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Pacers’ Lance Stephenson will get his chance, but coming off the bench

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Indiana is Myles Turner‘s team now. Gone from last season are Paul George, Monta Ellis, Jeff Teague, Aaron Brooks and more. More than just Turner, everyone on the Pacers’ roster is going to get a chance to shine.

That includes Lance Stephenson.

But he will do that coming off the bench, coach Nate McMillan told the Pacers’ website.

Coach Nate McMillan said he has a starting lineup in mind heading into training camp, but wouldn’t reveal it. He did acknowledge, however, that Lance Stephenson likely will start the season as the sixth man…

“I hope he can establish (that role),” McMillan said. “A sixth man is like a starter, and he can be a guy who can do a lot of things with that second group with his ability to handle the ball, score the ball. He’s an unselfish player.”

Stephenson was only with the Pacers for a few games at the end of last season, but he was their second best player in the postseason brought an energy and toughness the team lacked. He hit threes (62 percent for the Pacers), played hard, and looked more like the guy Indiana had years ago than the guy who has bounced around the league since. But that was a very small sample size, it’s something else to do this over the course of a season.

Indiana is rebuilding but they did not bottom out and tank, they brought in guys who can handle the ball such as Victor Oladipo (the George trade), Darren Collison, and Cory Joseph. Stephenson is going to have to accept and find a role behind and with those guys. But he’s going to get a chance, and he has played his best ball in a Pacers’ uniform.

Paul George trade just the start of a pathetic Pacers offseason

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The Pacers would have been better next season if they just kept Paul George.

They also might have been better in 2019-20.

Indiana got a head start on 2018-19 and little else this offseason.

George said he planned to leave in 2018 free agency, so dealing him was certainly reasonable. But for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis? That paltry return sent shockwaves beyond just scorned Cleveland.

It’ll be tough for Oladipo to provide surplus value as he makes $84 million over the next four years. Sabonis is as pedestrian as a second-year lottery pick can get.

The Pacers also lost Jeff Teague and C.J. Miles in free agency and waived – and stretched! (more on that later) – Monta Ellis, three players who started in the playoffs last season. Their replacements: Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph.

Bogdanovic ($1.5 million of $10.5 million) and Collison ($2 million of $10 million) have small guarantees for 2018-19. So does returning center Al Jefferson ($4 million of $10 million). Essentially, Indiana will keep those players if they have value at those salaries or clear cap space otherwise.

Though Miles, essentially acquired for free in a trade with the Raptors, has a $7,945,000 player option for 2018-19, the Pacers will have his Bird Rights.

This is shaping up to be a 30-something-win team, where the “something” will determine whether Indiana sneaks into the playoffs in a down Eastern Conference or picks in the low lottery. Though not stuck in that position with several long-term contracts, it’s still a lousy place to be even for a season or two.

The Pacers might have felt George’s declared plan to depart sent them down this path, but it didn’t have to.

If they kept George, one of two things would have happened:

  • He’d re-sign. Despite his insistence that he was leaving, he could have always reversed course. If he made an All-NBA team this season, he would have been eligible for a super-max contract. Indiana could have dared him to turn that down.
  • He’d leave. The Pacers probably still would have been in better long-term shape than they are now. Though I’m high on Myles Turner, they probably could have tanked around him in his fourth year and launched a proper rebuild.

Either way, Indiana would have been better in the interim. The Pacers wouldn’t have been postseason locks with George this season, but they would have been more likely than this rag-tag bunch. They also could have cut bait on George and dealt him before the trade deadline – likely for more than they got this summer.

Indiana just doesn’t want to slip too far, though. That’ll pay off next summer, when the Pacers have Oladipo and Sabonis locked up, team control over Bogdanovic and Collison in unguaranteed salaries and Bird Rights for Joseph if he opts out.

Starting after the lopsided George trade, this wasn’t bad execution of the plan. It’s just a bad plan.

Striving for mediocrity with established veterans just inhibits meaningful growth. That’s especially evident with stretching Ellis, who will count $2,245,400 against the cap through 2022.

The Pacers cleared nearly $9 million in cap space with the move, but their guaranteed salaries still land about $7.5 million below the salary cap, and the $4,328,000 room exception remains unused. Though the cap space and room exception can’t be combined, the space created by stretching Ellis didn’t go to great use. If Indiana offered Bogdanovic and/or Collison just $1 million or so less, they wouldn’t have signed? It would have been better to play hardball with those free agents and lose one than to stretch Ellis.

Indiana isn’t going anywhere significant this season, anyway. The right move was paying Ellis his entire $11,227,000 this season and getting it over with.

