Kevin Pritchard said in his post-draft press conference that the Pacers have options with Paul George trades that could put them in a position to rebuild around young players or could keep them in the playoff race with established veterans.
These two options also give two contrasting plans for free agency. Today, we’ll look at players that the Pacers should look at if they choose to go with a George trade that gives them youth and development. The Pacers won’t be going after free agent targets in “win-now” moves like Jrue Holiday and Danilo Gallinari that they were rumored to be interested in before the George news broke in this rebuilding scenario.
Those types of veterans aren’t going to be looking to join a rebuilding team, and the Pacers will be looking to give as many minutes as possible to their young players with little care about how many games they end up winning next season.
So what kind of targets should the Pacers be pursuing?
Players that are young and cheap. Players that haven’t been given much of an opportunity in the NBA so far in their careers, whether that’s a D-League (now G-League) All-Star or a young player that’s been riding the bench in the NBA. Players that are former high draft picks that fizzled out elsewhere. The Pacers should be looking for guys that you hope can turn into valuable assets or at least rotation-level players with more opportunity and playing time. Lots of low-risk, high-reward potential players, diamonds in the rough, sleepers, whatever you want to call them.
The Pacers have had success with taking fliers on these type of players in the past with Glenn Robinson III, who played briefly with both the Wolves and Sixers in his rookie season.
Here’s some options for the Pacers to consider that would fit the bill:
(Note: The Pacers generally avoid RFAs so I will too. Besides, if teams can match potential deals, it’s unlikely their current team will let them go on cheap deals anyway.)
Age: 27 Stats: 5.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.7 blocks in 15 minutes per game
Willie Reed was fighting to get into the NBA for years in the D-League before finally getting an opportunity with the Brooklyn Nets two seasons ago. He declined his $3 million player option with the Miami Heat after signing a 2-year deal last offseason. In five games as a starter, Reed averaged 14.8 points and 8.2 rebounds.
Age: 26 Stats: 6.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists in 15 minutes per game
Clark had his best season as a pro with the Warriors last year with his first consistent rotation spot. He shot 37% from 3-point range.
Age: 22 Stats: 4.3 points, 0.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists in 11 minutes per game
The 6’3″ point guard Ennis found a 3-point shot for the first time in his career last year shooting 39% and played fairly well for the Lakers over 22 games to end the season. The former first-round pick shot 45% from the field with LA and scored in double figures in seven of his final 10 games.
Age: 26 Stats: 6.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists in 18 minutes per game
Muscala shot 42% on his 3-point attempts last year while spending most of his time as a stretch 5 for the Atlanta Hawks.
Age: 25 Stats: 5.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists in 12 minutes per game
In just four seasons, Robinson, the former fifth overall pick, has played for six teams. He’s the type of power forward that has gone out of style in today’s NBA with his lack of outside shooting, but he put up a 17.3 PER last season with the Lakers in his limited minutes. He’s never averaged more than 15 minutes per game in any overall season. His free throw shooting of just 47% last year is a concern.
Age: 24 Stats: 4.2 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.3 assists in 10.3 minutes per game
His team option was recently declined, but he could still be tendered a qualifying offer by the Nets that would make him a RFA instead of an unrestricted free agent. The wing still hasn’t found a consistent shooting stroke as he’s only shot 29% for his career from 3-point land, but he was able to get his overall shooting percentage to a respectable 45% this season.
Age: 24 Stats: 8.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.8 assists in 19 minutes per game
McLemore is a late addition to this list as word comes that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent from Chris Haynes at ESPN (The Pacers don’t pursue restricted free agents per their owner’s rule). Perhaps no better choice on this list than McLemore, who could potentially end up being a starter for the Pacers at shooting guard. He’s struggled to find any consistency with the Kings, but perhaps a better environment could lead to more success for the former 7th overall pick. He’s steadily improved his 3-point shooting a couple percentage points per season to go from 32% in his rookie season to 38% this past year.
G-League players to take a chance on
The best part about giving any of these players a chance with a guaranteed contract would be that it’ll likely be at the minimum. These are the cheapest and lowest risk options the Pacers could take, but all of them could just be waiting for the right opportunity to show they belong in the NBA as a rotation player.
Age: 25 Stats: 22.5 points, 7.7 assists, 1.9 steals
Jackson is a short point guard, but that hasn’t stopped guys like Isaiah Thomas and many others from succeeding in the NBA. His efficiency was much improved this season in the D-League as his shooting percentages rose to 49% overall and 37% from 3-point distance. You have to think eventually some NBA team is going to give this scoring machine a chance. His PER this year was 22.7 while playing for the Texas Legends.
Age: 24 Stats: 21.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists per game
Jones can play either forward position and put up big numbers for the Maine Red Claws in his rookie season, but perhaps his biggest strength is his defensive versatility. G-League expert Chris Reichert calls Jones a Draymond-lite and says he can guard the 1-4 positions. He shoots a respectable 35% from long range and searching for his D-League highlights on YouTube produce a multitude of monster games.
His teammate Marcus Georges-Hunt is also one to lookout for if the Magic end up cutting him after signing him to a non-guaranteed deal at the end of last season.
Age: 21 Stats: 15.8 points, 8.9 rebounds
Alexander was once a highly-touted high school prospect and looked at as a future NBA star, but after spending a season at Kansas unable to play due to NCAA investigation, Alexander went undrafted in 2015. He’s a power forward that fits the mold of the NBA’s past more than the current shooting bigs that are in vogue, but he did try out a 3-point shot with the Nets D-League team shooting 29.6% on 1.5 attempts per game. He can finish in the post with either hand and is a terrific rebounder. He averaged 22.6 points and 11.1 rebounds over his last 15 games while shooting 58% according to Reichert.
Age: 24 Stats: 20.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists
Brown has earned a couple of NBA call ups in the past but has yet to take advantage, struggling with his shot in those chances. He’s a 6’7″ wing that’s recovering from a stress fracture in his foot, but before he got injured he shot a ridiculous 47% from 3-point range on five attempts per game.
Age: 24 Stats: 16.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists in 23 minutes per game
Cook shot only 33% from 3-point range, but the athletic, strong wing scored in bunches for Santa Cruz before an injury ended his season early.