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iPacers Discuss: Season Preview

Here’s the iPacers team of Contributors Joe Betz and Ross Blauvelt and Editor-in-Chief Derek Kramer here to discuss a few questions to preview the Indiana Pacers 2017-18 season that begins tomorrow night against the Brooklyn Nets. What’s in store for the Blue and the Gold in the dawn of this new era?  Continue reading iPacers Discuss: Season Preview

iPacers Discuss: Grading Every Off-Season Transaction

The Indiana Pacers have been in a major state of transition since Paul George declared his intentions to depart the franchise. So how has Kevin Pritchard fared with his moves this off-season? 

The iPacers team offers their thoughts on each of the moves here.

The Draft: TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Edmond Sumner

Joe Betz: B

Drafting T.J. Leaf in the first round was a safe pick. It wasn’t exciting, but as the Pacers front court depth dwindles after releasing Rakeem Christmas and Lavoy Allen into free agency, and with Al Jefferson likely waived at the end of this upcoming season with the last year of his contract only partially guaranteed. Leaf as a skilled big man with developing range is solid. Passing on John Collins and Caleb Swanigan might come back to haunt Indiana, though…(same with O.G. Anunody). No pressure, T.J.!

Adding Ike Anigbogu and Edmond Sumner in the second round elevates this draft grade from a C to a B for me.  Both Anigbogu and Sumner were pegged as first round talents going into last season, with Ike even picked to go to the Pacers in the first round by a few mocks leading up to the draft. Sumner’s ACL injury pushed him out of first round discussions almost immediately, whereas many were surprised that Ike slid as far as he did because of his knee ailments.

Anigbogu and Sumner have potential to be steals with starting-caliber talent, and Leaf could become a contributing member off the bench as early as mid-season, though it’s likely he will not play much until 2018-2019.

Ross Blauvelt: B+

Tough to give it a grade now. I’m more the wait and see in 2-3 years how they develop. But off the cuff. B+ for the Pacers. Tough drafting at 18. No real game changers so you have to go for upside. Leaf at 6’10” is a floor stretcher and will play multiple positions. Young and skinny, and maybe not the guy most wanted but his Summer League play intrigued. I expect him to get some solid minutes this year as the 9th or 10th man in the rotation. Maybe an Austin Croshere type? Anigbogu and Sumner are fantastic 2nd round picks. Players with potential if they can stay healthy. That’s what a second-round pick is for. Sumner is the future at PG 6’6″ and athletic. Anigbogu is a beast already defensively, just wait if he develops an offensive game.

Derek Kramer: B-

I don’t love the TJ Leaf pick. Though he showed he has an array of offensive skills in the Summer League, he’s got a long way to go on the defensive end. Unless Thaddeus Young is traded, it’s hard to see Leaf finding many minutes on the court this season as McMillan is unlikely to trust a rookie with no defensive skills (i.e. Georges Niang last season). In the end if he can stretch his range out past the NBA 3-point line, the Pacers found an Austin Croshere-clone at 18 and that’s not bad for where they were picking.

Anigbogu and Sumner are perfect low-risk, high-reward picks for the second round and that raises the draft grade for me. Getting Sumner on a 2-way contract that allows the Pacers to keep his rights while he heals and then plays for the Mad Ants but not take up a NBA roster spot makes it even better. Anigbogu is worth the risk as he could potentially be the Pacers needed enforcer down the line.

Paul George traded for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis

Derek Kramer: C

Paul George and his agent did all they could to torpedo his trade value and this grade would be higher if Pritchard showed the patience that he was preaching after draft night. Ultimately the deal is fine as the Pacers get two contributors that should be starters either immediately or in the near future, but there’s simply no way OKC doesn’t still have this deal on the table a few days later once Gordon Hayward had decided where he was playing. Maybe Ainge still doesn’t make a good enough offer but better to at least hear it out. No draft picks, not even a second-round selection doesn’t help either.

