Tag Archives: tj leaf

Stray Pacervations: Odds and Ends of the Indiana Pacers winning streak

Stray Pacervations is intended to shed light on the odds and ends, the small things and possible trends that happen during Indiana Pacers games. Some good. Some bad. Some neither.

The Pacers have won four games in a row, four road games in a row, five out of six overall, and just won all three games in a 4-night stretch. It’s been fun. Let’s dive right in.  Continue reading Stray Pacervations: Odds and Ends of the Indiana Pacers winning streak

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Stray Pacervations: The Good, The Bad and the In-Between

Stray Pacervations is intended to shed light on small things and possible trends that happen during Indiana Pacers games. Some good. Some bad. Some in between.

1. Domas Sabonis rebounding and pushing the pace. There are so many things to love about Sabonis’s game already, but this might be my current favorite. When Sabonis grabs a defensive rebound and no defender is near, instead of pausing and finding the outlet pass, Sabonis will immediately turn into a dribble while looking for an open man. It’s a small thing but it helps the Pacers gain a little bit of extra time for their budding transition offense.  Continue reading Stray Pacervations: The Good, The Bad and the In-Between

Two-Ahh: Pacers fall to Blazers

Without Myles Turner, the Pacers chances weren’t great against a Portland Trailblazers team that won its first game by 48 points without its second-best player in CJ McCollum.

While the Pacers kept themselves in the game for awhile, they couldn’t keep up with the Blazers, who ultimately won by a score of 114-96.

Victor Oladipo provided the highlight of the night with a beautiful finish on an alley oop that made many audibly gasp.  Continue reading Two-Ahh: Pacers fall to Blazers

Leaf leads comeback with 18 points in the fourth quarter

Pacers first-round draft pick TJ Leaf scored 18 points in the fourth quarter as the Pacers overcame a 10-point deficit with six minutes remaining to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-102. The Pacers are now 2-0 in the preseason.

“This is my second NBA game,” Leaf said after the victory. “It definitely gives me some confidence knowing if I play my role I can be successful.”

Leaf did most of his damage from beyond the arc as the rookie hit four 3-pointers in the quarter. During Summer League, Leaf had not yet adjusted to the longer above-the-break NBA 3-pointer and missed every non-corner three he took, but he seems used to the distance now. Three of his long balls were near the top of the key.

“It was good to see him knock down some shots and stay aggressive,” said Nate McMillan, “We drew up a play for him and he came off and nailed that three, so that was a big shot. A very confident kid, and that’s how we want him to play, don’t worry about mistakes, stay aggressive and play the game, and I thought he did that.”

When Leaf hits his 3-point shot, he can then use his drive game as defenders have to close out hard on his shot attempts. Leaf took advantage on a couple of drives in the fourth as he earned a trip to the foul line on the first and scored on a layup on the second.

While he did his damage against Cavaliers bench guys like Derrick Williams and Channing Frye, it’s encouraging to see the rookie take advantage of these kinds of matchups. This is where Leaf can make his mark early in his career on the offensive end. He’ll struggle on defense as he’s slow on the perimeter and needs to add strength inside. This was a good sign for Leaf to show he can contribute early, as increased struggles may have led the Pacers to go back to Al Jefferson as the backup center and move Domantas Sabonis to backup power forward.

Sabonis was another bright spot in game two of the season as he scored 17 points in only 18 minutes, making six of his eight shot attempts and adding seven rebounds. Sabonis shot under 40% in his rookie season, primarily because he was limited to the perimeter. With the Pacers, his post game should be utilized much more, which should lead to a higher field goal percentage for Sabonis.

Other notes from game two:
Glenn Robinson III’s injury is a missed opportunity. Bojan Bogdanovic has struggled with his shot in his first two games as a Pacer. Bogdanovic has only one made 3-point shot in nine attempts and it was banked in. If GR3 was healthy and playing well, he might be making some noise to move into the starting lineup. Instead, he’s only able to watch and rehab as he awaits his ankle to heal up. Hopefully, he can return at full strength and still have a breakout season that he seemed poised for before the injury.

