Tag Archives: kevin pritchard

Report: Pacers and Nate McMillan to talk contract extension

According to J. Michael of the IndyStar, the Indiana Pacers are looking to give Nate McMillan a contract extension now that their roster construction for next season is essentially finished.

Michael reports that nothing is imminent but that it seems a “foregone conclusion” that it’ll happen. McMillan has one year remaining on his original contract with the Pacers that began after he was hired to replace Frank Vogel.

McMillan has a long history with Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard going back to their days with the Portland Trail Blazers where they held the same positions.

“We’ve been together a long time,” said Pritchard, who got choked up talking about McMillan at the end-of-the-season press conference. “We’ve had our disagreements. He’s evolving as a coach and I am proud to have him as a partner.”

With McMillan at the helm, many veteran Pacers had the best seasons of their careers last year including Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison.

For Oladipo, McMillan will be the first coach that he’s had for two full seasons in his NBA career. He recently told a story about McMillan telling him to “become more of an a******” if he wanted to be great.

McMillan’s record over his first two seasons in Indiana is 90-74 (0.548). He has previously coached with both the Seattle Supersonics and Blazers.

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The Indiana Pacers put the depth in Depth Chart

With additions of Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, Kyle O’Quinn and Aaron Holiday, the Indiana Pacers roster is almost filled with 13 players under contract currently. And second-round pick Alize Johnson seems likely to become the 14th soon with his strong Summer League play.

They also have two 2-way contracts to fill with one spot filled currently by Edmond Sumner. Johnson could possibly fill that slot instead of an NBA roster spot as well.

The subtractions from the team include Lance Stephenson, Al Jefferson, Joe Young, and recently waived Alex Poythress.

Here’s a look at the projected starters and rotation as it stands today.

Point guard

  1. Darren Collison
  2. Cory Joseph
  3. Aaron Holiday

Shooting guard

  1. Victor Oladipo
  2. Tyreke Evans

Small forward

  1. Bojan Bogdanovic
  2. Doug McDermott

Power forward

  1. Thaddeus Young
  2. T.J. Leaf
  3. Alize Johnson

Center:

  1. Myles Turner
  2. Domantas Sabonis
  3. Kyle O’Quinn
  4. Ike Anigbogu

A lot less roster turnover than the last few years for the Pacers. The entire starting lineup looks like it’ll be back next season to see if they can pick up where they left off in a surprising campaign.

Kevin Pritchard and company added a lot of depth without losing many rotation players. Evans should give the team the secondary playmaker that it desperately needed last season, especially when Oladipo was out.

McDermott should back up Bogdanovic and be able to bring a lot of the same things to the court that he does.

O’Quinn should be a lot more playable than Jefferson was and be a valuable third center. It seems he may see a lot of time at power forward alongside Turner or Sabonis if McMillan goes that route. Leaf was expected to play minutes next season but his defense still is struggling against guys in the Summer League. He might already be penciling O’Quinn in as the second power forward.

McDermott with the Thunder and O’Quinn with the Magic are both former teammates of Oladipo and of each other with the Knicks and should be good additions to the team’s chemistry.

The rookies lay in waiting but may surprise if they get a chance to play this year. Holiday, as the third point guard, is much more likely to find time than Johnson.

One of the more exciting aspects of the roster that is filled with possibilities of different 5-man groupings to finish the game.

Evans and Oladipo will likely share the floor often this year at the end of games, especially if Evans shooting percentages continue to trend upward. Three guard lineups with three of Collison, Joseph, Oladipo and Evans are likely to find utility during the season as well.

Need a defensive point guard at the end of the game? Here comes Joseph. Want to go small and really space the floor? How about a lineup of DC/Vic/Tyreke/Bojan/Turner that’s filled with guys that can shoot the 3?

Domas Sabonis is always capable of finishing games as well. It will be interesting to see whether the team will have more success this year than last when Turner and Sabonis share the court, a key thing to watch for the team’s future.

