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Notebook: Pacers Create Cap Flexibility

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

As their roster stands now, the Pacers have five rotation players who will become free agents after next season: Thaddeus Young, Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Tyreke Evans (Myles Turner will also have completed the final year of his rookie contract and likely be receiving a significant raise). That should make for a busy and interesting summer for Kevin Pritchard, who also will have an unusually high number of free agents from other teams to consider for offers with his anticipated $57 million in cap space.

He's hoping he'll be motivated to offer much of that money to his own free agents to keep the team together.

"We have the season like we want to have, our free agents will be the priority," he said. "I think this team has a chance to grow this year. I think we have a chance to come together. That makes it easy. We already know these guys. They become our priority in free agency.

"Sometimes flashy is good, but sometimes having really good kids who are hungry...we like the overlooked and unloved. We're not about splashy, we're about trying to do the right thing with the right guys at the right time. (Coach Nate McMillan) does a phenomenal job of getting guys to come in here and being part of something bigger than themselves. That's what we're about."

Pritchard believes the culture the Pacers enjoyed last season, if enhanced by an improved record, will attract significant free agents if it continues.

"Instead of being at the lower end, now we're moving toward the middle-high," he said of the Pacers' standing within the league.

"A lot of people said one year, maybe it just sort of came together. If we can do it two years in a row, no one can say it's not real. That's our challenge."

That culture expressed itself to Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans after word got out they would be signing with the Pacers. Both players said they received calls from several players welcoming them to the team.

"Pretty much everybody has," McDermott said. "It's the first team I've been on where that happened. Vic, Domas (Sabonis), Darren (Collison), Thad (Young), all those guys...definitely makes you feel like you want to be part of something."

Hunger Pangs

All those one-year contracts should help motivate players to play at their peak level. So should the fact none of the Pacers have played on a championship team other than Joseph, who did so with San Antonio. In fact, nobody has advanced past the second round of the playoffs.

Evans and McDermott will only add to that hunger. Evans, in his nine NBA seasons, has played in just four playoff games, a first-round sweep while with New Orleans in 2015. McDermott has played in eight first-round games in his four seasons.

"They are hungry," McMillan said. "It's very similar to what Kevin and those guys did last summer. You bring in a Collison, you bring in a Bogdanovic, you get guys in trades like Victor and Domas they're hungry."

Finding Scorers

Next season's team should be one of the best offensive collections in the Pacers' NBA history, loaded with scoring potential. That's not by accident.

"I was told by Larry Bird if you have two guys who can get 25 on any given night you have a chance. You get three, you're really good," Pritchard said.

The Pacers have eight players under contract who scored 25 or more points last season: Bogdanovic, Collison, Oladipo, Sabonis, Myles Turner, Young, and Evans. McDermott did not while splitting time between New York and Dallas, but surpassed 30 twice and 25 two other times during his 2 1/2 seasons with Chicago.

There's a significant difference between being a routine threat to score 25 or more points and doing so once or twice a season, but the point remains. The Pacers should have improved firepower with Evans and McDermott essentially replacing Lance Stephenson and Glenn Robinson III.

Evans has a 41-point game to his credit and 12 games of 30 or more in his career. Most of his high-scoring games have come from attacking the basket, but he's an improved perimeter shooter. After failing to reach 30 percent from the 3-point line his first three seasons, he hit .399 last season with Memphis. He hit .438 in his 14 games with Sacramento at the end of the previous season.

McMillan, whose team ranked 17th in scoring and 25th in made 3-pointers last season, welcomes the additional offense.

"I get excited when we're talking about guys we had to prepare for," McMillan said. "Wherever (McDermott) was at, we talked about him. Tyreke was the same thing. We talked about him. We had to game plan for him.

"That's how I look at free agency. If I had to prepare for you then you're a good pickup for us."


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