The Pacers might have their salary cap flexibility earmarked for restricted free agent Aaron Gordon, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on the eve of when Thaddeus Young’s decision on his $13.7 million player option is due.
As such, the timing of this particular rumor is certainly interesting, to say the least.
While at the Uncle Drew premiere in New York, Gordon made evident his preference to expedite signing a five-year, $148 million maximum contract with the Magic.
“Hopefully we just get it wrapped up with Orlando,” the fourth-year player told ESPN New York’s Ian Begley. “That would be fantastic.”
Meanwhile, Young and the Pacers have expressed mutual respect for one another. However, while the lefty power forward has been weighing cashing-in in the immediate against pursuing long-term security, Kevin Pritchard publicly envisioned the team with a “real” shooting four and said he would have “no problem” with Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis playing “25-30 minutes” together next season.
Gordon, who posted career highs in points (17.6), rebounds (7.9), and assists (2.3) in 58 games last season with the Magic, shot over 40 percent from three over his first 29 games, then converted a career-worst 27 percent, while shooting a clanks-heard-round-the-world 38.4 from the field, in his remaining 29 games.
Those splits, although they require context, are also somewhat in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps he started hot and regressed to or below the norm, or maybe lingering effects from two concussions as well as hip and ankle injuries threw a wrench in his progress while continuing to play on a losing team with an awkward roster.
Either way, he needs to refine his shot selection as far as asserting himself in the flow of the offense as opposed to trying to do too much.
At the end of March, for example, he went 13-of-49 against the Bulls, Hawks, and Knicks and there were possessions — one particularly egregious — where he caught the ball at the top of the key and held it before nonchalantly launching a contested pull-up three with eight seconds left on the shot clock.
Still, it’s easy to picture his athleticism and agility defending on the perimeter so Myles Turner can stay home in the paint, rolling and finishing with a one-handed slam, sprinting down the middle of the floor in transition with Oladipo, cutting to the hoop when Sabonis draws a second defender on the block, or running a big-to-big pick-and-roll as he often did with Vucevic and Biyombo.
Orlando scored 0.72 points per possession when he was the ball-handler compared to 1.25 when he was the screener, and his frequency as the roller (a measly 5 percent) would be hard pressed not to increase with the Pacers, given that they ran the league’s most pick-and-roll heavy offense in the league last season.
Be that as it may, and regardless of whether the rumor was sourced by Gordon’s agent seeking leverage or the Pacers attempting to send a gentle not-so-subtle nudge to Young’s camp, it seems unlikely that the Magic would be willing to sit back and watch another young developing talent grow into his potential on another team — especially when the other team just happens to be where Victor Oladipo, and to a lesser extent Domantas Sabonis, blossomed.
If that is indeed the case, Indiana’s brass could end up having the team’s cap space tied up while the offer sheet is out without anything to show for it.