Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2018 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2018/19 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Indiana Pacers.
- Two-way contracts:
- Non-guaranteed camp contracts:
- 1-23: Aaron Holiday — Signed to rookie contract.
- 2-50: Alize Johnson — Signed to two-year, minimum salary contract. First year guaranteed. Signed using minimum salary exception.
- Trevor Booker
- Al Jefferson (waived)
- Alex Poythress (waived)
- Glenn Robinson III
- Lance Stephenson
- Joe Young
Other offseason news:
- Signed head coach Nate McMillan to a contract extension through 2020/21.
- Exercised 2019/20 rookie scale team options for Domantas Sabonis and T.J. Leaf.
Salary cap situation:
- Used cap space; now over the cap.
- Carrying approximately $106.2MM in guaranteed salaries.
- No cap exceptions left besides minimum salary exception.
Check out the Indiana Pacers’ full roster and depth chart at RosterResource.com.
Story of the summer:
Armed with upwards of $20MM in cap room, the Pacers entered the offseason in a rare position — not only were they coming off an impressive 48-win season and retaining all their most important pieces, but they were also in position to add another impact player.
However, despite some rumors about a few top-tier free agents – including Aaron Gordon – the Pacers ultimately took a similar approach to free agency to the one they took in previous years. Rather than using all that cap space in a single player, Indiana spread the wealth, adding a few veteran free agents to their roster on deals in the neighborhood of the mid-level.
Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, and Kyle O’Quinn should fit in well on a roster that overachieved in 2017/18. Evans and O’Quinn have spent most of their respective careers on lottery teams and will be willing to play whatever roles are needed in order to get to the postseason. McDermott, meanwhile, has to be thrilled about getting a three-year commitment from a team that will be his fifth since the start of the 2016/17 season.
Those veteran additions flew under the NBA radar during an offseason that saw stars like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard change teams, but they make perfect sense for a Pacers team looking to build on last season’s success without breaking the bank or compromising future flexibility.
Key offseason losses:
While all of the Pacers’ core pieces will be back for the 2018/19 season, the team did lose a handful of role players, including Lance Stephenson. Stephenson’s second stint in Indiana wasn’t quite as successful as his first, but he was a solid contributor for last year’s squad, chipping in 9.2 PG, 5.2 RPG, and 2.9 APG off the bench.
Indiana’s decision to turn down Stephenson’s relatively modest ($4.36MM) team option for 2018/19 allowed the club to maximize its cap room while retaining the ability to bring back the 28-year-old. Ultimately, a reunion wasn’t in the cards, as Stephenson reached a deal to join the Lakers instead.
Big men Trevor Booker and Al Jefferson were among the Pacers’ other offseason departures. Booker was somewhat redundant at a power forward spot that features Thaddeus Young, especially if the Pacers envision a bigger role for T.J. Leaf. As for Jefferson, his $10MM salary was only partially guaranteed for $4MM, making him an obvious cap casualty.
Key offseason additions:
It was a buyers’ market for NBA teams in free agency this summer, a contrast from the last two offseasons. So it was surprising to see the Pacers commit three years and $22MM to McDermott during the first hour of free agency once the calendar flipped to July 1.
For a team in need of a shooter, there may have been better values out there than giving McDermott three guaranteed years — Marco Belinelli got $12MM over two years from the Spurs, while Wayne Ellington returned to the Heat for one year and $6.27MM. Still, we’ll give the Pacers the benefit of the doubt with McDermott for now. They clearly have a plan in mind for him, and even if he doesn’t do much else, he’ll knock down threes. He made 49.4% of his shots from beyond the arc in 26 games for Dallas last season, bumping his career rate to 40.3%.
Evans, who got a one-year, $12.4MM contract, is perhaps the more intriguing addition for the Pacers. He’s coming off an impressive bounce-back year in Memphis in which he put up 19.4 PPG, 5.2 APG, and 5.1 RPG in 52 games before the tanking Grizzlies shut him down for the season.
With Victor Oladipo, Darren Collison, and Cory Joseph in the mix, Evans might not get a chance to handle the ball as much as he did with the Grizzlies, but there are plenty of reasons to like this fit. Evans should get a chance to become the go-to scorer for the second unit, and when he plays alongside Oladipo, he’ll avoid the toughest assignment on defense.
The Pacers further fortified their bench by signing veteran center O’Quinn and drafting promising young guard Aaron Holiday. It’s not clear how much of a role either player will have, given the team’s depth in the backcourt and at the five. However, O’Quinn is the sort of guy who can step up and provide reliable production in the event of an injury, while Holiday will get the chance to learn from and develop alongside a handful of veteran guards.
Outlook for 2018/19:
The Pacers won 48 games last year and appear to have improved their roster, but that doesn’t mean we should pencil them in for 50+ victories and a spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals this season. The Pacers won’t catch any teams off guard in their second year without Paul George, and some regression is possible.
Still, this is a deep and talented roster, one that should claim a top-five seed in a depleted Eastern Conference, particularly if Myles Turner enjoys a bounce-back season. The Pacers are also well positioned to stay flexible going forward, with only about $40MM in guaranteed salaries on the cap for 2019/20.
With seven probable rotation players on expiring deals, the Pacers’ 2018/19 campaign will be about evaluating which of those players are keepers. More importantly though, it will be about looking to build upon last year’s surprise success and establishing a place as a perennial contender in the Eastern Conference.
Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.