Joe Betz: B-

Paul George, through his agent, deliberately tanked his trade value to make the Lakers offer more appealing. That factor has to be considered when evaluating this trade.

Returning two starters, each lottery picks beginning to enter their prime or several years from their prime, is a solid return for Indiana. Victor Oladipo will begin to enter his prime through his current contract, and Domantas Sabonis started 66 games as a rookie for a playoff team in the West. Both can play and both have room to become better. No trade was going to return a player of Paul George’s caliber—this trade swung for talent and upside, and I think it connected.

This would be higher if the Pacers were able to also return a draft pick, which would at least give the Pacers another asset. Who knows what offers were truly on the table, and who knows if the Pacers might have been able to squeeze out a better deal if they had waited? We can only really judge what the Pacers returned within the context of PG’s desire to be traded—specifically his desire to be traded to LA.

Ross Blauvelt: A-

All those rumors were just that. Rumors. His value was torpedoed by the LA rumors since everyone knew he had to be moved. To get back two former lottery picks. One just a second-year guy who Pritchard sees as a future “Davis” brother enforcer type and the other an athletic SG who most of Indiana already knew. Just like Pritchard said, young, energetic and trending toward upside and surprise type players. You weren’t getting a PG-type player back in the trade and draft picks are even more of a hit or miss thing. This year’s draft felt like everyone in the top 10 were can’t miss prospects but that’s not always the case. A known commodity player is sometimes better than an unknown draft pick. A surprise trade for sure but after it sank in, I’m happy with it. Oh, and bonus keeping PG out west. That OKC vs IND game will be very interesting.

Darren Collison signs 2-year, $20-million deal (Partially guaranteed second season)

Joe Betz: C-

DC’s return shows the Pacers have engaged in a holding pattern in order to find a long-term point guard. His contract allows the Pacers to move away from Collison easily next season, so that is terrific, but Collison’s recent off-court issues cloud my perception of his value in this trade. He is a middle-of-the-pack starting point guard who will not win you many games, but he also won’t lose you many.

Ross Blauvelt: D+

Not sure the thought here. Collison has already be on the team in the past, has off court issues, then with the Joseph signing…. i guess it shores up that position but wouldn’t it be just as good to let Joe Young finally have a crack at the lineup?

Derek Kramer: C

I’m surprised to be the highest grade here. Collison is fine as the placeholder point guard until Cory Joseph or another future becomes the future starter next year, but signing a guy that has pleaded guilty of domestic violence is interesting after waiving Monta Ellis for smoking weed. I’d rather the Pacers have taken a chance on a young point guard like Tyler Ennis or Pierre Jackson, but Collison will be fine for the year or two that he’s here and his deal keeps future cap space open. He shoots much better than last time he was here which will be helpful for the starting unit’s spacing. 

Bojan Bogdanovic signs 2-year, $21-million deal (Partial guarantee on second season)

Joe Betz: C+

I like Bojan’s game, but his impact on the floor diminishes greatly if his shot cools. He struggles to defend more athletic wings and bang with more physical fours, so positionally, he is almost always targeted on defense. In some ways, he reminds me of Al Jefferson regarding his potential impact on a game: if he is on, he will sustain your lead or build it, but if he is off, he becomes catastrophically bad. This was the second “holding pattern” signing of the summer. The Pacers will seek long-term point guard and wing options moving forward…you know, just the two positions on the court that make or break your ability to win in the modern NBA.

Derek Kramer: B

Another veteran signing that likely won’t be here long, another fine addition to the team. My only issue with it is if he takes away minutes that should be going to Glenn Robinson III after McMillan said the starting job was Bojan’s to start off when training camp begins. Hopefully this was just a way to motivate GR3. Bogdanovic can shoot and will add spacing. I’d like this move more if he would play small ball four more often than it seems this roster will allow. If not for the CJ sign-and-trade, I’d rather the Pacers have kept Miles instead, but Bojan’s deal is short and very small guarantee on the second season will allow the Pacers to move on if they choose to after just one season.