The Pacers aren’t completely bereft of young talent. Turner, a stretch center with impressive defensive potential, is now their franchise player. Oladipo is just 25. Draft picks T.J. Leaf (No. 18), Ike Anigbogu (No. 47) and Edmond Sumner (No. 52) are all fine.

But Indiana lost George, its most valuable asset, without getting a single draft pick or high-end young player. Now, the Pacers are just headed toward a couple uninspiring years before inevitably undergoing the rebuild they could have gotten a head start on this summer or next.

Offseason grade: F

Report: Pacers signing-and-trading C.J. Miles to Raptors for Cory Joseph

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The Raptors just shed an overpaid, too-often injured wing in DeMarre Carroll.

Now, they’re getting a cheaper, more effective replacement in C.J. Miles.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

At that price, Miles would have fit into the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. Though using that exception would have hard-capped Toronto, so will receiving someone in a sign-and-trade.

So, why deal Cory Joseph here instead of signing Miles outright?

Perhaps, the Raptors plan to use the mid-level exception on someone else. The hard cap will limit their ability to use the whole exception. Precisely how much they can spend depends on Kyle Lowry‘s and Serge Ibaka‘s contract structures. But there’s still flexibility for Toronto to add another productive player.

On one hand, I’m somewhat skeptical the Raptors will pay to add another player, because they could easily go the other way and dodge the luxury tax altogether. On the other hand, again, trading Joseph for only Miles seems illogical if not preserving the mid-level exception for someone else.

Joseph is a solid player who will compete with recently signed Darren Collison for minutes at point guard in Indiana. The Pacers refuse to tank, though acquiring the 25-year-old Joseph’s Bird Rights – he likely opts out next summer – could prove valuable long-term.

At a $7.63 million salary, Joseph was probably more of a luxury than Toronto could afford. Delon Wright was waiting in the wings, and he’ll ascend into the rotation as Lowry’s backup.

But Joseph is a relatively young high-end backup on a reasonable contract. I’d think the Raptors could have gotten some return, at least a second-rounder, by trading him somewhere. Again, the Raptors had the means to sign Miles outright rather than trading with Indiana. Maybe the Pacers are sending Toronto an asset that hasn’t yet been reported.

Miles will help the Raptors, especially because they had Wright ready to assume Joseph’s role (and Fred VanVleet ready to assume Wright’s as third point guard). Instead of relying on a smallish wing combination of DeMar DeRozan and Norman Powell, Toronto can start Miles with DeRozan. Like Carroll, Miles can also play some small-ball four.

This deal probably won’t become official until Toronto completes its trade with the Nets, which can’t happen until the Wizards pass Otto Porter on his physical and complete matching his offer sheet.

Report: Pacers signing Bojan Bogdanovic to two-year, $21 million contract

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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope isn’t the only free agent wing to have his qualifying offer pulled today.

The other – Bojan Bogdanovic, who was previously restricted by the Wizards – found a new deal more quickly.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Wizards surely knew they weren’t going to match, so pulling Bogdanovic’s qualifying offer just eased his move to Indiana.

This is the latest signal – among many – Washington will match Otto Porter‘s offer sheet from the Nets. The Wizards had Bogdanovic’s Bird Rights and could’ve matched, but that would’ve gotten extremely expensive, especially with the luxury tax already a concern. Jodie Meeks is Bogdanovic’s cheaper replacement.

The Pacers refuse to bottom out after trading Paul George. They sought Victor Oladipo in the George deal over pick-rich offers then signed Darren Collison. Bogdanovic might complete a perimeter group to join returning starters Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner up front.

This should be a fun team if you consider chasing 30 wins fun. If you enjoy teams that either make the playoffs or get high draft picks likely to help reach the postseason in future years, the Pacers might not be for you.

NBA: John Wall got away with offensive foul before key shot in Wizards win over Kings

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Bradley Beal carried the Wizards to a 130-122 overtime win over the Kings on Friday.

But he got a little help from John Wall – who got a little help from the officials.

Wall should have been called for offensively fouling Darren Collison with 21.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Wall (WAS) dislodges Collison (SAC) from his legal guarding position prior to the shot attempt.

Instead of a Washington turnover, Wall created space and hit a jumper. That put the Wizards up two.

The two-minute report also said Sacramento center Willie Cauley-Stein got away with a defensive three-second violation with 1:23 left in the fourth quarter. But a correct call would have given Washington only a single free throw. The Wizards scored two points on their beneficial missed call.

In an overtime game, that might have made the difference in regulation.