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With Oladipo back, Pacers looking to be a top team in the East

INDIANAPOLIS–“I tell you one thing, the East is in trouble now, boy.”

Myles Turner jumped in during Victor Oladipo’s post-game interview on Fox Sports Indiana and made the verbal statement that the Indiana Pacers had made during the game as they beat the Milwaukee Bucks by a final score of 113-97 for their fifth straight win.

It’s just one game but the Pacers are now only a half game back of the Bucks for second in the Eastern Conference with a record of 18-10 with essentially 12 of those games coming without their star in Oladipo. It was the polar opposite of the Bucks destruction of the Pacers at the beginning of the season.

“It is a big game, but we still see these guys a couple more times,” said Darren Collison. “We’re trying to put it to the whole Eastern Conference. We want to be one of the best teams in the conference.”

Oladipo returned but his teammates continued to carry the load as they had done while he was out. Oladipo took just two shots in the first half, clearly easing his way back into things after an extended absence.

“I can’t get it all back in one possession,” said Oladipo, who finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists in 29 minutes. “I haven’t played in three weeks. You try to come out here and do too much, you kind of hurt your team a little bit … I trust my teammates and I trust they’ll make the right play. Guys stepped up and played huge tonight. Myles, Thad, DC hit big shots down the stretch. I’m just glad to be back to help and continue to keep getting better.”

Thad Young is typically the guy whose box-score numbers don’t show his entire impact but tonight they did him justice as he led the team in scoring and did a masterful job on Giannis Antetokounmpo all game.

“I mean I really don’t care,” Young laughed at whether this was his best game as a Pacer. “I’ve never been one to care about stats or anything like that. If I score 2 points and we get the win, I’m happy.”

Young had a season-high 25 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, five steals and a block while holding Antetokounmpo to a season-low 12 points and just seven shot attempts. Young was +28 while he was on the floor and the Bucks star was -31. Young looked like the one that was a possible MVP candidate on this night.

“Great team defense,” Young said on slowing down Antetokounmpo. “My teammates were in gaps and every time I made him spin, they jumped in front of him. Guys were just making him pass the ball out. … He’s a tough guy to guard, especially in transition .. he has me tired right now.”

Teammates all had high praise for their captain’s defensive performance:

“That’s something you’re going to get all year long,” said Collison. “It’s not easy guarding Giannis. Giannis is playing at an MVP-type level and to play defense against him is pretty amazing. You have to give credit to Thaddeus.”

Myles Turner agreed: “Thad was great. He was able to step up with defense on Giannis and we had his back. And he made all the hustle plays. He had all the rebounds, hit some big shots. He had a great overall performance tonight.”

Turner, rocking the ponytail for the second-consecutive game, continued his superb play of late as he scored 23 points on a career-high 22 shot attempts with seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

“It’s the hair … no, I’m just playing,” Oladipo said of Turner’s play of late. “It’s been good. We need him to play at that high level. I felt like he was open a lot today as far back as the big was in the pick-and-roll. Throwing it back to him was key for us and it was big time that he was hitting his shots. It opened up the floor for everybody else. A big game from him tonight.”

Turner took a career-high 22 shots including six 3-point attempts. His last three ended a Bucks run that cut the lead briefly to single digits in the fourth and pushed the Pacers lead back to 11.

“Everybody looked at me and said, ‘Man, you gotta shoot when you’re that wide open,'” Turner on his career-high attempts. I didn’t realize I put up 22 shots … My team encouraged me to shoot those shots. It wasn’t like I was out there jacking. I took what was given to me.”

Ponytail Myles seems to ooze with confidence as his last two games with the ponytail are his only 20-point scoring games of the season to this point.

“That’s what everybody is gassing up, saying it’s the ponytail,” Turner said, “so I guess I gotta keep it.”

The Pacers got off to a 22-9 start in the game’s first six minutes and while the Bucks repeatedly cut into the Pacers lead with mini-runs, they never allowed them to get too close before someone on the Pacers shifted momentum back to their side.

