The Indiana Pacers have waived camp invitee Julyan Stone and six-year veteran and former Slam Dunk Champion Jeremy Evans, the team announced Sunday. These moves, in tandem with the earlier cuts of Alex Poythress and Nick Zeisloft, reduce the roster to the 15-player league maximum.
The Dallas Mavericks traded Evans along with cash to the Pacers over the summer to free up cap space to sign Dirk Nowitzki to a two-year, $40 million contract.
The 28-year-old, who was limited this summer after undergoing arthroscopic surgery in March to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, only appeared in two of Indiana’s six exhibition games logging a total of seven minutes.
Acquiring Evans was a zero-risk move, but the interchangeable forward does little to address the team's lack of shooting while seemingly duplicating what Glenn Robinson III's energy, athleticism, and ability to move without the ball can provide in a reserve role at the wing.
Given that the preseason saw newcomer Kevin Seraphin leapfrog over Rakeem Christmas in the playing rotation, Indiana’s final cut should be interpreted more as a vote of confidence in rookie Georges Niang.
The Pacers were already thin at the wing position before C.J. Miles began dealing with knee soreness, which leaves Paul George and Robinson III as the only experienced small forwards on the roster until the streaky shooter returns.
The 50th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft has drawn early comparisons to Boris Diaw, due to the way he manages to compensate for his lack of athleticism with his ability to knock down shots from the perimeter as well as his high basketball IQ.
"He went out there and...the guy just knows how to play," Nate McMillan told Pacers.com’s Mark Montieth of why he inserted Niang into the game during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls earlier this month. "He knows how to play the game. A lot of what he's doing is just making reads, which is how we want to play. He came in and did a really nice job of kind of initiating the offense with quick ball movement, good decisions with the ball and knocking down his shot. The offense looks good when he's out there."
Niang showed a knack for setting smart, intuitive screens during preseason play, and his 42 percent conversion rate from three has the potential to make him more versatile than Evans.
The latter of the two was awarded the NBPA “Teammate of the Year” award by his teammates in Dallas last season. If Evans ends up finding a landing spot with a young team, it is possible his locker room presence could be of value.
The Pacers open the regular season Wednesday at home against the Dallas Mavericks.