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Two rights trump one wrong for Pacers

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

If you recall my epically bad assessment of the Pacers’ 2017 offseason and stopped reading this year’s follow-up, I wouldn’t blame you. I gave Indiana an ‘F’ for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis then constructing a roster that appeared doomed to miss the playoffs without landing a high draft pick. Of course, the Pacers had one of the NBA’s very best summers. Oladipo became a star and led Indiana to 48 wins. The Pacers even took the Cavaliers to seven games in their first-round series – the furthest an Eastern Conference team had pushed LeBron James in several years. I learned a lesson in overreacting.

But I once again see Indiana’s offseason as a tale of extremes.

The Pacers had two of the NBA’s best signings and one of its worst.

Evans is coming off a career year with the Grizzlies. Developing into a good 3-point shooter increases his value exponentially due to the off-ball threat. His playmaking will be particularly important in Indiana, as he could punish opponents for trapping Oladipo, a common Cleveland tactic in their playoff series.

O’Quinn is a savvy defender who strikes the right balance between protecting the rim and positioning himself for rebounds. He shoots well from mid-range and has become more comfortable as a passer.

And then there’s McDermott. He’s a very good spot-up shooter, but he’s pretty one-dimensional and a complete defensive liability. The 26-year-old should help this team. But at that cost? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Really, the question looming over the Pacers’ offseason was opportunity cost.

They also guaranteed hefty salaries for Bojan Bogdanovic ($10.5 million) and Darren Collison ($10 million) next season. Could that money have gone to better use? Or would waiving Bogdanovic and Collison and trying to re-sign them for less have just presented too much risk of them leaving?

Could Indiana have done better than Aaron Holiday with the No. 23 pick? He’s relatively established for a rookie after three years at UCLA, but higher-upside options were available.

The Pacers played it safe and emerged with an upgraded version of last year’s breakout squad. The only rotation players lost were Lance Stephenson and Trevor Booker. Evans and O’Quinn should be major upgrades. That makes McDermott just – very expensive – gravy.

Indiana is on track to enter next offseason with a massive amount of flexibility. Oladipo and McDermott are the only players guaranteed more than rookie-scale salaries, though Myles Turner could receive a contract extension this fall.

If the Pacers build on last season as they appear set to, they could be even more appealing to free agents next summer.

Offseason grade: B+

J.J. Redick: I nearly signed with Pacers until 76ers improved offer

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J.J. Redick re-signed with the 76ers for one-year, $12.25 million.

But he apparently drew another suitor before Philadelphia offered such a favorable contract.

Redick on The J.J. Redick Podcast:

I almost signed with Indy. I was an hour away, two hours away. I was very close. I had a 5 p.m. deadline. Basically, it was 12:30, 1 o’clock in the afternoon when Philly changed the offer.

It was important for the 76ers to keep Redick, who carries value as a shooter and veteran leader. They did well to get him on a one-year deal and maintain flexibility, but losing him would have been a significant setback for next season.

The Pacers rebounded by signing Tyreke Evans to a one-year, $12 million contract. Either Redick or Evans would have helped, but Evans – younger and more of a playmaker – might be a better fit in Indiana. The Pacers already had solid deep shooting on the wing between Bojan Bogdanovic and Doug McDermott.

Maybe the Pacers didn’t know they could get Evans and wanted to lock up Redick if given the opportunity rather than waiting for Evans, but this seems to have worked out better for everyone involved.

Report: Pacers signing Tyreke Evans to one-year, $12 million contract

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Victor Oladipo‘s takeoff season hit turbulence when the Cavaliers double-teamed the Pacers star in their first-round series. Oladipo shot 7-for-35 in Game 4 and Game 5 losses. Though Oladipo wasn’t used to being trapped to that degree, Indiana also lacked a reliable secondary playmaker to exploit the advantage situation if Oladipo passed ahead.

Enter Tyreke Evans.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Evans was the top unrestricted free agent available. That crown now goes to Isaiah Thomas if you’re swinging for the fences or, if you prefer a safer bet, Luc Mbah a Moute, Wayne Ellington or Brook Lopez.

The Pacers also agreed to terms with Doug McDermott on a three-year, $22 million contract. They eagerly spent their cap space to upgrade a surprising 48-34 win team and still have the $4,449,000 room exception to use.

Taking another step forward could pay off even bigger next summer.

Evans, Thaddeus Young, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph all have expiring contracts. Oladipo ($21 million salary) and McDermott are the only Indiana players due more than a rookie-scale salary. The Pacers could hit free agency hard again next year.

In the meantime, Evans can play all three perimeter positions, though he’s probably primarily a wing on this team. He might start at small forward, though I suspect Bogdanovic or McDermott will. The Pacers struggled whenever Oladipo sat, and Evans fits as a spark off the bench.

Report: Doug McDermott signing three-year, $22 million contract with Pacers

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The Mavericks pulled their qualifying offer for Doug McDermott, but he will be just fine.

Reported Pacers target Will Barton is re-signing with the Nuggets, and Indiana will be…

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Like many contracts agreed to this early in free agency, this seems like an overpay. McDermott is a good shooter, but limited otherwise – especially defensively.

At least McDermott will help on the court. He’ll share minutes at small forward with Bojan Bogdanovic. At 26, McDermott shouldn’t slip during this contract.

The questionable part is the value. Could Indiana have spent this money better elsewhere or at least paid McDermott less and saved some for another player?

To be fair, we all criticized the Pacers last offseason, and they proved us wrong. Kevin Pritchard has earned the benefit of the doubt on this signing.

Report: Pacers declining Lance Stephenson’s team option

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We got one last tango between LeBron James and Lance Stephenson.

Now, LeBron and his chief irritant are heading into uncertain offseasons that could result in them no longer matching up in the playoffs.

The Pacers will decline Stephenson’s $4.36 million team option for next season, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Indiana will reportedly guarantee Bojan Bogdanovic‘s $10.5 million salary for next season. Pacers president Kevin Pritchard said the team would keep Darren Collison. I’ll assume that means guaranteeing Collison’s $10 million salary rather than waiving him ($2 million guaranteed) and attempting to re-sign him for less.

If Thaddeus Young opts out and the Pacers waive and stretch Al Jefferson ($4 million guaranteed of $10 million salary), Indiana could have about $33 million in cap space.

That’d go a long way in this market.

Even if Young ($13,764,045 player-option salary) opts in, the Pacers should be a major player in free agency. They’re coming off a surprisingly strong year and positioned to get even better.

After they hunt better wings, they could even bring back Stephenson at a lower salary. He seemingly plays well with only Indiana, but maybe the Pacers have just had enough of him.

If they don’t want to re-sign him at a lower cost, it’s not a certainty he gets an NBA job next season.