Damien Wilkins is going to make the team. McMillan played the 37-year-old for 24 minutes, more than just about anyone in the second preseason game. Alex Poythress played only four minutes, while Ben Moore and Jarrod Uthoff have still yet to see the floor. You have to question McMillan’s decision making here as there’s little to be gained by playing Wilkins that much instead of the young guys that could gain tremendous experience playing at an NBA pace. It would be beneficial to the Pacers to see what they have in Moore, Uthoff, and Poythress in these next two games in an actual game setting.

Myles Turner continues to look awesome. Early in the game the Pacers were struggling to keep up with the LeBron James-less Cavs, but Turner was a bright spot. This may be a common occurrence when the Pacers play contenders this season. In one short two-minute stretch, Turner scored a basket on a fadeaway in the post, made a great recovery on defense to block a Kevin Love layup attempt, made a perfect pass for an assist to wide open Oladipo for a layup, and then hit another jump shot on the Pacers next offensive possession. He finished with 12 points in 21 minutes.

The Pacers are intent on shooting more 3-pointers. The Pacers had one of the highest percentages from distance last season but were at the bottom of the league in attempts. The Pacers are averaging 30 3-point attempts in the first two preseason games so far this year and while the results haven’t been great, it’s good to see the Pacers embracing the long range game. Percentages should improve as Bojan finds his jumper again and Turner’s shot starts falling, but players like Lance Stephenson and Victor Oladipo will likely shoot plenty of threes, but remain inconsistent on results. This would still be better than Stephenson and Oladipo settling for midrange jumpers instead.

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

Update: Pacers finish in 3rd at Orlando Summer League: A look at TJ Leaf, Joe Young, Jarnell Stokes and others

Update: Pacers finished in third in Orlando Summer League and played the final game without TJ Leaf and Joe Young. No major revelations stood out from the final game that changes the analysis given here for games 3 and 4.

Games 3 & 4:

The Indiana Pacers Summer League squad lost their first game in Orlando this week against the undefeated Dallas Mavericks while playing in their fourth game in four days. But once again, the results don’t matter as much as what the players are showing on the court.

If you missed games one & two, you can find a look at performances for those games here:

Here are some highlights from games three and four:

TJ Leaf: Leaf’s best game of the Summer League came against Bam Adebayo and the Miami Heat. Leaf had 19 points and 10 rebounds, continuing to show an impressive array of ways to get the ball in the basket. Adebayo, who looked really good for the Heat with 29 points and 11 rebounds, guarded him at times throughout the game, which gave Leaf a good test against NBA length and athleticism. 

There were a couple of times were Leaf scored on Adebayo with drives to the basket, creating space before starting a drive on one and making a quick move to score after a rebound on another. Leaf’s shown a lot of prowess off the bounce in his three games, consistently getting to a spot where he can score.

Leaf didn’t guard Adebayo much on the other end, but this still has proven to be his weakness and what may keep him off the floor early in his career. Leaf doesn’t know how to hedge on the pick and roll yet and struggles guarding anyone in the post with his current lack of strength. His short arms also make it a harder for him to challenge jump shots where it affects the opponent. These are all known issues, however, so it’s not like Leaf is showing anything the Pacers weren’t aware of when they drafted him.

In the fourth game, Leaf looked tired and the broadcasters noted his fatigue at multiple times. He wasn’t running the court or finding putback opportunities near as often as he had in the previous two games. His jumper was often left short. Leaf got outplayed by Christian Wood, who has NBA experience, and finished with just seven points, four rebounds and three assists.

One positive note for this game, Leaf did show the ability to make the right pass within the offense. Many of the Pacers seemed fatigued on their fourth straight gameday and it seemed to bring down the performances of just about everyone not named Jarnell Stokes.

Leaf’s 3-point shooting looks like it still needs some work to get used to NBA range. He’s now 0 for 8 on threes attempted above the break and 2 for 2 on corner threes. Don’t be surprised if the Pacers limit him early in his career to the midrange as he adjusts to the longer 3-pointer.

Joe Young: Young showed impressive toughness after dislocating his finger (broadcasters said his bone broke through the skin) and returning to play in game three and playing without limitation in game four. 

