always seemed perfect for a sixth-man scorer that could attack opposing benches.

This would be the scenario that gives Robinson the biggest role. Ellis could still end up playing more minutes, but if Robinson can keep up his hot shooting from 3-point land of late he could bring a much needed boost in spacing to that starting lineup.

The challenge for Robinson in this option will be keeping his aggressiveness while playing alongside George. Too often in the past, Robinson has been too passive when given opportunities with the starters, but this has changed in the past two games with Robinson playing with extreme confidence and making quick decisions when he decides to attack. There hasn’t been any hesistation when he gets a chance to shoot.

He’s still picking his spots, but has been very efficient in the past two games, shooting 68% from the field (13 of 19). Obviously, this is not a sustainable percentage, but he can continue to build up his 44% shooting from the field and 34% shooting from deep, he’ll be valuable as a floor spacer for the starters.

Robinson is also a better defense option for this lineup as it gives the Pacers more size to go against teams with bigger guards. This has been a problem with Ellis in certain matchups. A perfect example being the game against the Charlotte Hornets where Michael Kidd-Gilchrist destroyed Ellis in the post repeatedly to begin the game as the Hornets took advantage of that match up over and over again early.

The problem with Ellis coming off the bench is then what do the Pacers do with Aaron Brooks and Rodney Stuckey. Miles is locked in as the backup small forward once he’s healthy. So backup minutes at the guard positions would have to be split between three players: Ellis, Stuckey, and Brooks.

McMillan would likely end up benching Brooks, who is by far the best shooter of the group, and the Ellis, Stuckey combo would have many of the same issues that Ellis, Teague as a pair have (both need the ball, both aren’t great as floor spacers off the ball, small defenders).

Option 2: Glenn Robinson III, backup wing

Robinson gets a rotation spot while coming off the bench as a backup option at both the wing positions. C.J. Miles will likely still play more time in this scenario, especially if he comes back shooting as well as he has so far this season. The Pacers have been much better this season with Ellis on the floor than off so keeping him with starters isn’t a terrible option.

The problem that this creates is the same as the previous one. What does McMillan do with Stuckey and Brooks?

The only way to still play both of them would be to give Miles and Robinson some time as a small-ball power forward and eliminate some or all of Lavoy Allen’s minutes.

While this may sound appealing, Miles has serious durability issues already and playing the power forward spot wore him down quickly last season, and the Pacers do tend to rebound better with Allen on the floor, which has been a weakness of this team.

Once again, this will have to lead to benching of Stuckey or Brooks, who both have had some decent moments this season.

Option 3: Larry Bird finds a trade partner for Stuckey, Ellis, or Brooks.

If the Pacers truly believe that Robinson is ready for a permanent, contributing role, then Larry Bird should be searching for any takers for either Stuckey, Ellis, or Brooks.

None of these players are going to be hot commodities in the trade market. Hoping for some team to offer a first-round pick for one of these players is highly unlikely, but looking for a backup power forward (Omri Casspi, perhaps?) is possible or maybe the Pacers can get an offer of a second-round pick or two.

Trading away one of these players opens up an obvious spot for GR3 to slide right into and avoid having a veteran becoming disgruntled while spending all of his time on the bench.

The risk in trading one of these players away becomes an issue if Robinson can’t continue this level of performance and loses confidence.

If the Pacers think Robinson’s ready to roll, he needs to have consistent playing time, and McMillan will have to make changes to the rotation once everyone’s healthy to keep him on the court and off the bench.

https://twitter.com/ipacersblog/status/805405313448996866

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

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

Paul George will still be PG-13 with USA Basketball

USA Basketball officially announced its roster for the 2016 Rio Olympics early this morning. Here’s a look at the 12-man roster that includes Indiana Pacers star Paul George:

They’ve also reassigned each player a number from 1-15 per tradition of USA Basketball (also might be a rule of Olympics for all teams). So, what number did Paul George, who was wearing 29 when working out with Olympic team in the past, pick or get assigned? 13 of course, and the jerseys are 🔥🔥🔥 (fire for those of you without emojis).  Continue reading Paul George will still be PG-13 with USA Basketball

Will the Pacers re-sign any of their free agents?

The Pacers have already made some major changes to their roster in the early stages of the off-season: trading George Hill for Jeff Teague in a 3-team deal and trading their 1st-round pick for Thaddeus Young. If the Pacers sign 2nd-round pick Georges Niang, that’ll put the Pacers roster at 13 players under contract for next season with only two open roster spots left. The Pacers have four free agents from last year’s team: Ian Mahinmi, Solomon Hill, Jordan Hill, and Ty Lawson. Let’s take a look at each player and the likelihood that the Pacers will retain their services for the 2016-17 season.  Continue reading Will the Pacers re-sign any of their free agents?

Pacers draft a playmaker in Georges Niang

With the Pacers trading away their first-round selection for Thaddeus Young just hours before the draft and acquiring Jeff Teague in a swap of hometown heroes the day prior, most of the excitement for the Pacers was done early yesterday, but the Pacers still had the 50th overall selection in the second round. With this pick, the Pacers selected senior forward Georges Niang out of Iowa State.

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

Pacers acquire Thaddeus Young for 1st-round pick

Update: Trade is now official on July 7, 2016.

You might want to take shelter if you’re in the Indianapolis area. Woj Bombs have been spotted twice in the last two days: first, the Pacers swap hometown heroes (analysis here), and today the Pacers have acquired Thaddeus Young from the Brooklyn Nets.

