After the Kevin Seraphin waiver just over three weeks ago, the Indiana Pacers have only 13 players on the roster with guaranteed contracts. The remaining two roster spots are up for grabs, and it is likely that the Pacers use a training camp battle to determine who gets them. The rotation still has needs, so there are types of players that would be wise for the front office to put through these camp battles. Doing so will help ensure the Pacers get the most out of their last two roster spots. This series will look at the type of players the Pacers should be looking for, and then offer a few suggestions of specific available players that fit the criteria.
For part 3, we will discuss skilled wings.
As the league transitions to an era where wings are the most in-demand position, the Pacers are fortunate to have three competent ones. Victor Oladipo, Glenn Robinson III, and Bojan Bogdanovic are all serviceable wing competitors and can hold down a rotation with a sprinkle of playing time from the once useful Lance Stephenson. Being four-deep on the wing puts Indiana and Kevin Prtichard in a nice spot at that position, but you can never have too many wings. Damien Wilkins is, in theory, a wing, but he might not make the team and is frankly not very good. If one of the four rotation caliber wings were to go down with an injury, the Pacers would be in a tough situation, as right now they may be forced to play Wilkins. Because of this, it may be beneficial for the team to look to sign a wing for injury insurance.
And why stop at there? Lance Stephenson has been bad for the better part of three and a half NBA seasons, so signing a skilled wing could create competition for rotation minutes. A skilled wing is anyone who excels at a particular aspect of the game. It could be anything; defense, shooting, shot creation, or anything else that makes the player have a clear role if they do get minutes.
Most skilled wings are already signed since the position is so demanded. We already saw guys like Otto Porter Jr, Tim Hardaway Jr, PJ Tucker, and the Pacers’ own Bojan Bogdanovic get paid thanks to their unique skills. The players who still remain free agents are in less demand for one reason or another (usually for a combination of reasons), making it hard to read the market.
For the Pacers in particular, nobody is a game-changing shooter on the team outside of Bogdanovic, and shooting is possibly the most coveted skill in the league. Three point scoring is one talent the team could look for. Wing defense is hard to find as well, so any above-average defenders can bring value to the team. On the second unit, Indiana will have a tough time creating shots with the players they currently have, so a shot creator that can keep the offense moving could improve the team in a meaningful way.
With this in mind, there aren’t many players the Pacers could sign, but a few options exist. The most obvious one is Tony Allen, but two others are sharpshooter Anthony Morrow and creation-specialist Shabazz Muhammad.
“Bazz” just completed his 4th season in the NBA, all with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was never able to garner more than rotation minutes, peaking at 22.8 minutes per game. Even though he had limited playing time, he was quite effective for his age in his opportunities.
A career 55.3 true shooting percentage shows how efficient Muhammad can be. He knocks down enough of his free throws to show that his stroke will translate to long range, and he has upped his 3 point attempt rate every season, showing his willingness to adapt to the modern game. Last season, he posted a 7.6 turnover percentage on a 21.5 percent usage rate, making it apparent that even with a high volume of touches, he can take care of the ball.
Most importantly, Muhammad can create shots for himself and others. He can beat guys off the dribble to get his looks when the play breaks down. Watch here as he is able to get to his spot and score over Caris Levert after the main action falls apart:
As you can see, Bazz is solid at getting to his spot and getting a shot up. He would be a welcome addition on the Pacers as he could seamlessly fit in any lineup.
He’s been to the conference finals, he has played in the league for nine years, and he has accumulated 142 starts in his career. Morrow checks many of the boxes you would want a veteran signee to check, but there is one main reason the Pacers would want to bring him to the roster.
Morrow has shot over 40 percent from deep over his career, and 88 percent from the charity stripe. In short, he can knock down any set shot. Per NBA Maths player play-type profiles, he was in the 84th percentile league-wide coming off of screens, meaning he is effective when he is freed from his defender.
Seriously, he’s an amazing shooter. He knocks down 2.5 threes per 36 minutes for his career, and in limited minutes for the Pacers, he could really stretch the floor. Check out his range:
He’s got the deep ball and can stretch the court. He can keep guys out the paint with this spacing and let Myles Turner go to work. Unfortunately, he can’t defend a potted plant, but with shooting like that, he could be a welcome addition to the squad.
What needs to be said?
A 12 year veteran, Allen has been around long enough for everyone to know how great he is on defense. His defensive box plus/minus has been above zero every season of his career, meaning he has rated as an above average NBA defender for 13 straight seasons.
He turned 35 last season, but was still quick enough to stay with his assignment, no matter who it was. Here, he is able to keep up with the much more nimble 23 year-old Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and block him at the rim:
He seamlessly switches back to his man after helping stop the roll man, Roy Hibbert. He recovers in time to get the block, and the stop, for the Grizzles.
Allen can’t do much on offense, but who cares? With defense like that, you could even put him in the closing lineup. He would immediately be the best defender on the team, and could be able to carve out a role right away as a result.
My personal choice
This decision was really hard. There are legitimate reasons to look into signing all three of these guys, so I had to mull it over for quite some time.
I ruled out Morrow first. His skills, while useful, are duplicitive to those of Bojan Bogdanovic. The Pacers could use Muhammad’s shot creation and Allen’s defense more than Morrow’s shooting.
Ultimately, I couldn’t decide between the other two. It really comes down to your preference: If you think the Pacers need a veteran or a defensive player, you may prefer Allen. If not, you may prefer Bazz. Either of those guys would be welcome additions to the organization.
A small fact that can’t be overlooked is that Shabazz is probably worth more than the minimum, meaning there aren’t many teams that would be able to afford him. The Pacers could use their remaining cap space to snag him on a long term deal for a little under his market value if they wanted to get creative.
With training camp drawing nearer, the Pacers need to start signing some guys to bring in. Who knows who they will end up going with to fill these roster spots, but these three players seem to make the most sense on the wing. I am excited to see how it unfolds.