Pacers Rumors

Nate McMillan Happy With Offseason Additions

The Pacers took the conference champion Cavaliers to seven games in their playoff series and feel good about their chances to contend in the upcoming season, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Coach Nate McMillan is especially encouraged by Indiana’s offseason moves, which included the free agent additions of Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott and Kyle O’Quinn, along with drafting Aaron Holiday.

  • Victor Oladipo‘s summer is a mixture of workouts and marketing opportunities, relays J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. The league’s reigning Most Improved Player adopted a new diet and upgraded his offseason routine last year before posting the best season of his NBA career. The Pacers star is also taking advantage of his new-found fame to help build his brand. “I decided to take control on and off the court and really make decisions that are best for me instead of relying on other people,” Oladipo says. “It’s about growth, getting a little wiser, a gray hair here or there. I’m trying to grow up.”

Poll: Which Team Will Win Central Division?

The Cavaliers have won the Central division for four consecutive seasons, and the Cavs, Pistons, and Bulls have combined to claim 12 of the last 14 division titles. However, those clubs won’t enter the 2018/19 season as the frontrunners to finish atop the Central.

Currently, the Pacers and Bucks are viewed as virtual co-favorites for the Central crown in ’18/19. The opening over/unders from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook had the Pacers at 47.5 wins and the Bucks at 46.5. Currently, however, betting site has both teams projected at 46.5 wins for the upcoming season. No other Central team is projected to get to .500.

Indiana and Milwaukee finished four games apart last season, as the 48-34 Pacers claimed the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the 44-38 Bucks came in at No. 7. Both clubs have also made modest upgrades to their respective rosters during the offseason.

Indiana lost Lance Stephenson, Trevor Booker, Al Jefferson, and Glenn Robinson III, but added Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, Kyle O’Quinn, and Aaron Holiday. In Milwaukee, the Bucks acquired Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, and Donte DiVincenzo to replace Jabari Parker, Brandon Jennings, and Jason Terry.

As they look to leapfrog the Pacers in 2018/19, the Bucks will be relying on continued development from Giannis Antetokounmpo – potentially the best player in the East – as well as an immediate impact from new head coach Mike Budenholzer. As for the Pacers, they’ll count on continuity from a group that gelled quickly last season, as well as improvements from young players like Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis.

What do you think? Do you expect the Pacers to supplant the Cavaliers as the Central’s top team in 2018/19? Will the Bucks take home the Central crown for the first time since 2001? Or will the Pistons, Cavs, or Bulls make a surprise run to win the division?

Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your thoughts!

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Remaining Offseason Questions: Central Division

NBA teams have now completed the brunt of their offseason work, with the draft and free agency practically distant memories. Still, with training camps more than a month away, most clubs around the league have at least one or two outstanding issues they’ve yet to address.

Over the next week, we’re looking at all 30 NBA teams, separating them by division and checking in on the key outstanding question that each club still needs to answer before the 2018/19 regular season begins.

After focusing on the Atlantic on Monday, we’re moving on to the Central today…

Chicago Bulls
Will the Bulls sign Bobby Portis to a rookie scale extension this year?

Even before Portis was technically eligible to sign a rookie scale extension, a report indicated that he and the Bulls were discussing the possibility of a new deal. That was a strong signal that there was legitimate interest on both sides in getting something done this year.

The Bulls will have cap room available next summer and may want to wait on Portis’ contract in order to maximize their flexibility in 2019. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not a huge concern for the team — Portis’ cap hold as a restricted free agent would be about $7.5MM, so if he signs a new contract now that goes into effect in 2019/20, it’s unlikely to significantly increase that cap charge and compromise Chicago’s cap space.

The Bulls and Portis have until October 15 to work something out. Last we heard, talks between the club and the forward’s camp were ongoing.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Will the Cavs eventually re-sign Rodney Hood?

The Cavaliers actually have several questions still to address. Will their long-rumored deal with David Nwaba be finalized anytime soon? Will Larry Nance get an extension this offseason? Will J.R. Smith or anyone else be traded before the season begins? Still, Hood’s status is the biggest question mark for the Cavaliers at this point, as he’s the most noteworthy free agent from the class of 2018 who remains unsigned.