It’ll be a fun challenge for Nate McMillan at the end of close games to figure out the right combinations every night depending on the matchup and whose playing well.

One spot remains open on the NBA roster (2 if the Pacers don’t guarantee Anigbogu’s contract later this month) but the Pacers can only offer minimum deals to anyone else looking to join the rising Eastern conference team. Ben Moore is one possibility currently with the team’s Summer League squad as well as for the team’s other 2-way contract. Poythress could still be in the mix and brought back as well or the Pacers could look to add a veteran similar to signing of Damien Wilkins last year.

Breaking down the Indiana Pacers first-round pick Aaron Holiday

The Indiana Pacers were surprised that Aaron Holiday fell to them at the 23rd pick in the first round of the NBA Draft on Thursday night.

“We were shocked that he was there,” said Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard.

Pritchard, General Manager Chad Buchanan and Head Coach Nate McMillan all had praise for his basketball IQ, his toughness and his fit with the Pacers budding culture.

“There are certain things that we look for and value in a player and he checked all those boxes,” said Buchanan who praised his toughness, maturity, composure and work ethic,

They praised the intangible aspects of his game repeatedly, but what does Holiday bring to the table as a point guard that intrigued the Pacers into taking him in the first round?

“He’s got a lot of things that will transfer from day one,” said Buchanan on draft night. “… Everything we’ve heard about him as a worker is phenomenal. I think he’s just going to turn into a great Pacer.”

Continue reading Breaking down the Indiana Pacers first-round pick Aaron Holiday

How the Indiana Pacers can get to Kevin Pritchard’s suggested $20 million in cap space

Kevin Pritchard shared a lot of insight into the Indiana Pacers offseason plans after the NBA Draft last night.

The Pacers selected UCLA point guard Aaron Holiday and Missouri State forward Alize Johnson but Pritchard’s comments about the rest of the roster were much more interesting.

A couple of times Pritchard mentioned that the Pacers will have about $20 million in cap space on July 1 when free agency begins.

“Where we really get better is July 1,” said the Pacers President of Basketball Operations. “That’s what this is set up to, when we traded Paul and brought in Victor and Domas, part of that whole equation was being able to set up $20 million in cap space on July 1. I’m not saying we’re going to sign a guy. I think there could be uneven trades. A lot of of things could happen with that [space].”

Pritchard said that they had their sights on a specific player selected much earlier in the draft and had a few possible deals with teams by taking on a contract to move up, but that the deals were too “cost prohibitive.” Lots of teams like the Nuggets, Wizards and Timberwolves were rumored to be looking to unload a contract and move back in the first round but were unsuccessful in finding takers.

“I wanted flexibility to add a real player this summer July 1,” said Pritchard. He mentioned them wanting to stay disciplined and avoid taking on a bad contract now as they are about to get to their $20 million in cap space.

For the Pacers to get that $20 million number, there are a couple of ways that it could happen.

The salary cap is $101.2 million, so the Pacers would need to be near $81 million in total salary and cap holds to have a real $20 million in space. Let’s start with looking at who on the roster the Pacers are likely to keep and see how much we have left.

“Everything is so fluid but at the end of the day, we said our top six, seven guys we wanted to have back and then make additions,” Pritchard said after the draft.

The top six or seven guys are in all likelihood the following: Victor Oladipo ($21 million), Myles Turner ($3.4 million), Domas Sabonis ($2.6 million), Darren Collison ($10 million), Bojan Bogdanovic ($10.5 million), Cory Joseph ($7.9 million) and Thaddeus Young ($13.7 million).

Young is the likely “or seven” guy as he has a player option that he has not yet decided on. Pritchard confirmed that Cory Joseph has opted in officially and they’ve received the paperwork.

“We’ve had a few conversations with his agent, but at the end of the day it’s his decision,” Pritchard said of Young. “We’d like to have him back. We’d like to keep this core.”

Young seems a little unhappy with what the Pacers are willing to offer long term in a deal as he tweeted out a few things yesterday.