Ross Blauvelt: B

Losing a shooter in CJ you need a new shooter with this bunch. Bojan is that albeit weaker all around compared to CJ Miles. Only other issue I see is it may take minutes away from Glenn and I really want him to have his shot this year.

CJ Miles sign-and-trade for Cory Joseph 

Joe Betz: A

This is potentially the best move of the Pacers off-season so far. Joseph provides a potential long-term option at point guard whose skillset compliments both Turner and Oladipo. He can defend his position, and though he is not a great shooter, teams do have to respect his ability to score. It will be interesting to note if the Pacers like what they see and then bite by offering a multi-year deal, as Joseph does have a player option for the 2018-2019 season. Is Joseph more of a “system” player whose skillset is improved by excellent coaching, or is he talented enough to thrive in multiple environments and roles?

Going into next year, I want Glenn Robinson to earn starting minutes. Is he a starter in this league? Let’s find out. Come on, Nate!

Ross Blauvelt: A

Love this. Would love to still have CJ though too. But seems the Pacers and he were going in different directions. Plus sending him to a winning opportunity is nice for him. Now Joseph, a perennial backup, gives the PG position some stability and possible starter. Definite improvement in the backup PG minutes if that is where he goes.

Derek Kramer: A-

Getting Joseph for CJ Miles is a great deal for the Pacers as they didn’t seem interested in bringing him back. Only an A- because it ends the dream of Lance Stephenson playing point guard.

Bonus Round: Waiving Monta Ellis

Grade: A+ from Everybody

Some realistic and unrealistic trades for Paul George

Paul George trade rumors are still in the early stages where it’s mostly speculation, but many teams have been reported to be interested. If you’ve missed any of the rumors so far, you can find them all here.

The iPacers.com team (Derek Kramer, Ross Blauvelt and Joe Betz) decided to put together some realistic deals that Kevin Pritchard and the Pacers may be able to pull off before Thursday’s draft. Some more realistic than others.

Mavericks

Pacers get: Wesley Matthews, Seth Curry, 9th overall pick
Mavericks get: Paul George

Kramer: Zach Lowe speculated that the Mavs may push for a George deal centered around the number 9 pick. Mark Cuban has long been on the search for a superstar for Dallas ever since winning the championship back in 2011. Pacers could wind up with Yogi Ferrell instead of Curry if the Mavs were unwilling to give him up.

Cavaliers & Kings

Pacers get: 10th and 34th overall picks, Aaron Afflalo
Kings get: Kevin Love
Cavaliers get: Paul George

Betz: Cleveland does it to get PG without sacrificing more than Love; Sacramento does it to keep their main lottery pick and get a star player to begin their culture shift from losing to winning; and IND does it to gain a mid-late lottery pick plus an early second to accelerate the rebuilding process. Afflalo’s time on the floor will be limited with King’s expected pick at 5, so his contract is dumped to the Pacers.

Bucks

Pacers get: Greg Monroe, Malcolm Brogdon, 17th overall pick
Bucks get: Paul George

Kramer: The Bucks haven’t even been rumored to be interested in one-year of George, but imagining Giannis and him playing together would have to seem pretty appealing to Jason Kidd and the Bucks. This deal is only possible if Greg Monroe opts-in his player option for next season. The Pacers would have just one season of Monroe and pick up a promising young guard in Malcolm Brogdon on a cheap second-round pick contract as well as the 17th pick in Thursday’s draft.

Lakers

Pacers get: DeAngelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr., 28th overall pick
Lakers get: Paul George

(Update: Russell has been traded to the Nets)

Betz: Lakers do it to acquire Bird rights on George now, prevent any contender from convincing George to stay and move on from Russell with Lonzo Ball; Pacers do it to acquire a new point guard should Teague not be re-signed, a young-ish PF on a good contract, and a late first. FWIW: I would rather have Russell and Nance than the rumored Clarkson and Randle, but that’s just me.