Because Hood is a restricted free agent and there doesn’t appear to be a rival suitor out there ready to put an offer sheet on the table, Cleveland isn’t under pressure to get a deal done right away. The apparent standoff between Hood and the Cavs could last several more weeks. Last year, for instance, RFAs like Alex Len, Nikola Mirotic, and JaMychal Green didn’t resolve their situations until the last week of September when training camps got underway.

We’ll have to wait to see whether Hood will go the Len route – signing his one-year qualifying offer – or if he’ll be able to agree to terms on a multiyear deal with the Cavs, like Mirotic and Green did with their respective clubs last September.

Detroit Pistons
Is the Pistons’ roster set?

There are no burning questions looming over the Pistons as training camp approaches. Detroit has 15 players on guaranteed contracts and both its two-way contract slots filled. There are no major trade candidates on the roster. And it looks like the team is just about done making changes to its coaching staff and front office.

It remains to be seen whether senior advisor Ed Stefanski will officially get a general manager or president of basketball operations title, but there’s little intrigue there — he has led the Pistons’ front office this offseason and is the team’s effective head of basketball operations, even if he doesn’t have the usual title.

So our question for the Pistons is whether this is the roster that will open the season. Jon Leuer is hurt again, and there’s not a ton of depth in the frontcourt behind Andre Drummond and the oft-injured Blake Griffin. It remains to be seen whether Henry Ellenson is ready for major minutes or if Zaza Pachulia can still play them.

The Pistons have plenty of depth at point guard and on the wing, so it will be interesting to see if they trade in any of that depth for one more frontcourt contributor. Even Detroit’s two-way players – Reggie Hearn and Keenan Evans – are guards, so perhaps the club will consider replacing one of them with a big man for insurance purposes.

Indiana Pacers
Will Myles Turner get a rookie scale extension from the Pacers this year?

Turner was expected to take a huge step forward last season with Paul George no longer in Indiana, but he was nagged by injuries throughout the season and had his role adjusted to some extent to accommodate Domantas Sabonis‘ breakout year. The 22-year-old Turner should still be a major part of the Pacers‘ future, but after a modest showing in 2017/18 (12.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, .479 FG%), it’s not clear if the two sides will be able to compromise on his long-term value this offseason.

I expect Turner’s representatives to push for a long-term extension at least in the Clint Capela range ($16-18MM annually). The Pacers, who are poised to open up major cap room next summer and still have to figure out if the Turner/Sabonis pairing can succeed, may be reluctant to invest that heavily quite yet.

Like Portis and the Bulls, Turner and the Pacers will have until October 15 to strike a new deal. If negotiations get serious, it’s likely to happen closer to that deadline. And if the two sides can’t reach an agreement, Turner will be on track for restricted free agency in 2019.

Milwaukee Bucks
Who will be the Bucks’ 15th man for the regular season?

It’s still possible that the Bucks will be able to work out a trade that sends out a player like Matthew Dellavedova or John Henson. Assuming the current 14 players on guaranteed salaries make the regular season roster though, that leaves just one open spot, with multiple candidates to fill it.

Tyler Zeller will be on a non-guaranteed deal and won’t necessarily be assured of a roster spot. The same goes for Shabazz Muhammad. Training camp invitees like Travis Trice, Brandon McCoy, and Jordan Barnett will likely end up with the Wisconsin Herd, but perhaps one of them becomes a contender for that 15th roster spot with a strong preseason.

Jason Terry also remains a wild card in the Bucks’ decision-making process. Terry has said multiple times that he wants to play one more NBA season, and he has spent the last two years in Milwaukee. In 2017, he didn’t sign with the Bucks until mid-September, so we can’t rule out the possibility of him returning to the team once more. If he does, he’d almost certainly have the upper hand for that final opening on the roster.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pacers Praised For Offseason Additions

A number of low profile offseason additions have helped the Pacers take a step forward this summer, so say a number of league experts, as Scott Horner of The Indianapolis Star writes.

