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Pacers named as potential suitor for D’Angelo Russell

Indiana needs facilitators, and Russell can facilitate for himself as well as others. But, there’s a few hang-ups.

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

In need of more offense, particularly in the form of shot-creation and pace, the Indiana Pacers are rumored to be among the teams interested in the unpredictable creativity of restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

A market is forming for Nets All-Star and restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell: Utah, Orlando, Minnesota and Indiana are among the teams expected to show an interest aside from Brooklyn, sources said.

Russell, who averaged career highs in points (21.1), assists (7.0), and field-goal percentage (43.4%), knocked down over two threes per game and finished second in the league in assist percentage, making him a strong candidate to upgrade the team’s playmaking without necessarily taking away from Victor Oladipo.

“We want to get faster,” Kevin Pritchard said at the team’s end of season press conference. “I really want to do a deep dive on the guys who create and...I love a great passing team. Passing is contagious and there were times this past year where the ball really moved — we had an unselfish team — but if we can get another passer or creator out there with Victor, I think that gives us a lot of opportunities.”

Given that the Pacers led the league in volume of plays finished with the roll-man last season, it also doesn’t hurt that the crafty 21-year-old piloted more pick-and-rolls than any player in the league, sans Kemba Walker — especially since his robust repertoire of ball fakes and no-look passes would presumably make those same looks under the rim more open.

Nevertheless, concerns about sustainability and ceiling linger. He barely gets to the line, and he struggles to finish around the rim (49.4%), which oftentimes results in him aborting his drives short of the basket in favor of floaters and mid-range jumpers. When he wasn’t spotting up for three, those shots served him well enough during the regular season, but his 3-of-16 shooting performance in Game 5 against the Sixers, in which he finished minus-31 in 27 minutes with only two field-goal attempts coming inside the restricted area, urges caution when trusting in the longevity of his new normal.

Still, it’s easy to picture Oladipo and Turner masking his defensive flaws as he weaponizes the former’s speed on the weakside with his floor vision or relieves pressure at the nail as an off-the-catch shooter, all the while shifting Bogdanovic (should he re-sign) into a comfier, tertiary role.

That said, and price tag aside, the Nets organization reportedly isn’t opposed to bringing back Russell, even if they land Kyrie Irving in free agency.

If that is indeed the case, Indiana’s brass could end up having the team’s cap space tied up while a potentially near-max offer sheet is out without anything to show for it.

It’s a risky move, both in terms of what the Pacers would be gaining in Russell as well as what they would be giving up.

Notably, this marks a second consecutive offseason in which the Pacers have been linked to a big name restricted free agent, perhaps signaling an organizational shift with regard to pilfering players from others teams. Or, quite possibly, signifying that this is also the second consecutive offseason in which the Pacers have possessed the financial flexibility to readily be used as leverage.

Neither Minnesota nor Orlando (depending on what happens with Nikola Vucevic and Terrance Ross) project to have much spending power, and according to Tony Jones of The Athletic, the Jazz would only be interested if Russell becomes an unrestricted free agent, or if it’s clear the Nets wouldn’t match an offer sheet.