Pistons

Pacers get: Ish Smith, Boban Marjonovic, 12th overall pick
Pistons get: Paul George

Kramer: Pacers get a solid backup point guard and the tall guy from Big Fish to go with the 12th overall selection that could net them someone like Donovan Mitchell. Pistons take the year rental on George without having to give up too much.

Trailblazers – Option 1

Pacers get: Allen Crabbe, Noah Vonleh, 15th overall pick
Trailblazers get: Paul George, Al Jefferson

Blauvelt: Pacers help Portland out by taking the Crabbe deal and the Blazers help Indiana out by taking on Big Al. Pacers get back a young prospect in Vonleh and the 15th pick in the draft. Blazers get one year to convince him to stay with a killer lineup of Dame, CJ, and Nurkic.

Trailblazers – Option 2

Pacers get: Crabbe, 2 of their 3 first round picks (15, 20, 26)
Trailblazers get: Paul George

Kramer: If the Pacers aren’t interested in Vonleh and are okay taking on Crabbe’s contract, the Pacers could pick up two first round picks that are better than either of the Lakers first rounders that they are currently offering (27, 28). If there are multiple players available near 18 on draft night that the Pacers like, this deal could be even more appealing.

Nuggets

Pacers get: Gary Harris, Kenneth Faried
Nuggets get: Paul George, Lavoy Allen

Blauvelt: The Pacers could try and get the Nuggets to add the #13 pick to the deal, but they haven’t been interested in George now that he’s actually on the block even though they made an offer at the deadline. This deal gives the Pacers a rebounding-focused power forward to pair with Myles Turner and starting shooting guard to replace CJ Miles. Lavoy Allen could be included in Nuggets were interested, if not the Pacers have the option of declining his $4 million team option.

Rockets:

Pacers get: Eric Gordon, Patrick Beverly, future first-round pick
Rockets get: Paul George

Kramer: This could be a trade more appealing to the Pacers if they intend to retool instead of rebuild. The Pacers get Eric Gordon to start at shooting guard after a great year in Houston and a defense-first point guard in Patrick Beverly. The Rockets GM Daryl Morey gets a second superstar to go with MVP-candidate James Harden and after signing his extension, he may feel safe enough to take the big risk on convincing George to stay.

76ers:

Pacers get: Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Gerald Henderson, lottery-protected future first-round pick
76ers get: Paul George

Kramer: The 76ers are close to being done with The Process after acquiring the number one overall pick in the draft. George could help the team get to the playoffs and beyond on a much faster timeline. This may be more than the Sixers are willing to offer for George (Henderson is only included as to match salaries and his contract of $9 million is only guaranteed for just $1 million), but if the Sixers want to try and make an instant success after years of tanking, this could be their ticket. If the 76ers don’t want George, you could see if they’d be interested in a Kevin Love 3-team deal as well though that seems unlikely with Simmons at PF.

Magic:

Pacers get: Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja, future first-round pick
Magic get: Paul George

Kramer: Perhaps George’s former coach Frank Vogel thinks he can convince George to stay in Orlando past this season and the Pacers manage to get this haul from the Magic. They probably would have the option of taking a horse that does horse things over Hezonja (Game of Zones).

iPacers Discuss: Will Lance make the Pacers dance?

The Pacers are in a tailspin as they are in danger of missing the playoffs with the Bulls now only a half game back with a chance to tie the Pacers for the 8th-seed if they defeat the Hawks tonight.

With all this doom and gloom in the air, Larry Bird gave us something else to talk about: LANCE STEPHENSON IS BACK. So the iPacers team will discuss the return of Born Ready. Be sure to follow our team on twitter: Editor-in-Chief Derek Kramer, @iPacersblog, and our three Contributors: Ross Blauvelt (@TheCorner3Ross), Alexander Grant (@Vegas_SportsGuy) and Joe Betz (@Joe_Betz_).

What was your initial reaction to finding out the Pacers were signing Lance Stephenson?