Based on these tweets, Thad seems to want to return to Indiana but he may be looking for a longer deal elsewhere if the Pacers aren’t willing to give him more security in a contract as he just turned 30 yesterday.

“I think he’s exploring what he can get, but we have no indication either way,” said Pritchard.

If he opts in, those seven players add up to $69.1 million.

Aaron Holiday ($1.9 million) and TJ Leaf ($2.4 million) are locks to be included on the Pacers roster.

Monta Ellis’s dead cap from his stretched out $2.2 million can added as well.

That’s 9 roster spots for a total of $75.6 million. For the Pacers to get $20 million in space, this total can only get up to $81 million.

That leaves the following players: Al Jefferson ($10 million only $4 million guaranteed), Lance Stephenson ($4.3 million team option), Joe Young ($1.6 million unguaranteed), Ike Anigbogu ($1.5 million), Alex Poythress ($1.3 million). There are also free agents Trevor Booker ($1.5 million cap hold) and Glenn Robinson III ($1.5 million cap hold).

Joe Young is almost guaranteed to be waived after the drafting of Holiday. Jefferson would have to be waived to stay under that mark but $4 million gets added to that total.

That puts the sum at $79.6 million.

The big question mark remaining would be fan favorite Lance Stephenson. His $4.3 million team option would not allow the Pacers to get to $20 million in space in this scenario. It’s possible that Pritchard was rounding up but including either Anigbogu and Poythress (or similarly cost against the cap that would come from their empty roster spot cap holds) that would push the total closer to $16 million in space if the holds were rescinded on Robinson and Booker.

Another way that the Pacers could get to that $20 million while keeping Thad Young is if they could come to an agreement on a deal in the range of 3 years, $30 million, which would save the Pacers $3.7 million in space this year and push them back up $20 million overall while keeping Stephenson. But the closer we get to Young’s decision date, it seems that either that’s not enough for Young or that the Pacers aren’t even willing to offer that. And the longer this takes, the more likely it seems that he could opt out with no long-term deal in place. His agent is likely gauging interest among other teams and seeing if he can find a better deal than whatever the Pacers are offering that Young is currently disappointed with.

If Young opts out and goes elsewhere, that’s $13.7 million in cap space that the Pacers gain, the Pacers would have about $20 million in space even without waiving Jefferson or anyone else if he opts out. So it’s possible that Pritchard’s $20 million was projecting if Young opted out, but it didn’t sound like it in context.

Pritchard wanting to keep the “top six or seven” players is an interesting number as it seems to cut the line right at Stephenson, who is probably number eight. It’s still highly possible that he’ll be back, but it doesn’t seem as guaranteed as you would think.

Stephenson is a good rotational player for Indiana at a cheap price, so if Pritchard decides to cut ties with the energetic, crowd-pleasing guard, he’ll have to have something lined up that he wants to use that space for. Simply cutting him and then coming up with nothing better to replace him with wouldn’t be a good look to the fanbase that just lost probably the second most popular player on the team.

One of those guys that Pritchard targets could be Marcus Smart, the Celtics restricted free agent, who has been rumored as a target for the Pacers since during the season.

Whatever happens, it should be an interesting few weeks as Pritchard scours the trade and free agent markets with a minimum of $10-16 million in cap space and a maximum of over $30 million.

“They wildly overachieved and they deserve to see if they can build on that,” said Pritchard. “It’s my job to add a few more players, a few more pieces that could help them get past the first round or make the playoffs.”

NBA Draft 2018: Trades for the Indiana Pacers to consider on draft night

The NBA Draft is upon us. Tonight is the day where 60 young men have their dreams come true as they are drafted by an NBA franchise. The Pacers have a lot of options in this draft. Yesterday, we looked at a few prospects that could be available at 23 that might be able to contribute right away for the Indiana Pacers in their rookie season.

Today, we look at a few possible, at least semi-plausible, trades that Kevin Pritchard and the Indiana Pacers front office could look to make on draft night. Pritchard used to have so much success via trade when he was with the Portland Trailblazers that “The Pritch Slap” was born. We’ll see if Pritchard can pull something off like that tonight.