“Indiana’s aggressiveness and execution on both ends of the court. I give them a ton of credit,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said, “they were very good tonight. We couldn’t match it, we kept hanging around a little bit, felt like maybe we could make a run, but they would hit a big shot.”

The Pacers dominated the rebounding battle in this one by a margin of 55-43 and held the Bucks to just 25.6% from the 3-point line.

Bojan Bogdanovic added 16 points. Doug McDermott hit all five of his attempts from the floor for 12 points and Domas Sabonis quietly had another double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Indiana has the 3rd-best defensive rating in the league at this point and the 7th-best overall net rating all while missing a huge chunk of games from their best player. The Pacers have another chance to show they belong with the best teams at the top of the Eastern Conference on Friday as they take on the Philadelphia 76ers.

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Indiana Pacers impose their will on the glass in blowout season opener

Indiana Pacers Head Coach Nate McMillan’s focus all training camp was on rebounding. After one game, it appears that it’s already paying major dividends for the blue and gold.

“In training camp, it was a big penalty if you gave up rebounds in the paint,” McMillan said after the Pacers destruction of the Memphis Grizzlies by a final of 111-83. “I gave the other team three points every time you missed a rebound.  It was just a way to get our guys focused on this part of the game. I liked what we did tonight.”

Continue reading Indiana Pacers impose their will on the glass in blowout season opener

Woj: Thad Young exercises his player option, will remain with the Pacers

ESPN reports that Thad Young will opt into the final year of his contract to remain with the Indiana Pacers and will not be a free agent this offseason.

Young seemed a little frustrated with the lack of a long term deal on the table from the Pacers with a few tweets on draft night.

It appears that Thad’s desire to remain in the Pacers locker room trumped wanting more security as he enters this next season at 30 years old.

In an interview with Alex Kennedy shortly after the offseason began, Young talked a lot about next year with the Pacers, making it clear that he’d like to be back, even if he hadn’t made a decision on his option at that time.

Man, I think the sky is the limit for us. As a team, we’re already pretty good, but I think we’ll be so much better entering next season because we’ll all have another year of experience under our belt and we won’t be a new look team that just got together anymore. … Next year, it should be 10 times easier. There’s not much learning and acclimating that we’ll need to do; we can just pick up right where we left off and focus on getting better.”

https://twitter.com/ipacersblog/status/991075158289997825?s=21

Young’s final year is worth $13.7 million. The Pacers still have about $20 million in cap space if they waive Al Jefferson.

Earlier today, Indiana was rumored to be interested in making a large offer to RFA Aaron Gordon, but with Young opting in, the question will be if the Pacers interest remains in the 22-year-old forward.

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.”

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.

Thad Young and the Pacers share desire for a return to Indiana

Thaddeus Young just had the defensive series of his life against Kevin Love and the Cavaliers, being the primary reason for Love’s struggles for the vast majority of that 7-game series. Will he try use this to cash in on free agency or return to the Pacers for at least one more season?

Young, one of the Indiana Pacers captains for the 2017-18 season, has a player option of just under $14 million for 2018-19.

“I know I have to make that decision by the end of June,” said Young of his player option in an interview with Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype, “but I haven’t made a final decision on what exactly I’m going to do yet.”

While he hasn’t made a commitment one way or another regarding that option, all signs from Young and the Pacers front office point towards a mutual feeling of wanting #21 back in the blue and gold for next season whether he opts in or not.

Continue reading Thad Young and the Pacers share desire for a return to Indiana

New Year’s Resolutions for the Indiana Pacers: Part Two

2018 is upon us and the Indiana Pacers have things to improve on as they await the return of Victor Oladipo and attempt to get back to their previous winning ways. We have resolutions for all the Indiana Pacers for the rest of this season.

If you missed part one:

Domantas Sabonis: Shoot 3-pointers instead of mid-range jumpers

While Sabonis doesn’t shoot jump shots very often (EDIT: which is good for him, I’m not saying he should take more jump shots), his mid-range percentage for shots from 15-feet up to the 3-point line is just 34.5% on 55 attempts. Meanwhile, he’s shooting only slightly worse from distance, 33.3% on 15 attempts from 3-point range. Sabonis shot 32% over his entire rookie season from range, so he can shoot a similar percentage with more volume.