The Pacers added significant depth when they brought aboard Tyreke Evans, Kyle O’Quinn and Doug McDermott and will benefit from the addition of first-round pick Aaron Holiday and whatever inevitable improvements Victor Oladipo makes to his game over the course of the offseason.

There was no shortage of journalists willing to praise the Pacers for their summer work and’s David Aldridge even went so far as to say that they’re as good a threat as any in the East to challenge the Celtics this season.

Extension For McMillan Was Necessary Step

The Bulls’ starting lineup seems set but there will be a couple of key position battles in training camp, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times notes. Justin Holiday and Denzel Valentine will be angling for playing time at small forward behind Jabari Parker, while Cameron Payne could have an unexpectedly tough battle with Ryan Arcidiacono as the main backup at point guard. Cristiano Felicio also needs to carve out a role and earn some of his $8,470,980 salary, Cowley adds. ‘‘The thing I’m excited about with training camp is it’s going to be open competition,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers needed to extend coach Nate McMillan to prevent a lame-duck situation next season, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star explains. McMillan agreed to an extension through the 2020/21 season. It was also necessary for a franchise that preaches culture and loyalty to reward its coach for a job well-done last season, Michael continues. The Pacers overcame the lack of true stretch four as well as a shooter at the backup shooting guard spot. Their wings were also somewhat limited offensively and they were undersized in the backcourt, Michael adds.
  • If Jaylen Morris can improve his perimeter shooting, the Bucks will be rewarded for signing him to a two-way contract, according to Dakota Schmidt of Morris is adept at attacking the basket and finishing at the rim and is also a solid defender, Schmidt continues. The 22-year-old wing will also benefit from working with assistant Ben Sullivan, who has helped numerous players with their shooting stroke, Schmidt adds.
  • The Pistons’ 15-man roster appears to be set after a low-key July that included the free agent signings of three reserves, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press relays. Ellis breaks down the roster player-by-player in the story.

Pacers Sign C.J. Wilcox To Two-Way Contract

The Pacers have filled their second two-way contract slot, officially announcing today in a press release that they’ve signed free agent shooting guard C.J. Wilcox to a two-way contract.

Wilcox, a first-round pick in the 2014 draft, spent his first two seasons with the Clippers before being traded to the Magic during the 2016 offseason. The 6’5″ guard was waived by the Magic in April 2017 and inked a two-way deal with the Trail Blazers last summer. He spent the entire 2017/18 campaign on that two-way contract with Portland, recovering from a right knee injury for the first part of the season.

Players with more than three years of NBA experience aren’t eligible to sign two-way contracts, so it appears last season didn’t count as a year of service for Wilcox, who had appeared in games with the Clippers and Magic during the previous three seasons. A player must spend at least one day on his club’s NBA roster to log a year of service, and Wilcox didn’t play at all for the Blazers in 2017/18. The 27-year-old averaged 10.4 PPG on .451/.381/.889 in 11 G League games for the Santa Cruz Warriors.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Two-Way Contracts]

With Wilcox locked up, the Pacers have now filled both of their two-way contract slots. Edmond Sumner, who signed a two-year, two-way deal with Indiana last year, holds the other spot.

Pacers, Nate McMillan Agree To Extension

1:15pm: The Pacers and McMillan are in agreement on a deal that will extend his contract through the 2020/21 season, according to Wojnarowski.

12:03pm: The Pacers and head coach Nate McMillan are finalizing a contract extension, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Terms of McMillan’s new deal aren’t yet known.

McMillan, who was named Frank Vogel‘s replacement by the Pacers back in the 2016 offseason, signed a three-year contract at that time, so he would have been entering the final year of his deal this fall if he hadn’t worked out a new agreement with the team.

Wojnarowski reported in June that the Pacers would likely discuss an extension for McMillan this offseason, with president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard confirming last month that those talks were underway.

