Decision-making period over for Pacers – 14 players have guaranteed contracts for 2018-19 season

Pacers, 2018 NBA Summer League, Steve Gansey

The first two weeks in July are a crazy-busy time for league executives across the NBA and that continued to be the case this year. Fortunately, LeBron James announced his intention to join the Lakers just 20 hours in so everything else could carry on.

That begins with the NBA Draft and then it’s decision time on options for players and teams right before the start of free agency. And while that officially hits at 12:01 am ET on July 1, conversations are had and things are in the works prior to that. It’s why several deals trickled out even a half hour before the start of free agency. It’s just what happens.

Shortly after, it’s time for summer league as free-agent conversations are ongoing. Like for the Pacers, where they agreed to a three-year deal with Doug McDermott and then spent several days before adding a couple more, in Tyreke Evans and then Kyle O’Quinn. The league’s moratorium ended on July 6, so that’s when those deals, predominantly one-year contracts, could be finalized. But not until then.

It is all a balancing act for team executives having to manage several situations and consider various scenarios at once. They must decide on any contract options, sign their draft pick(s), and field hundreds of phone calls before free agency hits. Then, before the moratorium ends, most of the front office is in a different time zone, across the country in Las Vegas.

That’s where all 30 teams have had representation for some time. 2018 was its 14th annual summer league tournament, and it was the first year all 30 teams were participating. The Pacers, actually, were the last holdouts. They had always gone to Orlando, which is under new management and was oddly opposed to hosting. Team observers are constantly evaluating players, and usually it’s with the big picture in mind. They will gather intel on first-round picks knowing that they will be possibly be free agents in four years or more.

League executives and evaluators run on intel. That’s the most important thing. Anyone can scout, jot down player tendencies, or phone their college coach. This is far more than that.

Pacers, 2018 NBA Summer League

The Summer Pacers went 2-3 in Las Vegas.

The Pacers’ roster now consists of 14 players with guaranteed contracts for the 2018-19 season, including the top six players (in terms of minutes) all returning. The latest being second-round pick Alize Johnson, who signed in mid-July. In an era of short-term deals and when teams are active shoppers, continuity is important and can play a big factor on the type of season they put together.

“We didn’t want to take away. We wanted the flexibility to see what this team could do and they wildly overachieved (last season), and they deserved to see if they can build on that,” Pacers President Kevin Pritchard said on draft night. “It’s my job to add a few more players, a few more pieces that can help them get past the first round.

Ike Anigbogu, the team’s second-round pick in 2017, saw his contract become guaranteed for his second NBA season. Although he’s not yet completely healthy, currently rehabbing from offseason left leg surgery he deemed “minor,” the 19-year-old will earn $1.378 million for the 2018-19 season. This was expected because when they drafted him, they knew it would take time. Additional injuries, the latest one keeping him out of summer league competition again, only delays much-needed court time and development.

So, as of August 8, they are on the hook for approximately $106.2 million, including dead cap space for Al Jefferson ($4M) and Monta Ellis ($2.245M), and have one available roster spot. Because they are over the cap, it would have to be league-minimum contract. They used the room exception to sign O’Quinn.

The NBA’s salary cap is $101.869 million and the tax level is $123.733 million. The Pacers typically are somewhere in between.

Already, sports books are taking bets on wins for the 2018-19 NBA season and gambling experts have set the line at 45.5 wins for the Pacers. That’s 14 more wins predicted than at this time last year. And if gambling is your thing, learn more from this Diamond Reels Casino review.

Looking ahead to next July, the Pacers are in a sweet spot with just three players on their books for certain: Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott, and Aaron Holiday. Add in dead cap money owed to Ellis and that’s, for now, only $33 million of payroll when the salary cap is projected to rise to $109 million.

They’re going to pick up the options on rookie-scale deals of Domantas Sabonis and T.J. Leaf, and will work on a contract extension for Myles Turner. Pritchard estimates that they will have approximately $57 million in cap space next summer, setting them up to have options and desirable flexibility.

The full NBA schedule will released on Friday, followed by the Pacers’ preseason schedule.

Okay, the decision making never ends. … But the next two months are generally the slow (vacation) time for the NBA, although the league has done an excellent job of creating interest and buzz all year long.

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