With how Sabonis is shooting his jumper, there’s no reason that this pick and pop shouldn’t be stretched out to the 3-point line.

Continue reading New Year’s Resolutions for the Indiana Pacers: Part Two

The Indiana Pacers chemistry is natural, but not accidental

Kevin Pritchard seems to have created something special in Indiana.

Perhaps not in terms of an abundance of talent on this Pacers team, but in a creation of chemistry that most teams can only dream about having after a few years growing together with little roster turnover. But this team brought in nine new players in a single off-season.

“This is the best locker room that I’ve ever been in,” said Myles Turner.  Continue reading The Indiana Pacers chemistry is natural, but not accidental

A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity #3: Captain Thaddeus

For A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity, I will bring a short column that highlights something about this team that gives me hope. The season is long. We need to focus on the positives whether in the midst of a winning streak or the depths of a rough patch. And in this stretch of lost big leads, we need some positivity.  Continue reading A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity #3: Captain Thaddeus

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

Who starts for the Indiana Pacers in 2017?

The Indiana Pacers roster is starting to take shape after many changes to the team in the first couple of weeks of the off-season.

Additions:

Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Darren Collison, TJ Leaf, Bojan Bogdanovic, Ike Anigbogu, Edmond Sumner

Subtractions:

Paul George, Monta Ellis, CJ Miles, Jeff Teague, Lavoy Allen, Rakeem Christmas 

As the Pacers begin their “rebirth,” who are the Pacers going to start next season?

After the press conference introducing Oladipo, Sabonis and Collison, Nate McMillan said the only starters that were for certain were Oladipo and Myles Turner. After that, “we’ll see.”

Today, McMillan said that Bogdanovic will start training camp as the starting small forward. “It’s his job to lose,” said McMillan.

Here’s some different options that TJ Pacers can look at with their current roster:

Start the Vets:
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Myles Turner

Currently, it seems this is the most likely starting lineup, though it’s surprising that McMillan didn’t list Young among his for-sure starters when he was among the most important players for the Pacers last season. This may mean the Pacers are looking to move Young before the season. If they move Young, Sabonis likely takes the starting power forward spot.

Start the Youth:
PG: Cory Joseph
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Glenn Robinson III
PF: Domantas Sabonis
C: Myles Turner

If the Pacers look to move some of their added veterans at the deadline, this could be the lineup by the end of the season. Robinson seems like the most likely to earn his spot over the incoming veteran as the fourth-year player has consistently shown improvement from year to year and performed well starting in place of George last season. Even if the Pacers keep their roster intact this season, the lineup may end up like the next one before too long.

Middle Ground:
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Glenn Robinson III
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Myles Turner

The Pacers would be wise to see if Robinson can handle a full-time starting role before he enters free agency next season. With the way young wings always get paid in free agency, the Pacers have to find out if Robinson is worth investing $15 million per season. If they don’t start him, he may be cheaper next season or he could look for a better opportunity elsewhere.

Let’s Get Weird:
PG: Lance Stephenson
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Glenn Robinson III
PF: Bojan Bogdanovic
C: Myles Turner

Starting Point Lance seems to have completely died now that Collison and Joseph have joined the team, but this unit that surrounds Stephenson with shooters could score a lot of points. Oladipo could guard opposing point guards and Stephenson would run the offense. Even with Joseph, Stephenson should be running the second unit most of the time as the first man off the bench.

A Little Less Weird:
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Lance Stephenson
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Myles Turner

A Little More Weird Super Small Ball
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Lance Stepenson
PF: Glenn Robinson III
C: Myles Turner

Here’s a couple unconventional and unlikely options with Stephenson at small forward.

New numbers for the new Pacers

Pacers officially announced the acquisitions of Thaddeus Young, Jeff Teague, and Jeremy Evans earlier today and each player had to choose a new number from the one worn the previous season.

Thad Young will rock the former number of David West, during his Pacers time with number 21. His former number with the Nets (30) is retired in honor of ABA great George McGinnis.

Continue reading New numbers for the new Pacers

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