The Indiana Pacers packed plenty of questions for their trip to Orlando this past week and now return home to sort through the answers regarding what they can expect from some key young players on the roster.
There were plenty of favorable answers, a few unfavorable answers and, but the team learned enough to know that the young players will be able to make positive contributions so now JOB and staff have to find the proper role to take advantage of what these players can do, while minimizing the impact of what they can't. Just remember, though, there are still plenty of questions that can only be answered during regular season play.
Bruno has a nice recap of the week and how the five key players (Roy Hibbert, Brandon Rush, Josh McRoberts, Tyler Hansbrough and A.J. Price) on the summer roster fared. I plan to dig into each player's status after summer league over the next week or so and today I'll begin with A.J. Price.
When the Pacers drafted Price late in the second round, the range of possibilities for the point guard making the roster was quite broad. You want to talk about questions? The Price pick was full of them.
After recovering from a knee injury, would Price be athletic enough to play his game at the NBA level? Did the ultra-talented UConn roster he led, make him look better than he really was? Was Price just back-up insurance in case Jarrett Jack left town? Did the Pacers really think Price had a future with the team? Would Orlando be in essence Price's initial tryout for a roster spot?
After watching summer league, it is apparent that the Pacers have every intention of Price being part of the program going forward. This quote from Jim O'Brien is similar to other comments I've heard from JOB about Price in which he sets pretty high expectations for a late second round pick.
"A.J. Price played very well," O'Brien said. "I still think when all is said and done and people look back in a couple years, they're going to be shocked he was a late second-round draft pick.
"He looked as comfortable out on this basketball court as any point guard down here. He has a great feel for the game and scores it, sees the open man, consistently makes the right decisions. He's a strong player and has really terrific range."
Orlando certainly wasn't a tryout for Price but instead an opportunity for the PG to get familiar with Jim O'Brien and his offensive system. They brought him along slowly and let him show what he could do in the third and fourth games when he was far more comfortable with his surroundings. I would've liked to see Price more, but setting the kid up to succeed and build confidence is understandable.
A couple of things that stood out to me was Price's ability to defend the ball and shoot the ball since we know he can handle the ball and direct a taem. For some reason, I took great pleasure in seeing Price pick up the opposing point guard at three-quarter court and easily pressure the ball up the court. Maybe I'm just starved for signs of a defensive enlightening, but seeing Price as comfortable in a defensive stance as he was bringing the ball up the court was nice.
On offense, Price is no Stephen Curry but the NBA 3-ball is an easy shot for him, so developing more consistency should be expected. Price didn't attack the lane much in Orlando like he did for UConn, but that's more a product of learning a new offense and trying to execute plays within the system. There's a time for freelancing and making plays, but that time isn't when you're trying to impress a new coaching staff and show you can be coached throughout a game.
Having shown he can play physically, Price could become a long-overdue success story coming out of nowhere for the Pacers. After playing at UConn we already know he can perform under pressure since he had to endure hostile environments and tight games plenty of times on the road in college. At best, his initial role with the Pacers will be minimal and really depends on the remainder of the offseason, especially whether or not Jack returns. But Price could be a great situational option at PG in a combined role with Travis Diener depending on matchups and just what is needed on the floor at a certain point in the game. If Price can provide that for the Pacers in his rookie season, it would certainly thrill the team.
So while a roster spot still isn't guaranteed for Price, after Olando it looks like Price will have to play his way out of a spot on the team as opposed to playing his way into a spot.