Central Notes: Pacers, Maker, Drummond, Pistons

The Pacers seem ready to re-emerge as an elite team in the Eastern Conference, claims Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders. Indiana made several key additions this summer, swapping George Hill for Jeff Teague in a three-team deal, trading the 20th pick in the draft to Brooklyn for Thaddeus Young and signing free agent center Al Jefferson. The Pacers also have the security of a healthy Paul George, who showed during the season that he was fully recovered from a broken leg in 2014. In addition, Hamilton notes, Indiana has the flexibility for another major move or two this summer. The franchise is about $12MM under the cap and may have a $2.8MM room exception available. Looking ahead, the Pacers could have up to $50MM in cap room next summer if Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles opt out.

There’s more from around the Central Division:

  • The BucksThon Maker grabbed attention in the Las Vegas Summer League with Kevin Garnett-like size and Giannis Antetokounmpo-level speed, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. Many observers were surprised when the Bucks drafted Maker 10th overall, but his athleticism may make that gamble pay off. “We thought he wasn’t afraid and had a little toughness to him,” said GM John Hammond. “That was the key to the draft pick — that we enjoyed him so much as a person and had toughness and wasn’t afraid. You don’t know what is going to go from there.”
  • The Pistons are reaping the benefits of Andre Drummond‘s decision to put off his extension until this summer, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Because Drummond waited on his big-money deal, Detroit had the cap room to trade for Tobias Harris during the season and then sign free agents Jon Leuer, Ish Smith and Boban Marjanovic“We either wouldn’t have been able to do Tobias during the year, or if we had done Tobias, we wouldn’t have been able to add the people we added this summer,” said coach/executive Stan Van Gundy. “It goes to Andre’s character, his true commitment to the Detroit Pistons beyond just getting the contract and [owner Tom Gores’] commitment and his relationship with Andre.”
  • Marjanovic’s three-year, $21MM contract will pay him $7MM each season, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Smith will receive $6MM each year for three seasons (Twitter link), and Leuer’s four-year, $42MM deal starts at $11MM the first season and decreases (Twitter link). He also has $1MM in unlikely incentives.

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