Joe Betz: I first learned via a friend’s text that just read “BOOORRRNNN READDDYYY!  Bring on Lebron!”  I honestly thought it was a delayed text from years ago, simply reappearing in the future to haunt me.  After opening Twitter, though, I found the context.  I was excited, nostalgic, worried, and hopeful—-all in about 20 seconds.

Ross Blauvelt: Seriously? Let’s get the whole band back together. Big Roy is out there somewhere. I was torn. Thought the Pacers needed a defensive stopper and a 3-point shooter and Lance can’t stay healthy. Love to see him again but… then again. He is a cheaper option that Stuckey, improvement in skill for sure, and already been here. Hmmm.

Alexander Grant: My initial reaction was wondering how Lance felt about passing up that original contract offer a couple years ago.  Rumors say his former agent was very eager to get Lance out of Indy.  Now he’s back home.  He loves the fans in Indy, and I’m certain shortly after he left he knew he made a mistake.

Derek Kramer: I got a text alert on my phone when Shams Charania broke the news that a deal was in the works. Immediate reaction was “Holy crap. This season is weird.” And while completely aware that the Pacers likely just replaced one ball dominant guard that can’t shoot in Stuckey with another in Lance, my excitement was boiling at the prospect of seeing Born Ready and all that comes with Lance play in Indiana again.

Will the Pacers get more good Lance or bad Lance in his return to Indiana?

Joe Betz: It will be both. We will get Good Lance at the end of this season/ through the playoffs, and maybe most of next season, but there will be plenty of Bad Lance “hot doggin'” in our future. I’m honestly okay when he gets a little sticky with the ball, so long as it’s happening with the second unit. If/when he becomes a starter, if he doesn’t defer to PG more often than not in games, that will be Bad, Bad Lance.

Ross Blauvelt: It remains to be see, but he’ll definitely be a humbler Lance. Leaning towards good Lance. The way the end of this season has gone, he really can’t hurt.

Alexander Grant: Lance is a wildcard.  Game to game, his output can change drastically. This late in the season, with all the inconsistency, the best thing Lance brings is his attitude. How much worse could the current season be?  He’s a guy you’d want to pick first in a pickup game in the park.  His career since he left the Pacers has plummeted. The new deal is low risk, high reward for both Lance and the Pacers.

Derek Kramer: He sounds like a humbled guy after bouncing around the league with five different teams in just three seasons, but also one that said his return would be like “Michael Jordan coming back.” To be fair, Stephenson was talking about the crowd atmosphere and not comparing himself to MJ, but the media still ran with it anyway. On the court, I think we may not get the entire Good Lance experience until next season, but I doubt we’ll see the Bad Lance in these last six games either as he tries to find his place on this team.

Does the Lance signing help the Pacers get into the playoffs this season?

Derek Kramer: It’s looking like it’s going to take a miracle for the Pacers to turn it around and get in at this point. The Bulls have a cakewalk of a schedule the rest of the way playing the Nets (twice), 76ers, Magic, Pelicans, Knicks and Hawks. The Pacers, on the other hand, have to play the Cavs, Raptors, Bucks, Magic, Sixers and Hawks. Is Lance that miracle? God, I would love that to be the case, but it’s difficult to see it right now.

Ross Blauvelt: Depends on whether the Pacers get Good/Bad Lance. He’s definitely an upgrade at the wing spot if he can stay healthy. Can you imagine a first round series vs. the Cavs with Lance? How many times will we see that ear blow replay?

Alexander Grant: Call me a pessimist, but Lance does not help the Pacers get into the postseason.  Even if they did make the playoffs, it would be a quick exit.  This move is trying to build for the short future, and it shows Larry Legend can’t get enough of Born Ready!

Joe Betz: It does help them, but mainly because of injuries. I don’t think Lance moves the needle at the end of this season any more than a healthy Stuckey would have. Stuckey was in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career before he hurt his knee. There was every reason to believe his shot would come back some place closer to his average in the final games of the season. However, Lance in game shape in the playoffs, assuming the Pacers make them, could be more impactful than Stuckey. Come on, Good Lance!

