Years Pro: 1
Status: Completed first season on two-way contract.
Key Stats: Tallied 36 points over 24 appearances in his rookie season. Averaged 12.7 points in 27.9 minutes played over 12 games with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Finished third in the 2021 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
Rookie life in the NBA can be a long journey for a player who is not a lottery pick. It was especially true for a 2020-21 rookie class that had to endure a set of circumstances that were completely different than years past. Nonetheless, Pacers second-round pick Cassius Stanley took it in stride and showcased some of his talents along the way.
With no Summer League to use as a barometer and a heavily shortened training camp, the Blue & Gold placed the former Duke University standout on a two-way contract to guarantee as much playing time as possible.
"I haven't had a normal or traditional anything since like 2019," Stanley said in his exit interview. Every NBA player, including rookies, had to undergo strict quarantine procedures and testing protocols before every game — even if playing time was not guaranteed.
"The veterans on the team (said) this isn't a traditional rookie year. But for me, I was just living in the moment."
PHOTO GALLERY: Cassius Stanley's 2020-21 Season in Photos »
The rookie appeared in 24 games for the Blue & Gold this year, primarily during the final minutes of blowout games. But that did not stop him from trying to showcase his talents. The high-flying shooting guard attempted a few highlight-reel dunks during his brief stints — an homage to his playing days under legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
He played a season-high 12:57 for the Pacers on May 1, finishing with a season-high seven points on 3-of-7 shooting in their historic 57-point victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He played another 11:25 four days later against the Sacramento Kings and finished with three points and three boards.
Stanley also earned praises after becoming the first two-way player to participate in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. All-Star Weekend was scheduled to take place at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but the league initially canceled this season's All-Star activities before greenlighting them during the middle of the season. A one-night All-Star occurred in Atlanta in front of no fans, while Indianapolis will now host the 2024 All-Star weekend.
Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images
Some fans believe Stanley was robbed of a chance to compete in the final round in the Dunk Contest. The 6-5 guard initially wowed the crowd with a windmill dunk between his legs off a bounce pass to himself. However, the judges only gave him a score of 44. He then struggled to convert his second dunk and was eliminated.
Stanley found the bulk of his playing time in the G League bubble that took place in Orlando. He appeared in 12 games for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, starting nine, and averaged a solid 12.7 points on 41.6 percent shooting while playing a healthy 27.9 minutes per game. Unfortunately, he then suffered a foot injury and did not see much playing time after that.
Before ending his topsy-turvy rookie season, Stanley tallied a season-high 11 points in the Pacers' final Play-In game against the Washington Wizards. Perhaps it is a sign that the high-energy player is trending in the upward direction. Despite his limited play, he flashed a smile throughout the majority of his exit interview, ecstatic that he gets to play basketball for a living.
"I like it out here," the California native said of Indianapolis. "It's very calm, peaceful, and easy."