The Indiana Pacers have signed second-round pick Cassius Stanley to his first NBA contract, inking the 6-foot-6 bouncy guard to a two-way deal, the team announced on Sunday.
Stanley, who recorded the highest vertical leap ever at Duke, earned All-ACC Freshman honors during his lone collegiate season, averaging 12.6 points and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 36 percent from three. Entering into a crowded backcourt situation featuring a slew of combo guards, the 21-year-old rookie factors to spend much of his time in the G League this season while biding his time behind Victor Oladipo, Jeremy Lamb, and Edmond Sumner in the pecking order.
That said, Nate Bjorkgren indicated throughout his introductory media tour that he wants to experiment more during the regular season and utilize more players in different situations to prioritize development and prepare for the playoffs, so there’s a chance that Stanley could still crack the rotation here and there against certain match-ups, especially with Lamb not exepcted to return to game action until mid-January and given the potential for players to be out or quarantined for extended periods as a result of the condensed schedule and potential risk for contracting COVID-19.
All of which, however, brings up a broader point about the challenges of splitting time between the G League and the Pacers during a global pandemic. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, negotiations for the minor league season are ongoing, but one option that has “gained traction” is a bubble concept in the Atlanta-area. If those games don’t end up being played in home arenas, recalling the athletic leaper from the Mad Ants at a moment’s notice won’t be as simple as making a two-hour drive from Fort Wayne to Indy.
On the other hand, if two-way players end up needing to stick closer to NBA teams for emergency depth purposes, then Stanley’s development as someone who committed twice as many as turnovers as assists last season (1.9 turnovers to one assist per game) might be hard to come by amid a season which could prove short on practice time and already won’t feature pre-preseason runs or Summer League.
Stanley joins wing Brian Bowen II, who last season was recalled from the Mad Ants to start at small forward against the Bulls, to fill the team’s two-way contract slots. Additionally, while no longer on two-way contract, the team also announced that guard Naz Mitrou-Long has been signed to an Exhibit 10 contract, joining shot-blocking big man Amida Brimah and lefty forward Rayshaun Hammonds.
Altogether, Indiana is set to carry a full 20-man roster into training camp with team practices slated to begin at the end of the week.