Does the Pacers bet on Stephenson for more than just this season pay off?

Ross Blauvelt: Next year with a full training camp under his belt, it’ll definitely pay off. It all depends on his health. I think it’ll pay off. It’s already gotten fans more excited for a lackluster team.

Joe Betz: Yes, and for a few reasons. If I understand the contract correctly, next year is guaranteed and the following year is a team option. That would mean next season is a semi-contract year for Lance, and the year after is a for-sure contract year, assuming his option is picked up. Giving a player who Bird has said has the most talent on the (old Miami challenging) team that kind of motivation, coupled with physical and emotional maturity, gives me a lot of hope. Plus, at four million a year, he is less expensive than Stuckey, freeing up three million to help re-sign CJ Miles and Jeff Teague.

Derek Kramer: At just $4 million for next season, this is essentially no risk in adding Stephenson for more than the end of this season. If it doesn’t work out, the Pacers can cut Lance loose after next season, no harm, no foul. It’s not like he’s going to ruin the non-exsistent chemistry on the team. If he shows he can still play, the Pacers got a young player at an extreme bargain for two full seasons.

Alexander Grant: There are a couple factors to consider, but bringing Lance on board will bring his tenacity. That is something that the current Pacers lack. He will try hard every night, and probably feels he is almost the best player on the court at any given time. Pacers fans will say yes it will pay off. NBA fans and sports media will not care, or understand Larry’s infatuation with Lance-a-lot.

How does this effect Paul George’s future with the Pacers? More likely or less likely to eventually sign his extension with Indiana?

Derek Kramer: George has been on the record saying that the Pacers are missing grit and a winning pride. Stephenson was always a guy who played every game with heart and energy. You always knew Lance cared. George is clearly glad that he has his “brother” back on the team. But in the end, it probably won’t effect George’s decision much, but it won’t hurt. It’s likely all about that All-NBA team vote and qualifying for that DPE for whether or not PG remains an Indiana Pacer.

Alexander Grant: Paul has said numerous times he’d like to play on a contending team. Does Lance bring the roster closer to contention status? Probably not. However, Paul is reportedly happy Lance is back. That New York swag Lance brings is hard to replace. I think Paul has already made up his mind on whether to stay or go, and most Pacers fans would hate my answer.

Ross Blauvelt: Slightly more likely. They were buds, and this shows PG the Pacers care what he thinks. This offseason will really determine that more than this move though.

Joe Betz: Lance signing with the team tells me PG was consulted. You do not bring back someone who became one of Twitter’s most notorious memes without asking your star player if they are okay with it. Some might roll their eyes at that idea, but let’s be honest: Paul George is the most important Pacers player this decade and could be the most important player through most of the next decade. He should be consulted. Chemistry matters, and Lance back gives me hope that this tilts PG toward re-signing. Lance has openly said leaving was a mistake. PG should listen.

Last one for fun: What’s your favorite Lance Stephenson memory?

Alexander Grant: Well, the blowing in the ear of LeBron is an obvious answer, but I’m going to pick his Game 6 performance in the 2012-13 Eastern Conference semifinals vs. the New York Knicks.

Ross Blauvelt: Playoff series vs the Heat. Not the ear blowing but getting into Wade’s head. I loved seeing a young player become an annoying pest to such a star. That or the crazy crossover vs Tony Parker that left him on the ground. A little NY ball coming out.

Joe Betz: Every time he went from rebound to full court break layup was my favorite memory, renewed each time. I can’t wait for the next one. I think Myles will be more okay with those run-outs than a certain center.

Derek Kramer: So many options to choose from playoff memories including the 3-point at the buzzer against the Heat that ended the third quarter and how loud BLF was, the 25 points against the Knicks that helped push the Pacers to the ECF, but my favorite thing that Lance ever did though was his in-the-air, behind-the-back pass to CJ Watson for a corner three. I’ve never seen a better pass that one, and I’m not sure I ever will.