Trade One: Moving on up!

  • Indiana Pacers receive: Kenneth Faried and the 14th overall pick
  • Denver Nuggets receive: Al Jefferson and the 23rd pick

This trade has been thrown out there by many people including most recently Bobby Marks and ESPN. This was also close to what a possible deal at the deadline looked like according to some Pacers rumors at the time, but Al Jefferson and other Pacers asked Pritchard to let the team stick together for the rest of the season and no moves were made.

I think this trade and others in the list would be more likely to happen if Thaddeus Young had already decided that he was going to decline his option and look to test out the free agent market. With his decision still up in the air, the Pacers may be less likely to take Faried’s deal on. It doesn’t affect the Pacers cap space next year since Faried only has a single season left on the deal and that seems to be a possible sticking point for Pritchard on why a long-term agreement hasn’t been reached with Young.

Continue reading NBA Draft 2018: Trades for the Indiana Pacers to consider on draft night

If big changes are coming for the Pacers roster, it’ll happen before free agency

As the NBA draft approaches, there’s still a multitude of decisions on the horizon that will decide how similar the roster of the 2018-19 Indiana Pacers ends up being to last year’s chemistry-laden group.

The Pacers have to make decisions on the following key players and contracts this offseason (all numbers via Spotrac):

  • Darren Collison: $10 million for next season becomes fully guaranteed on 7/1, if the Pacers decide to waive him before that date, it’s only partially guaranteed for $2 million
  • Bojan Bogdanovic: $10.5 million for next season becomes fully guaranteed on 6/29, if the Pacers decide to waive him before that date, it’s only partially guaranteed for $1.5 million
  • Lance Stephenson: Team option of $4.36 million, decision date of 6/29
  • Glenn Robinson III: Unrestricted free agent
  • Al Jefferson: Only $4 million of the final year of his contract is guaranteed, doesn’t become fully guaranteed until during next season (though I’ve seen conflicting reports that his guaranteed date could be 7/2)

Add those to the two player options with Thaddeus Young, as of the latest rumors, may be considering opting out and testing the FA market while Cory Joseph was reported to be opting in for next season very early in May.

So three starters and one of the first players of the bench for last season’s squad all could  no longer be with the team next season. (There are also more players on the end of the bench like Joe Young, Ike Anigbogu and Alex Poythress that have decision dates for the team as their contracts become fully guaranteed this offseason as well, but all of those contracts are only around $1.5 million and a little inconsequential to the team’s overall outlook for next year).

It’s hard to imagine the Pacers simply cutting starters like Collison and Bogdanovic, who both probably just had their best NBA seasons, loose with no guarantee of an adequate replacement just to create cap space. Simply waiving them for the additional space would seem unwise for an Indiana franchise that has never had tremendous success in attracting free agents.

However, their pair of contracts are valuable trade assets for teams that are looking to create enough space to sign a free agent to a possible max contract, and this is the area, if Collison and Bogdanovic are no longer with Indiana next season, how it could possibly happen.

Since both players’ contracts become guaranteed before free agency begins (or on the same day in Collison’s case), a trade would have to happen before free agency for those teams wanting more cap space to be interested. Draft night would seem like the most obvious time for this to happen as picks could sweeten the pot for the Pacers as teams look to unload contracts. Indiana would seem unlikely to simply take on bad contracts with picks and would actually want players that can contribute next year to their emerging team that surprised the league last season.

If all is quiet and no rumors come out from the Pacers shopping these guys on draft night, they’ve probably decided they’ll be keeping as much of last year’s team together as possible for one more run.

With the recent report for ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski regarding Thad Young considering opting out and testing the free agent market, it would seem to be his agent putting pressure on the Pacers to offer a better long-term deal to keep Young around. He may prefer to be in Indiana if possible, but perhaps Pritchard doesn’t want to commit right now beyond that one season left on Thad’s contract, or Thad was hoping for far more money than the Pacers are willing to offer on a longer deal.