Young had his best game of the Summer League in game three with 17 points, six assists and six rebounds. He continues to show improvement in being able to run an offense and set others up in positions to score. He’s consistently shown the ability to find the right player on the perimeter after driving into the lane, especially to set up corner threes.

He’s also shown ability to finish strong inside in traffic and through contact on multiple occasions. He’s still struggling with turnovers at times, sometimes he doesn’t make the easy pass early and ends up dribbling too much. He’s had a total of 14 turnovers in the four games, but he does have a total of 23 assists.

He also seemed to be affected by fatigue in the latest game and is also playing with two fingers taped together on his left hand. Young’s biggest issue remains on the defensive end, where most of his struggles involve getting through picks quickly on the pick and roll. Young needs to find ways to practice those type of plays in his early morning workouts if he wants to eventually get rotation minutes.

Georges Niang: Niang is out for all of Summer League with a sprained knee. He’ll also be getting an MRI to see if there’s further damage soon.

Rakeem Christmas: Christmas saw his first action in Orlando in these past two games as he recovered enough from a sprained ankle. He left Game four early, however, after reinjuring the ankle and did not return.

During his time on the court, Christmas showed skills at rebounding in traffic and made some nice blocks. He also showed some post moves with hook shots and running hook shots that he converted with ease.

He had nine points, five rebounds, and three blocks in his first game and followed that with four points, two rebounds, and one block in seven minutes before he left the game with the injury.

With all the bigs on the roster, it’s unclear if Christmas has done enough to show the Pacers that he shouldn’t be waived before his contract becomes guaranteed on 8/1.  Often during this week Jarnell Stokes has looked his equal, if not better than Christmas, which doesn’t bode well for him.

Jarnell Stokes: Stokes was the only Pacers player that seemed to have much energy against the Mavericks, scoring 15 points and adding seven rebounds and four blocks. Stokes finished his good looks inside more consistently in game four than he has been earlier in the week.

At one point, Stokes blocked a shot that he palmed and kept in his hand (sorry, no video on that one). He’s surprisingly nimble at times and has shown the ability to casually bring the ball to half court when necessary. Though I’m pretty sure if he did so as non-chalantly as he has this week for an NBA team, that he’d be taken out of the game immediately.

He gets out of position too often on the defensive end, probably due to chasing blocks and is very foul prone (had eight fouls in one of the games this week, takes 10 to foul out in SL). His matchup was an undersized center in 6’7″ Warney and Warney managed 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting, adding three steals and two blocks to his stat sheet as well.

Ben Moore: Moore, the undrafted sleeper, had his most productive game in Orlando against the Mavs with seven points and five rebounds. He’s played limited minutes in two of the four games, but has been solid when he’s played.

Moore continues to make the right plays on offense, always moving the ball ahead and only taking his own shot when the offense dictates it. He made a perfectly placed post-entry pass to Stokes on one play that put him in perfect position to score. 

Moore hit all three of his shots against the Mavs and has hit five of his seven shots in the four games (once again he’s rarely looking for his own shot), but none were more important to his future outlook than a nailed corner three. Moore’s potential success is greatly increased with that in his arsenal.

Moore hedges on the pick and roll, can switch onto wings in a pinch and challenge their shot attempts well. There was one sequence against the Mavs where Moore hedged on a screen well past the 3-point line and managed to get the defensive rebound close to the rim a few seconds later.

Travis Leslie: Leslie has come back down to Earth after his impressive pair of 20-point games where he scored with relative ease. He went 2 of 10 for only four points in the third game, but bounced back with a respectable nine points on 4-of-8 shooting yesterday. 

Chris Johnson: Johnson showed the ability to hit the corner three in the first two games, but went cold against the Heat making just one of his six attempts. He still found ways to score, however, adding 12 points and five rebounds. He didn’t play in yesterday’s game, perhaps because he’s left to play for another team in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Trey McKinney-Jones: McKinney-Jones is not shy when it comes to putting up his shots. He’s second on the team with 20 shot attempts in the last two games, making eight (40%).

