With only nine days remaining until NBA training camps are set to open, Indiana’s roster continues to take shape. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, reserve big man JaKarr Sampson has reached agreement on a one-year, fully guaranteed deal to return to the Pacers.
In a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency role last season, Sampson performed admirably, averaging 3.4 points and 2.6 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game while crashing the glass for demonstrative putback dunks, manufacturing angles for drop-off passes, and scrapping here, there, and everywhere on defense. That said, with an archetype similar to that of a low-calorie version of Thaddeus Young in terms of how he finds his shots on offense, Sampson used exactly four possessions as the roll-man in the playoffs, usurping rookie big man Goga Bitadze in the playing rotation, despite the bench’s obvious need for shooting and roll-gravity at the five spot against Miami’s switches.
Moving forward, the 27-year-old energizer can still provide the Pacers with depth and heft against certain match-ups at the four spot, but an eyebrow should arguably be raised if he’s the first center off the bench and his veteran experience is once again used like a crutch in the event of injuries to either Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis. After all, without the benefit of Summer League or a concrete G League schedule, Bitadze is already going to be at a development disadvantage playing behind two starting centers in a compacted season that could prove short on practice time.
With Sampson back in the fold, the Pacers now have 14 players under contract for next season, not counting second-pick Cassius Stanley or Exhibit 10 deals with shot-blocking big man Amida Brimah and lefty power forward Rayshaun Hammonds.
Per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Indiana was $38,000 below the tax line before reaching agreement with Sampson.