Since so many of the Pacers deals come off the books next season, it could be that Pritchard may want to see how this whole group does for one more season before committing to anyone beyond this upcoming year. The Pacers will have a ton of available space next year and Pritchard may want to keep as much of that as possible, especially if he likes next season’s crop of free agents.

With Lance Stephenson, I don’t know if it’s as guaranteed for the fan favorite to be back as you may think. Pritchard isn’t the one that gave Stephenson the contract as it was the final transaction of the Larry Bird era. And while Stephenson did a lot of good for the bench unit, finished many games with the starters and was always good for an energy burst, he also soaked up a lot of possessions that may have been better served going to other players on the roster on many occasions. I still think he’ll be back, but it wouldn’t shock me to see Pritchard decline his team option in order to look for more shooting and someone that doesn’t need the ball in their hands as much. This could even be giving a bigger role to Glenn Robinson III, if the Pacers still believe in his potential and want him back.

For Al Jefferson, it all depends on if the Pacers need the space to sign someone else during free agency. His locker room leadership was a reason Pritchard called him “perhaps the most important player on the team,” but paying $10 million to a guy that doesn’t play is a luxury that Indiana can’t afford if it costs them adding someone for the rotation. They’d save $6 million if they waived him.

Currently, it seems more likely that changes to the roster will be minimal. If Young opts out, that may be the biggest change as the Pacers could look elsewhere for a “true shooting 4” if a deal can’t be reach between the two. If Pritchard doesn’t trade away the first-round pick for a veteran player to possibly supplant Collison or Bogdanovic in the starting lineup, it’s hard to see the Pacers letting them go with no replacement signing already waiting in the wings.

If a lot of changes are coming for the Indiana Pacers next season, many of them will come within these next two weeks of June.

It doesn’t matter what Paul George does. The Pacers won the trade.

Whether or not Paul George stays in Oklahoma City, the Indiana Pacers already won the last summer’s blockbuster trade.

George could stay as a member of the Thunder as their GM Sam Presti felt “really encouraged” by his dialogue with him (doesn’t that sound familiar, Indiana?). Or, he could do what everyone expects and leave for the Lakers or some other team in free agency. We’ve already heard the rumblings that he’s “gone” as ESPN radio host Ryen Russillo said recently, but it doesn’t matter which way he ends up going. The Pacers are better off now than they would have been by keeping George, even a version of himself that wanted to stay.

No one is making jokes about the Pacers anymore (shout-out to the OKC Police Department, ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, who has deleted a tweet from early in the season that included a video from The Jump where she said it was ludicrous to say the Pacers were better off without George, and countless others. The Pacers silenced the critics and proved everyone wrong.

“If you don’t respect the Indiana Pacers now,” Victor Oladipo told reporters after the series against Cleveland, “then I have no respect for you.”

Oladipo’s first season in Indiana was better than George’s final one (both by individual and team success) and he’s two years younger. Oladipo will likely make an All-NBA team and an All-Defensive team this season and the city of Indianapolis has embraced him more than it ever did George.

Continue reading It doesn’t matter what Paul George does. The Pacers won the trade.

Indiana and Basketball: A Love Renewed

What has been the most exciting and fulfilling Pacers’ season in years has finally come to an end. What started with confusion, anger, and frustration towards a former player ended with young stars looking towards the future. Somehow losing the franchise’s arguably most talented player in history was a blessing in disguise.

A group primarily made of players who had been given up on or looked over their entire careers, just took one of the greatest players of all-time to the brink of elimination. But more than that, this group brought something back to the people of Indiana that had seemingly escaped this basketball-frenzy state. A sense of “togetherness” that captured the attention of Hoosiers from Elkhart to Evansville. A togetherness that is rare as in professional sports as the caliber of player that eliminated the Pacers in the first round.