Victor Oladipo: Oladipo stopped by yesterday to watch some of his new teammates play in Summer League. It’s good to see two of the best players on the team both come out to support the young guys this week in Myles Turner and Oladipo.

Summer League So Far: TJ Leaf, Joe Young, Travis Leslie

The Pacers have won both of their first two Summer League games to start off the week in Orlando, beating Charlotte 84-77 today and beating Orlando 85-74 yesterday, but the wins and losses don’t really matter, it’s all about how the young guys are playing, whose showing improvement or worthy of a further look in training camp.

With that in mind, here’s how some of the Pacers roster has performed after two games:

Joe Young: Young struggled early in the first game, committing five turnovers in the first half, but he’s only had three turnovers in the next six quarters. Young isn’t trying to only score in these games like in his first two SL appearances, but is trying to show that he can play point guard at an NBA level. He’s found shooters in the corners on multiple occasions after getting into the lane and found cutters with timely passes as well. He’s put up 13 assists in the opening pair of contests. He played well against an NBA-caliber defensive point guard in Briante Weber today, which is an encouraging sign for his potential next year. Defense is still a struggle for Young as opposing point guards have been able to get wherever they want to go, but part of that is the Pacers bigs being unsure whether to hedge or not on the pick and roll.

All in all, it’s a good couple of games for Young as he’s scored the ball efficiently while also running the offense and setting up teammates with on-time, on-target passes.

TJ Leaf: Leaf missed the first game because his brother was getting married, so his first action as a member of the Indiana Pacers came today. Early on, it looked like the nerves were getting to the rookie as he had a turnover on his first two touches of the game. Once he re-entered the game in the second quarter, he seemed to settle into a rhythm and show why the Pacers drafted him with their first-round pick.

Leaf scored his first bucket with a nice left-hand drive to get past the bigger defender. He was battling a a 7’0″ 300-pound center on defense down low and while Leaf confirmed that he’ll need to add strength to his 19-year-old body while giving up some easy baskets, he forced a couple misses out of him as well. Leaf finished with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, scoring in a variety of ways. He also added five rebounds.

Defensively, his biggest issue is defending the pick and roll. He’ll have to learn how to effectively hedge on those plays instead of playing back like he does below. Kevin Pritchard and the Pacers were aware that he’ll need work on this end when they drafted him as Pritchard said that he expects Nate McMillan to make him better on defense.

Georges Niang and Rakeem Christmas: Unfortunately for the Pacers, Niang was injured just a minute into the first summer league game. He’s out for the rest of the week with a knee sprain. Christmas has missed the first two games with a sprained ankle. The timing isn’t great for either of them as they’re on the fringes of the roster and constantly have to prove they’re worthy of a spot on the roster. Niang did what he does best in those few short possessions, scoring on a nice drive to the basket and making high-IQ, quick passes. We’ll see if Christmas is able to come back later this week.

Travis Leslie: The surprise of the Summer League so far is the Fort Wayne Mad Ants alum Travis Leslie, who has scored 20 points in each of the Pacers first two games while shooting over 55% and adding 6 rebounds per game. Leslie has shown a smooth outside stroke and an ability to get up and finish with a highlight reel slam. Leslie’s a wing, but the Pacers have played him a little as a small-ball four as well. If he can keep up this level of play, he’ll at least earn a training camp invite, if not a roster spot, from the Pacers or another team in the league.

Ben Moore: Moore surprisingly played very little in the Pacers second game as they went smaller with Leslie at the four, but he showed why he’s been tapped as a potential undrafted success story in the opening game. He’s scored just two points in each of the games, but he’s not the type of player that is worried about scoring. He makes the right plays, passing the ball quickly to wherever the offense dictates that it should go, setting screens to get others open, playing solid man defense, and having the ability to switch onto anyone in a pick and roll. Hopefully, we get to see more of him the rest of the week. The Pacers signed him to a partially guaranteed contract, so he could end up as one the Pacers 2-way contract players, on the Mad Ants, or find himself a spot on the roster.

Chris Johnson and Naz Mitrou-Long: Johnson and Mitrou-Long have both shown a smooth shooting stroke. Johnson has hit multiple corner threes in each of the team’s first two games and Mitrou-Long scored 16 points in the Pacers first games.

