Indiana Pacers Make Handful Of Transactions To Prepare For Season

With free agency over and the preseason underway, the Indiana Pacers are making the final transactions necessary to finalize the regular season roster.

Over the recent days, the Pacers front office has made multiple moves. The first one was waiving guard/forward JaKeenan Gant, which the team announced on Wednesday.

Gant played for the Pacers in Summer League after signing an Exhibit 10 contract on July 1. He averaged 2.8 points and 2.5 rebounds across four games in Las Vegas.

More recently, he made his debut for the blue and gold in the preseason. He checked in with just over two and a half minutes to go in the Pacers’ October 5 contest with the Sacramento Kings, but he didn’t produce any stats.

The former Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year did show off his impressive ability to contain ball handlers. He was forced to defend Kings’ guard Yogi Ferrell after switching onto him and did well to force a pass:

Gant’s Exhibit 10 clause in his contract means he will receive a $50k bonus if he ends up with the Pacers G League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. It’s likely Gant remains within the Pacers organization.

Waiving Gant opened up a roster spot for Indiana, and the team immediately used it. On Thursday, the Pacers announced they had signed Walt Lemon Jr.

Lemon spent the past two seasons bouncing between the G League and the pros. Last year he appeared in six games for the Chicago Bulls, in which he averaged 14.3 points per game on 43.7% shooting:

If you’re a Pacers fan, you’ve probably heard of Lemon before. He spent the 2015-16 and 2017-18 G League seasons with the Mad Ants. In 2017-18, he averaged 22.4 points per game and was one of the best players in the minors — he was named to the All-NBA G League Third Team.

Lemon likely has an Exhibit 10 clause in his deal, similar to Gant. If he does have one, it should be expected that he ends up with Fort Wayne for the 2019-20 season, though it is unconfirmed if Lemon’s contract contains an Exhibit 10 clause or not. With the probability that Lemon ends up with the Mad Ants being high, expect him to be waived by the Pacers in the next week or so.

The other two moves executed by the Pacers brass are much more significant for the long-term future of the blue and gold. On Thursday, the team announced that they are picking up rookie options on Aaron Holiday and T.J. Leaf’s contracts for the 2020-21 season.

Earlier this offseason, I debated the pros and cons of picking up these options. For Holiday, the choice was a no-brainer. He showed a ton of promise as a rookie and the Pacers have frequently expressed belief in his future as a player. Keeping Holiday was bound to happen, filing out the paperwork to retain him for his third season was a formality.

Holding on to Leaf, on the other hand, was a much more complicated decision. The young forward hasn’t shown much in his two year vocation, but he still has potential. Plus, the Pacers wouldn’t gain any spending power in free agency by relinquishing the former UCLA Bruin’s contract from the books. There were justifiable reasons to decline Leaf’s fourth-year option, but more pros existed in keeping him.

With Leaf and Holiday on the salary cap ledger for the 2020-21 season, the Pacers have over $100 million in guaranteed salary committed to 10 players, and that doesn’t include any money for Domantas Sabonis. They are approaching the projected salary cap for the 2020 season already.

Speaking of Sabonis, a potential contract extension for him is the only big thing left on the Pacers’ to-do list for the summer. There is good logic in paying Sabonis now as well as waiting until restricted free agency next summer, so it’s hard to predict if the Lithuanian and the Pacers will come to an agreement on a longer term deal.

Outside of those negotiations, the only moves the Pacers front office may make before the regular season starts is waiving the other players on Exhibit 10 contracts (Amida Brimah, C.J. Wilcox, and likely Walt Lemon Jr.) in order to finaize the roster.

The Indiana Pacers are nearly done putting the finishing touches on their squad for the upcoming season. With the schedule beginning in just 12 days, expect to see the final transactions made sooner rather than later.

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I cover the Indiana Pacers and NBA players from the state of Indiana. I have done so for many years with written content, both as the Site Expert for the Fansided networ...