The Pacers give up their 20th pick in this year’s draft and a future 2nd-round pick. Thad Young will slide immediately into the Pacers starting lineup at the power forward position.  Continue reading Pacers acquire Thaddeus Young for 1st-round pick

CONFIRMED: Paul George is the cover athlete for NBA 2K17

UPDATE: 9:10 PM EST 2K has confirmed via their feed of their “Road to the Finals” tournament that Paul George is the cover athlete for the standard edition of NBA 2K17. 

Paul George said he was excited for the opportunity especially since he’s been a player of the video game for a long time. “This is part of being in the NBA,” said George. “Wanting to get the cover. Wanting to be the best.”

In an item that has since been removed from PlayStation’s website, a pre-order for the NBA 2k17 game was available for PS4, including 2 Kobe-inspired legend editions, along with the regular edition. The cover athlete for this edition is to be announced tomorrow evening, but Sony may have let the cat out of the bag early as the pre-order page shows Paul George as the cover athlete.

https://twitter.com/its_whitney/status/737779841571782656

Continue reading CONFIRMED: Paul George is the cover athlete for NBA 2K17

Paul George earns All-Defensive Second Team selection

The NBA announced their All-Defensive Teams today and the Pacers had one player selected to the Second Team: Paul George.

It was a close call for George. He had the least amount of points and first-team votes of any of the ten players selected. Jae Crowder nearly overtook George, but lost out on the final forward spot by one point (48-47). Two players that were not among the ten selected actually finished ahead of George in points, but Rudy Gobert (64) plays Center and Klay Thompson (49) is listed as a guard.  Continue reading Paul George earns All-Defensive Second Team selection

Pacers “new voice” at coach is a familiar one

Only a couple of days after saying that Pacers “haven’t started yet” on the team’s coaching search, Larry Bird surprised everyone; the Vertical reported last night that the Pacers are finalizing a deal to promote Nate McMillan to head coach.

McMillan has been with the Pacers as the Associate Head Coach or lead assistant for Frank Vogel for the last three seasons. He took the job after Brian Shaw left the same position to be a head coach with the Denver Nuggets.

Continue reading Pacers “new voice” at coach is a familiar one

Solobling: How Solomon Hill went from benchwarmer to free agent commodity

In the span of two seasons, Solomon Hill went from leading all Indiana Pacers players in minutes to being stuck to the bench and from having Larry Bird waive the 4th-year team option on his cheap rookie deal to becoming a crucial part of the Pacers rotation down the stretch and in the playoffs.

This Solocoaster of sorts (please, forgive me) has been a bumpy ride for Hill, but his late season performance has more than likely put him out of the Pacers price range if they want to retain him. Here’s a look at his past two seasons with some lyrics from the Hotline Bling parody, “SoloBling,” sprinkled in throughout.

In 2014-2015 as Hill started 78 games and led the Pacers in minutes, his performance was mediocre at best; while he averaged 8.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists, he also had a Pacers-worst -9.6 on/off rating. He played his usual solid defense, made the occasional surprising forceful drive to the rim for a dunk, and struggled mightily with his jump shot (shot under 40% for the season).

🎶  Ever since the Summer League,
I wasn’t in the rotation as a wing now.
Everybody played and I felt left out,
but GR3 too young, and where is Chase now?
🎶

Continue reading Solobling: How Solomon Hill went from benchwarmer to free agent commodity

Larry Bird undecided on Frank Vogel’s future with Pacers

UPDATE: Larry Bird made it official. Frank Vogel will not be the coach for the Indiana Pacers next season.

Last night, seemingly immediately after the Pacers season ended in a defeat to the Toronto Raptors, the offseason drama began for the Pacers with a Woj Bomb.

“Wait, what?” was the general reaction for Pacers writers, bloggers, and fans as well as the national media. Although Vogel was deservedly criticized at times for his rotations (STAGGER!) and inept offense especially late in games, he’s still a top young coach in the league. He’s a defensive wizard.  Continue reading Larry Bird undecided on Frank Vogel’s future with Pacers

Mahinmi puts team on his ailing back, Pacers tie series 2-2

In the first three games of the series, the Pacers offense was essentially a one-man show: Paul George. After losing two straight games, Pacers coach Frank Vogel had a simple message for his team: “Trust your teammates.”

“The message before the game was to really move the ball and play for each other,” Ian Mahinmi said. “That’s what we did from the very first minute.”

The results? The Pacers blitzed the Raptors early to a first-quarter lead of 28-14 and never looked back as they tied the series at 2-2 with a 100-83 victory.

“Everyone has to be options for us, offensive threats,” Paul George said after the game. “Tonight, they were, and we exploded on offense.”

The two biggest benefactors to the Pacers devotion to sharing the ball were Ian Mahinmi and George Hill, who went from scoring 40 points combined in the first three games to scoring 44 points combined (a team-high 22 points a piece) in game four as they both had perhaps their best games of the season.

“I can’t take credit for this today,” Mahinmi said of the best game of his career. “Most of my shots were dunks and shots under the rim … my teammates really did an awesome job of finding me.” Continue reading Mahinmi puts team on his ailing back, Pacers tie series 2-2

The Warning Signs & Bright Lights from Game One

Thanks to a sizzling second half from Paul George (27 points on 10 of 13 shooting), the Indiana Pacers defeated the Toronto Raptors 100-90 and lead the series 1-0.

It’s a huge win to open the playoffs as the team that wins game one wins the series 77% of the time, but if the Pacers want to cause the Raptors to go home after the first round for the third straight season via defeat to a lower-seeded team, there were some problematic areas that the Pacers can’t allow to become series-long trends.

Continue reading The Warning Signs & Bright Lights from Game One