What is this togetherness that has echoed the Pacers locker room since late last summer? It’s indescribable, but Hoosiers can sense it from a mile away. It’s a “we above me” mindset, it’s putting the team first and letting individual accolades come as they may. It’s about striving for something that seems out of reach, too good to be true, and not letting the challenge overtake the journey. It’s Victor Oladipo talking about this franchise as if it’s part of his immediate family. It’s Myles Turner’s resilience when the critics (me included) hounded him about his inconsistency. It’s the resolve of the entire team that seemed to always comeback from a double-digit deficit and at minimum make the game interesting. It’s Lance Stephenson’s… well I don’t know, but Lance was Born Ready and born to play basketball in Indiana. He loves the game like only a Hoosier can. It’s the moment when seemingly all 15 Pacer players rushed to help pick up Cory Joseph after driving to the hoop. Actually, let me correct that, it’s when Pacers fans across the state saw that moment and recognized it from memories past.

Cory Joseph
Photo by Pacers Sports and Entertainment

Maybe you recognized it from playing pick-up at your local park during a hot summer day in the Hoosier state. Maybe you recognized it from an Indiana high school sectional final during a brisk February night. Maybe you recognized it from your child’s YMCA league. But wherever you recognized it from, you knew one thing to be true, it was Indiana through and through.

For the past few years Pacer fans have had to do something that we are just not comfortable with. Balancing between supporting our hometown team that plays the sport that grew up here, while knowing that our star player, deep down, had no interest in being the hero we wanted and him to be. I did it, we all did it. We justified his attitude, made excuses for his comments to the press, and went above and beyond to make him feel wanted, and it wasn’t enough. We all remember that Woj notification last summer, “Paul George plans to leave Pacers”. The weeks of angst that followed and eventually the OKC trade that critics everywhere criticized until local police twitter accounts became pundits.

Close to a year later, no one is cracking jokes. The Pacers demanded everyone’s respect in their round one playoff series, they demanded your attention. Not because of their star power or their flashiness, but because of their togetherness. Their abilities and potential as a unit. The energy that connected Pacers fans with an energy and passion that had been dormant for too long. A rejuvenated spirit that only basketball can seem to bring to the state of Indiana. A sense of togetherness that goes beyond Oladipo and Turner, that moves through the young kids watching on TV or listening on the radio, that brings chills and goosebumps to those in the seats of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Yes, this Indiana team has started a new era of Pacers basketball, but more importantly, this group has brought basketball back to where it needs to be: front and center in the hearts and minds of Hoosiers everywhere.

Together, they have put the NBA on notice.

The Indiana Pacers are back, and so is basketball in Indiana.

Indiana Pacers GM: “We’re in no hurry to change up anything with this team”

Before another thrilling comeback victory at home last night, Chad Buchanan, Indiana Pacers General Manager, was interviewed by Jeremiah Johnson and Quinn Buckner on the Fox Sports Indiana pregame show.

Don’t expect the Pacers to be very active at the trade deadline as the front office of Kevin Pritchard, Buchanan and company are pleased with the way the group has performed and bonded so far.

“We’re in no hurry to change up anything with this team,” said Buchanan, when asked about how the front office is approaching the deadline. “… It’d be great to get into the playoffs because I don’t think anybody anticipated us getting to where we’re at today, but we’re also not going to sacrifice long-term sustainability for a short-term run.”

Continue reading Indiana Pacers GM: “We’re in no hurry to change up anything with this team”

Kevin Pritchard has been the gift that keeps on giving

It’s early in Kevin Pritchard’s tenure as the President of Basketball Operations for the Indiana Pacers, but things couldn’t have gone much better over his first seven months considering the hand he was dealt shortly after he took over for Larry Bird.

In the summer, it didn’t look like it was going well to most outside the Pacers organization.

Originally, Pritchard’s plan was to build around Paul George and create a contender that would entice George to remain in Indiana. George seemed willing to let Pritchard try until about a week before the draft and the beginning of the off-season when he had a change of heart and told the Pacers organization that he would not re-sign with the team.

