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Pacers Notes: Offseason runs, draft workouts keep Pacers busy
Offseason work is in full swing at the Fieldhouse.
The Ascension St. Vincent Center has been buzzing with activity this week, with several players in town working out and competing on the practice courts, while the front office awaits the first round of draft prospects scheduled to be put through the paces on Friday. Combine that with the Mad Ants sudden departure from Fort Wayne earlier in the week, and there has been a fair bit of activity around the Fieldhouse while we wait for the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday.
Players in town
The Pacers social media squad has been showing several players involved in workouts, including Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin.
There are a couple more Insta posts which all show Andrew Nembhard, Chris Duarte, Isaiah Jackson, Stix Smith, Jordan Nwora, Kendall Brown and Daniel Theis in action along with Hali and Mathurin. Vets Myles Turner and Buddy Hield are not in the mix, which is not a surprise since Turner has been doing a bit of traveling along with working out. Plus, last year we learned Buddy has the ultimate workout setup at his home in Dallas.
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The one thing that makes me chuckle is seeing Daniel Theis in the mix and appearing to enjoy mixing it up with his young teammates. Prior to the start of last season, many thought Theis was merely a throw in to make salaries work for the Brogdon deal and that he would be rerouted in some form or fashion to a team with better postseason prospects. His extended absence due to a knee injury seemed like a logical excuse until he was able to be moved.
However, Theis became a voice and part of the team on the bench when he wasn’t playing. Then he was in the playing rotation for several stretches which seemed like a ‘show me’ situation to let other teams know Theis could still play a role on any team’s front court. Now here we are, heading into the offseason and it seems like Theis would be the most likely big man moved among the crowded center position that desperately needs to be unclogged. Yet, Theis is in Indy appearing in no rush to leave his new team behind. Makes for an interesting story, but also reveals that Theis is a professional basketball player who fully understands what being a pro is all about. No matter where you hoop travels take you, you gotta put in the work and stay ready for what that effort brings about next.
I say Theis is the most obvious, because of his $9 million-ish salary which isn’t too bad in today’s NBA for a solid, veteran big man. Might the Pacers instead unclog the middle by moving Stix or IJax considering both players need to, well, play? Taking turns as they did last season is not a quality developmental plan for the long term. When a team has great chemistry and the players are fun to root for, these are the tough decisions the front office has to consider because they can’t maintain the same big man imbalance and expect to improve.
The Pacers announced the first workout for NBA draft prospects to take place on Friday. Considering the effort to balance the roster will require a big forward or two (rook and vet would be ideal), it makes sense the first round of prospects fit that description. Now, most of these guys are considered low first round, high second round prospects at best, but assuming the Pacers don’t deal all of their picks, there are some intriguing players among the group.
Kobe Brown, F (Missouri) - ESPN No. 43 prospect, big boy at 6-8, 250 but not a dynamic athlete. However, the big fella can get buckets and shot 45% from 3-land last season. Four year player who is 23 years old.
Andre Jackson Jr., SG (Connecticut) - ESPN No. 30 prospect, highest of the group. Defensive minded Mathurin? About the same size and tough-minded approach, but better at the defensive end. Junior who is 21 years old.
Jaime Jaquez, F (UCLA) - ESPN No. 32 prospect after a high-profile career at UCLA which included a Final Four appearance. Jaquez is tough and smart at both ends of the floor. Not to show work on 3-point shot. Four year player who is 22 years old.
Arthur Kaluma, F (Creighton) - ESPN No. 90 prospect. Another athletic forward with a good wingspan but a lot to prove. Still needs to improve offensive consistency. Sophomore who is 21 years old.
Liutauras Lelevicius, F (Zalgiris II) - LL is a 6-7 forward from Lithuania who shot around 38% from three, in his Lithuanian league this year. He will turn 20 years old when the 500 is run this year on May 28.
Grant Nelson, F/C (North Dakota State) - ESPN No. 94 prospect. At 6-11 considered a big power forward. Was a beast in the Summit League where he averaged 18 points and more than 9 rebounds per game. Sophomore who is 21 years old.
More on Mad Ants move
The Pacers are officially moving their G-League franchise from Fort Wayne to Noblesville and Scott Agness at Fieldhouse Files has been reporting all of the details of the sudden announcement which reportedly surprised the folks in Fort Wayne. Scott also hosted a podcast with Justin Cohn, a Fort Wayne reporter who covered the Mad Ants.
I found the podcast quite interesting, so please listen first. Cohn captured the surprising news he had to follow up on with no notice, which he reports is how most of the staff in Fort Wayne heard the news, as well. I understand the frustration that those in Fort Wayne must feel toward the Pacers, but this is certainly the direction NBA teams are taking with their G-League teams as they treat them more like a true minor league team tied to the ‘big’ club in the NBA.
As Scott explained, the Mad Ants were already living in Indy and working out at the St. V’s Center while going to Fort Wayne for most home games. The team has not performed as well in Fort Wayne since officially affiliating with the Pacers a few years ago, which again is not the priority for the Pacers.
Sure, winning would have made the Mad Ants more popular, but the Pacers were using the team to play certain players they wanted while syncing up some of the style of play to give those young players some game experience they weren’t getting in Indy. No doubt, that makes it tough on the rest of the team, but the dream is not the G. Instead, the G-League team is a major resource for the Pacers to use for player development.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the team is received when they eventually play in Noblesville.