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Pacers keep Damien Wilkins, may have finalized 15-man roster

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Indiana’s roster cuts reflect Glenn Robinson III’s absence as well as the team’s affinity for veteran leadership.

NBA: Preseason-Indiana Pacers at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers have waived point forward Ben Moore along with DeQuan Jones and Trey McKinney-Jones, the team announced Saturday. They also reportedly decided to keep 37-year-old veteran Damien Wilkins to provide added wing depth while Glenn Robinson III recovers from surgery to repair injured ligaments in his left ankle. Without confirmation of Jarrod Uthoff’s status, the roster technically stands at the 15-player league maximum, with the two-way contracts signed by Alex Poythress and second-round draft pick Edward Sumner acting as 16th and 17th roster spots.

Prior to the start of training camp, Kevin Pritchard seemed open-minded with regard to observing which players would prove themselves on the court and was reluctant to categorize Moore or Uthoff strictly as affiliate players.

“I’m not ready to say that,” Pritchard responded when asked if the 22-year-old out of Southern Methodist University or the 24-year-old out of Iowa would be bound for Fort Wayne. “Ben and Jarrod, they’ve had a really good time here.”

Even so, neither player logged more than 30 minutes during the preseason, which seemed to suggest that at least one of the roster openings was already earmarked for Wilkins to lose once Robinson III sustained his injury.

In the limited minutes they did manage to earn, Moore appeared tough to screen while Uthoff’s shooting and defensive rebounding made him seem capable of providing emergency depth at power fauxward.

Still, while the former could perhaps facilitate switch-everything lineups in small bursts, his lack of reliable outside shooting could potentially throw a wrench in a bench already missing its central stop-release. Meanwhile, the latter seems to track better as a stretch four than an over-sized wing, which brings into question how well he and T.J. Leaf will be able to mesh as interchangeable forwards.

To the credit of Wilkins, he was plus-18 in 76 minutes of action and shot an impressive 50 percent from the field and 41 percent from three, making him a more obvious fit to balance the floor alongside the developing chemistry between Lance Stephenson and Domantas Sabonis.

Until Robinson III returns, Indiana can also call up Alex Poythress for up to 45 days to shoulder some of the minutes at backup small forward.

Still, pending the team’s final decision on Uthoff, passing on the opportunity to buy low on young talent highlights how much management views veteran leadership, along with the short-term gains it may add to the win column, as indispensable to the rebuilding process.

“I love him,” Pritchard said of Wilkins at media day. “We had a guy three years ago, Rasual Butler. He reminds me a lot of him — veteran presence, calms everybody down, keeps everybody (in) calm waters.”

“For me, he can still play, too.”