“We had multiple conversations, we talked about players we wanted to add to this team, and it felt like we were in agreement on that,” Pritchard said after the draft. “Not that a player dictates that, but I wanted him to (give) some feedback. We had conversations about players and how we want to go forward. So, for me it was a shock.”

One week before the off-season and all of the Pacers plans were for naught. That gut punch made for a unenviable scenario for Indiana as they quickly turned their focus to creating a completely new plan.

“It couldn’t have come at a worse time for me,” Pritchard said after the draft. “Had we known this a while ago we could have been more prepared. And then the way it got out… we struggled with that.”

Pritchard was unable to find a deal to his liking during the draft and preached patience on waiting for the right deal to materialize even as George’s agent was making it clear to all potential teams that he wanted to be in Los Angeles. Pritchard found the deal he was looking for with Oklahoma City Thunder, but no one seemed to agree that he made the right call.

The return for Paul George of Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and no draft picks was laughed at and mocked without mercy by nearly all from police departments, fans, mediaeven other teams. (Myself included in the puzzled-over-Pritchard’s-decision camp to choose this deal and not one that included Gary Harris from Denver in a 3-team deal with Cleveland or waiting for Boston to know whether they would sign Gordon Hayward and trying to snag that juicy Nets pick that would only be in the late lottery if the season ended today.)

No one is laughing now. Except the Pacers.

Pritchard has put together a team that plays hard every night, is more fun than ever and has chemistry that usually takes teams years of playing together to develop.

“My teammates are phenomenal people,” said Oladipo. “When you surround yourself with people that care about you, chemistry comes natural. It’s a special locker room.”

None have been more important to this team transformation than Victor Oladipo, who leads by example, cares for his teammates immensely, and has hit big shot after big shot in the clutch for the Pacers so far this season.

It’s likely that Oladipo makes an All-Star team this season, while George probably does not. Not many would have predicted that when the trade was announced this summer.

“He should be an All-Star starter,” Darren Collison said after a recent practice. “I think he deserves it. Since day one, he’s been the leader that we’ve asked him to be.”

And Sabonis has been a big part of the Pacers emerging chemistry as the guy that seemingly everyone loves to play with.

But the deal that netted the Pacers two key pieces for their bright future is only one move that Pritchard made this off-season. He’s looked to have hit on just about every transaction to this point including signing Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic and trading for Cory Joseph.

In total five of the eight players that play the most minutes for the Pacers were added by Pritchard this off-season and another (Thaddeus Young) was widely looked at as someone they should have looked to trade away after the George news instead of keep around.

Instead of being a lottery-bound league bottom feeder that many expected coming into the season, the Pacers sit at 19-14, good for 4th in the Eastern Conference, and have been a much improved team from last year’s version.

The Pacers looked for players that had the following traits in the George deal and seemed to have carried that over into their free agency moves as well: motivated, toughness, hardworking, togetherness, unselfishness, intelligence, athleticism and chemistry.

““It’s chemistry,” said Lance Stephenson after the Nuggets game, “sticking together and believing in one another. We’re bringing it every night. … There’s no hate. You know what I mean? Some guys get mad about somebody doing good. This team wants their teammates to do good. I feel like that makes this team even better.”

Resilient is another word that should have been added to the list as the Pacers come from behind seemingly every game, especially at home.

The only question so far for Pritchard is how his draft picks of TJ Leaf and Ike Anibogu will turn out, but neither player is even 20 years old yet and it’s too early to jump to any conclusions about them this early in their careers.

“We know that he can score the ball,” McMillan said about Leaf after practice. “We want to see him defend and continue to work on, certainly scoring, but really his first year is about just playing. There’s no pressure, no expectations, other than getting out there to play.”

A big difference between Bird and Pritchard’s style in recent off-seasons is the lack of long-term deals that Pritchard handed out.

Both guys spent most of the cap space that they had available nearly every year, but Bird’s long-term bets in consecutive years on the likes of Rodney Stuckey, Monta Ellis, Al Jefferson not only didn’t work out in the immediate sense but gave the Pacers less wiggle room in following off-seasons to improve the roster.