Jarnell Stokes: Stokes is a big, strong center that has nice hands inside. He’s a player with an NBA-ready body and has played well in the first two games starting in place of Christmas. Stokes put up 10 points and 7 rebounds today to follow up his 10 points and 9 rebounds yesterday.

Myles TurnerNo, Myles isn’t playing in the Summer League, but he’s been there in support of his young teammates. Turner’s been eager to become a leader on the team and he’s taken the Summer League as an opportunity to get a head start on his new duties as face of the franchise. No one has been more into the games from the bench than Turner, getting excited whenever Young makes a good play or getting on the referees to call a charge on the opposing player.

2017 Summer League Preview

Tomorrow, the Indiana Pacers start their annual Summer League games in Orlando, continuing to prefer the more intimate atmosphere without fans over the Las Vegas Summer League.

The Summer League is made up of players trying to prove something whether it’s a young player with an NBA contract trying to show they deserve playing time when the real games start (like Glenn Robinson III last year) or an NBA hopeful just trying to catch the eye of some team that will give them a shot in the league (Willie Reed dominated Summer League for a couple of years before finally getting a contract from the Nets). 

This is often the first time fans get to see their new draft picks play with their NBA team and get excited with their potential (Myles Turner, Paul George, Lance Stephenson).

It’s important to remember that you can’t overreact to anything that happens in these ultimately meaningless games. These are a group of guys that got thrown together a week prior and it often looks like bad pickup basketball. Some players will play great in Orlando against these young hopefuls, but struggle once the regular season starts (Joe Young). Others won’t take these games seriously and look like they don’t belong in the NBA at all, but once the regular season starts, they start to show their value and abilities again (Solomon Hill).

With that said, there’s still value in these games (otherwise, why keep doing it every year?). Here’s a look at the Pacers roster and what the Pacers will be looking for out of each player:

Joe Young: In Young’s third Summer League, his experience should make him one of the best players on the court at all times. The Pacers will be looking at how well Young can run an offense as a point guard and how well he defends on the other end. Kevin Pritchard gave Young a vote of confidence in his press conference saying he could potentially play off the ball with Lance Stephenson running the point, but Young’s clearest path to a consistent role in the NBA is if he can play at the point guard position.

According to Spotrac.com, Young’s contract becomes guaranteed tomorrow for next season, so Joe should be on the roster next year. But this may be his final season to prove he’s an NBA player as 2018-19 is a team option for the Pacers.

Georges Niang: Niang played very well in the Summer League last season, showing off his high basketball IQ and scoring ability. It’s still a surprise that Niang was never given an opportunity last year as a stretch four especially with limited spacing coming from the bench units, but Nate McMillan must have been too concerned about Niang’s defense. The Pacers will be watching Niang on that end of the court this week as he has showed in the past that while his basketball IQ gets him to the right spots, his limited athleticism gives him problems on that end.

Rakeem Christmas: For the second straight summer, Christmas is playing to keep his contract. Last year, Christmas beat out Shayne Whittington. This year the Pacers have a load of centers already on the roster: Myles Turner, Al Jefferson, Kevin Seraphin, Christmas, and second-round pick Ike Anigbogu. The Pacers did decline Lavoy Allen’s team option.

Christmas will have to show that he’s worthy of keeping around. He showed his value in a brief stretch in February as an energetic big off the bench that sets screens and rebounds. The problem Christmas had was defending without fouling. Seeing a theme yet? He’s another player to watch on the defensive end.

TJ Leaf: The Pacers first-round pick will miss Saturday’s game to be the best man at his brother’s wedding, but when he comes back, the Pacers will get their first look at Leaf in an NBA setting. Leaf shot the 3-pointer well for UCLA but on limited attempts so it’ll be interesting to see if his range goes out to the NBA 3-point line. Leaf shows off some great athleticism in finishing some dunks at the rim, but defensively he needs a lot of work, especially in the pick and roll. How well the 19-year-old rookie plays on that end will likely determine how much playing he can get this year.

