The Indiana Pacers have signed former Providence star Ben Bentil, the team announced Monday. This move pushes the roster back over the 15-player league maximum, following yesterday’s cuts of camp invitee Julyan Stone and six-year veteran Jeremy Evans.
Bentil, who was drafted by the Celtics at No. 51 immediately following Indiana’s selection of Georges Niang, was released last week due to Boston’s already existing depth at his position.
“I think that Ben will look for other opportunities,” Celtics president Danny Ainge told the Providence Journal’s Scott Souza. “We’re just so loaded at that position with Jaylen (Brown), and Jae Crowder, and Kelly Olynyk, and Al Horford — we have a lot of guys who play (the power forward) position.
Over the weekend, a report from Mark Porcaro surfaced indicating that Bentil had a standing offer from the Pacers to join the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
After averaging 21.1 points and 7.7 rebounds on 46 percent shooting during his sophomore season at Providence, the 6-foot-8 power forward appeared in only three of Boston’s preseason games, scoring 15 total points, while shooting just 35.7 percent from the field and never connecting on any of six attempts from beyond the arc.
With Indiana’s roster now standing at 16 (again), the Pacers are expected to waive Bentil, prior to the cut deadline today at 5:00 pm, with the intention of making him an affiliate player after acquiring his D-League rights.
If later in need of power forward depth, most likely to be on the bubble would be second-year big man Rakeem Christmas. The Pacers acquired Christmas last summer from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for the 2019 second round draft pick they received from the Lakers for Roy Hibbert.
The 24-year-old appeared in 48 games for the Mad Ants last season, averaging 13.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks on 47.3 percent shooting. Though he made his mark early in Fort Wayne’s schedule — being named Performer of the Week for games played from November 30 through December 6 and earning a spot on the 2016 D-League All-Star team — he struggled to extend his shooting range as an undersized center and was routinely plagued by foul trouble.
The 36th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft earned only 13 total minutes of playing time over Indiana’s six-game exhibition schedule. Even with starting center Myles Turner sidelined for the team’s first two preseason games as he progressed through the NBA’s concussion protocol, Al Jefferson remained a fixture of the second unit while newcomer Kevin Seraphin leapfrogged over Christmas in the playing rotation.
Where Christmas has a tendency to pickup ticky-tacky fouls reaching over the top or from behind when matched up against bigger bodies, Seraphin has shown some flashes of being capable of using verticality to compensate for his lack of size.
With the Pacers already set at third-string center, gauging Bentil’s potential upside is a zero-risk opportunity cost.
NBA Projections estimates that, in a considerably smaller role against tougher competition, Christmas would average 9.87 points and 6.62 rebounds on 44.3 percent shooting per 36 minutes.
The Pacers are set to open the regular season Wednesday at home against the Dallas Mavericks.