The Pacers will now still be paying Monta Ellis, who was waived in the off-season using the stretch provision, when the NBA All-Star game makes it long-awaited return to Indianapolis in 2021, and neither Ellis or Stuckey have even found a team willing to sign them at all since they were waived by the Pacers. They aren’t the only players from the 2016-17 roster that are now out of the NBA: Lavoy Allen, Kevin Seraphin, Rakeem Christmas, and Georges Niang.

Pritchard, however, kept the team’s future cap space open while going after overlooked veterans that would take short-term deals with partial guarantees in the final year of the contract.

Collison and Bogdanovic both are making about $10 million this season and at this point look likely to complete their 2-year deals next season with the team, but if they didn’t pan out Indiana could have cut the cord with little cost to their salary cap for next season as the second years had a very small portion of guaranteed money. These contracts also could be used as potential trade sweeteners for teams looking to shed salary to make room in FA for a max contract slot.

Right now, it doesn’t seem like these fail-safe options will be necessary, but Pritchard put the organization in good position either way.

The challenge will eventually become what to do with many of the team’s current players as their contracts end either this summer or the next, including Joseph, Collison, Bogdanovic, Young and Glenn Robinson III, but so far Pritchard has been the gift that keeps on giving for the Indiana Pacers.

Kevin Pritchard likes your bad Paul George trade takes

Kevin Pritchard has to be feeling pretty good right about now.

The trade that everyone said was terrible over the summer just keeps looking better and better for the Indiana Pacers.

Victor Oladipo looks like a superstar. And the Pacers got Domantas Sabonis, who has looked like another building block for Indiana. The Pacers are incredibly fun and their chemistry is unreal.

Continue reading Kevin Pritchard likes your bad Paul George trade takes

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

What we learned about Kevin Pritchard during his press conference

Larry Bird officially stepped down as President of Basketball Operations in his press conference earlier today, and Kevin Pritchard was officially promoted to take over Bird’s position.

Here’s what we learned from today’s press conference:

  • Larry Bird decided that this season was going to be his final year as president last season. Bird said that he told Pritchard and another front office guy, Peter Dinwiddie, of his plans, but that only about four people were aware.
  • Bird said the increased budget that Herb Simon, Pacers owner, put in place for this season almost made him want to come back for another season.
  • Bird will remain on as a consultant to the organization, saying that he will help with the scouting department. Pritchard said that he wants Bird in every free agent meeting.
  • Pritchard retakes a lead organizational role similar to the his days in Portland that saw him draft and trade well, earning the reputation for “Pritch-slap” deals.
  • Paul George’s exit interview with Pritchard included only scenarios that would improve the Pacers. George wants to win. “We are on the same page.”
  • Two interesting statements about his philosophy: “You have to be bold in this position.” “I want to be aggressive.”
  • Asked if he would like to re-sign Jeff Teague, Pritchard highlighted how strong Teague had been, and said the Pacers are “open to negotiations” and a “fair deal.”
  • Pritchard highlighted Lance’s success and quipped,”We all know Lance is crazy.” The Pacers will ask more of him next season when he is fully healthy.
  • Asked about the direction for the team moving forward, Pritchard highlighted his desire to find “physical…tougher…and completely high energy” players. Later he mentioned that he wants “a tougher team.”
  • The Pacers want to develop and retain players, meaning they will need to be paid.
  • Rebuilding is a dirty word in Pritchard’s mind.
  • Asked about coaching, Pritchard highlighted Nate’s toughness and spoke highly of him.

Digesting these comments seem to show a front office that will aim to improve the team next year through finding players in free agency and through trades or the draft that are physical, tough, and have high energy. Pritchard did say that he learned how important continuity is from Bird as well. 

Teague will be given a “fair” deal but could pass that up to take big money elsewhere. The goal is to assemble a Pacers team that is competitive and centered around Paul George, with Pritchard believing if George ultimately shows a desire to leave he will be forthcoming.

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