Team laying roster groundwork now
The Indiana Pacers have undergone many changes already this offseason, including Larry Bird’s retirement as team president and the trade of All-Star Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder. As the Pacers continue to grow the relationship with their minor-league team, the Mad Ants, Fort Wayne coach Steve Gansey and general manager Brian Levy have spent the bulk of their time lately in In:di:anapolis.
Not only is it getting them more involved in the operations of the NBA club, it’s getting them a head start on scouting and working with potential players for the developmental NBA Gatorade League.
“Steve is in the gym every day, working out Pacer guys and prospective Mad Ants players for the future,” Levy said. “For instance, Jordan Loyd and Nick Zeisloft have been here working out. Myself, I’ve been more involved in the draft process and the free agent workouts, just kind of getting my eyes on guys in our system who could be with us as affiliate players or on two-way contracts this season.”
Kevin Pritchard is now the Pacers’ president of basketball operations, and Chad Buchanan was named general manager Saturday, and we may have a sense of some players who could be with the Mad Ants this season. The Pacers roster for the NBA Summer League, taking place in Orlando, Florida, includes six players with Mad Ants experience: Rakeem Christmas, Travis Leslie, Jordan Loyd, Trey McKinney Jones, Georges Niang and Joe Young.
The Pacers recently drafted UCLA center T.J. Leaf with the 18th pick and another UCLA center, Ike Anigbogu, in the second round. They also drafted Xavier guard Edmond Sumner. Each of them could see time at Memorial Coliseum.
No players are under contract for the Mad Ants, who were 30-20 last season, lost to Maine in the first round of the playoffs and are 50-50 in their two regular seasons being owned and operated by the Pacers.
“We’ve got guys that we’ve identified, targeted and discussed signing (for this season), but nothing will be official for some time,” Levy said.
Not only do the Mad Ants maintain the G-League rights to players from last season, including Tyler Hansbrough and Alex Poythress, who signed late last season with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, but they still have the rights to players from 2015-16 such as C.J. Fair.
The three Summer Leagues are the best chance for free agents to make an impression with both NBA and G-League scouts, especially as teams try to figure out how they’ll handle the first season of using two-way contracts for players to shuttle back and forth to the minors.
The Mad Ants’ roster last season was laden with rookies, including Loyd, Poythress, Niang, Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury, so there’s a good chance either the Pacers or Mad Ants look to capitalize on their development by bringing them back. But several teams could be interested in their services, too.
“It’s kind of a transitional period right now,” Levy said. “The guys we had on our roster last year, they’re trying to find better situations in the NBA or overseas and how it will shake out.”