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Thaddeus Young exercises $13.7M option, will return to Pacers

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The lefty power forward will delay entering free agency until next summer.

NBA: Playoffs-Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

After consideration and with rumors swirling about the Pacers’ potential interest in restricted free agent Aaron Gordon, Thaddeus Young has decided to forego testing the financially crunched free agent market to finish the final season of his 4-year, $54 million contract with the Pacers, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

“If you took Thad and (looked) at his points and rebounds and all of that, you’d say he’s a pretty good player,” Pritchard said of the lefty power forward’s quiet impact at the team’s end-of-season press conference. “But, then, when you’re around him and (see) what he did with his leadership this year and made sure we stayed together — he brings an inordinate amount of value.”

Value that was magnified when his defensive versatility allowed Myles Turner to hide out on Jeff Green or roam off non-screening shooters against the Cavaliers while he put the clamps on Kevin Love, who went 12-of-43 from the field and tallied 12 turnovers on the 247 possessions in which Young was his primary defender in the first-round of the playoffs.

From disrupting passing lanes and staying in front of elite scorers to lurking with purpose around the basket for easy points, the 30-year-old provided inconspicuous stability on both ends of the floor by reliably filling the gaps.

As such, despite the fact that both Young and the Pacers expressed mutual respect for one another in a market where few teams — and even fewer competitive teams — were expected to have cap space, it’s somewhat surprising that Young didn’t opt to search for more guaranteed contract years.

Especially since, while the 11-year veteran was weighing making more in the immediate against pursuing long-term security, Kevin Pritchard publicly envisioned the team with a “real” stretch-four and said he would have “no problem” playing Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis25-30 minutes” together next season, which if not interpreted as a gentle nudge at the very least seems to suggest that Young will need to be accepting of a diminished role next season before he hits free agency next summer.

With Young returning and less money to spend, Indiana’s focus this summer will likely shift toward adding periphery pieces — unless they attempt to trade him.

“If he opts in ... then we look at, can we add depth to our bench,” Pritchard said while discussing the offseason with Brett Rump of WKJG-1380 AM in Fort Wayne. “Our bench was pretty good, but I think it can be improved. But our growth really comes from our young players.”

The Pacers could have as much as $20 million in cap space pending decisions on Al Jefferson ($10 million only $4 million guaranteed), Joe Young ($1.6 million), Alex Poythress ($1.54 million, fully guaranteed if not waived before July 15), and Ike Anigbogu ($1.37 million, only $650,000 guaranteed if waived before July 15) and acting on the assumptions that the contracts of Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison will be guaranteed.

All in all, the stroke of midnight on July 1 just got a little less interesting, but the Pacers will potentially have more cap space next summer while retaining a key member of their rotation — both on the court and in the locker room — in the intermediary.