McMillan made the Pacers’ decision to extend him an easy one. After leading the team to a 42-40 record during his first year as head coach, McMillan and the Pacers were expected to take a step back last season with star forward Paul George no longer on the roster. However, Indiana was one of the NBA’s surprise teams of 2017/18, racking up 48 wins and earning the No. 5 seed in the East. The Pacers pushed LeBron James and the Cavaliers to seven games in the first round before losing Game 7.

In total, McMillan has a 90-74 (.549) record in two seasons with the Pacers. The veteran coach, who was an assistant on Vogel’s staff before earning a promotion in 2016, had previous stints as the head coach of the SuperSonics and Trail Blazers. His overall record as a head coach is 568-526 (.519), placing him fifth among active head coaches in career wins, and 26th all-time.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

J.J. Redick Nearly Signed With Pacers

The Sixers brought back J.J. Redick on a one-year, $12.5MM deal this offseason, though they almost lost him to an Eastern Conference rival.

“I almost signed with [the Pacers]. I was an hour away, two hours away. I was very close. I had a 5 p.m. deadline. Basically, it was 12:30, 1 o’clock in the afternoon when Philly changed the offer,” Redick said on his podcast (h/t Dan Feldman of NBC Sports).

Indiana wasn’t able to land Redick. The team then signed another sharpshooter in Tyreke Evans, whose deal runs for one year and $12MM.

Redick scored 17.1 points per game in his first season with the Sixers, knocking down 42.0% of his shots from behind the arc. He saw 30.2 minutes per contest in the regular season, but the Sixers upped his total to 34.2 during their 10 playoff games.

And-Ones: Super-Max, Team USA, Evans, Bibby

As ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes in his latest column, the “super-max” extension, also known as the Designated Veteran Extension, was included in the NBA’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement in part as a reaction to Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors in 2016. The thinking was that giving a team the opportunity to give its star player a larger contract (35% of the cap instead of 30%) earlier in his career would help clubs keep their very best players.

However, as Lowe writes, while offering the super-max to a top-five player is a no-brainer, it becomes a dicier proposition for a top-10, top-15, or top-20 player.

The Bulls decided to trade Jimmy Butler rather than having to decide on a super-max offer, and according to Lowe, some members of the Pacers‘ front office had “qualms” about making such an offer to Paul George. John Wall and Russell Westbrook both received super-max extensions, but those deals will run through 2023 and could very well become albatrosses before they expire.

While there’s no indication that the league is considering any changes to the Designated Veteran Extension at this point, Lowe offers up some potential tweaks to the rule, along with thoughts from NBA executives. One idea, for example, would see super-max contracts become exempt from luxury-tax penalties — that proposal wouldn’t do much besides save owners money though, and would complicate potential trades. For more of Lowe’s ideas, be sure to check out his piece in full.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

Al Jefferson Set To Play In China

2:24pm: Aldridge has confirmed that Jefferson will join the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in China (Twitter link).

12:00pm: Veteran NBA big man Al Jefferson is opting to play in China for the upcoming season, a source tells TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link). According to Aldridge, Jefferson had an opportunity to rejoin the Pacers after being waived by the team earlier this month, but was offered a “nice payday” overseas.

Shortly after releasing him, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard revealed that Jefferson was mulling the possibility of playing international ball in 2018/19. While Aldridge’s report doesn’t specify which team Jefferson has lined up a deal with, a report earlier in July indicated that the big man was expected to sign with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association.

Jefferson, 33, has averaged 15.7 PPG and 8.4 RPG over the course of a productive 14-year NBA career, but played a career-low 13.4 minutes per contest for Indiana last season, appearing in just 36 games. Although the veteran’s per-minute production was still strong, he wasn’t a major part of the Pacers’ plans going forward, and his $10MM salary for 2018/19 was only guaranteed for $4MM, making it an easy decision to cut him.

Assuming Jefferson finalizes a deal with a Chinese club and spends the 2018/19 campaign overseas, he could return stateside in the spring, since the CBA season ends before the NBA’s does. This past April, for instance, Ty Lawson returned from a stint with the Shandong Golden Stars and immediately signed with the Wizards, claiming a regular rotation role with Washington during the team’s brief playoff run.