Leaf’s fellow draft picks Ike Anigbogu and Edmond Sumner will not play due to injury.

Ben Moore: Moore, who the Pacers signed to a partially guaranteed contract, has been described as a potential undrafted success story by the Ringer and is seen to have potential defensively as a modern big man that can switch everything on screens. The key for Moore making a place for himself in the NBA will be on the offensive end where he didn’t show much ability to shoot at SMU.

Augusto Lima: Lima is Brazilian and is under contract with Real Madrid currently, but he could be bought out by an NBA team. He’s a 6’10” center that runs the floor well and can make some phenomenal rim protections plays. He went undrafted in 2013, but the Pacers had been scouting his progress in Europe since then.

Jordan Loyd: Loyd played at the University of Indianapolis and last season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. He averaged 15/4/4 with Fort Wayne last season and was getting some NBA attention at the end of the season. He’ll also play in the Las Vegas Summer League with the Raptors.

Isaac Hamilton: Hamilton joins his UCLA college teammate Leaf in the Summer League. The guard averaged about 14 points and shot 38% over his three seasons with the Bruins.

Naz Mitrou-Long: One of three former Iowa State players on the Summer League squad. He improved his scoring average every year with the Cyclones and finished at 15 points per game in his final season.

Bubu Palo: Another former Cyclone, Palo averaged 16.1 points and 5 assists for Sioux Falls Skyforce in his third season in the D-League.

Jarnell Stokes: This power forward has played 28 NBA games in his career over the past three seasons with the Grizzlies, Heat and Nuggets. He was a D-League All Star two years ago averaging over 20 points and 9 rebounds per game.

Chris Johnson: Johnson has nearly 150 NBA games on his resume after playing for six teams in four seasons, but spent last year in the D-League, averaging 13.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

Travis Leslie: Leslie, a 6’4″ guard, played for the Mad Ants last season averaging 13.9 points and 6.2 rebounds.

Trey McKinney-Jones: Another member of the Mad Ants last season, McKinney-Jones has spent three of the last four years with Fort Wayne. Last year, he averaged 16.6 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game.


Pacers draft a pair of intriguing UCLA prospects

While the Indiana Pacers were unable to find a deal to their liking for Paul George, they managed to add two first-round talents in the draft with the 18th and 47th picks in a pair of UCLA prospects, TJ Leaf and Ike Anigbogu.

Leaf, the Pacers first-round selection, is an offensively gifted, but defensively challenged stretch four. Pritchard was beaming about his offensive skill set after the draft.

“I think he’s that kind of new-age four,” said Kevin Pritchard, who said they felt like Leaf was a top-10 pick in this draft. “He can spread the floor. He can put it down. He’s athletic at the rim. He’s got a knack for scoring the ball at the rim with either hand, and he runs. He’s a gazelle; he loves to run.”

Leaf shot 47% in limited attempts at the 3-point line in his line season at UCLA and the Pacers are excited to add his shooting ability.

“You need shooting,” said Pacers coach Nate McMillan. “That’s his strength. We felt TJ was the best fit for us.”

Perhaps most importantly for the Pacers as they deal with a superstar that does not want to play in Indiana, Leaf was wanting to be drafted by the Pacers.

“At the end of the day does that make a little bit more of a difference?” said Pritchard of Leaf wanting to be in Indiana. “Yeah, maybe today it did.”

With Anigbogu, the Pacers may have got a steal with the youngest player in the draft as he was projected to go in the mid-to-late first round but fell due to concerns about the health of his knees. 

 https://twitter.com/evandaniels/status/878087292912619520

Anigbogu is a large, athletic center that prides himself on the dirty work: setting screens, rebounding, toughness, and rim protection.

Even though he’s only 18 years old, he’s already a big, strong kid that should be able to hang with NBA bodies. The key will be whether or not his knees are as bad as many teams thought.

The Pacers also added Xavier guard Edmond Sumner after giving cash for another pick late in the second round and reportedly signed SMU forward Ben Moore to a partially guaranteed deal as an undrafted free agent. Both may be candidates for the new 2-way contracts that allow the Pacers to keep exclusive rights to up to two players on their D-League team.