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INDIANAPOLIS – There was a player the Pacers really liked who was selected before them in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

When mulling whether or not to put a package together to move up and select this player, the Pacers ended up resisting the urge to hamstring themselves before the real fireworks of free agency begin on July 1.

Such a move would have been too ‘cost prohibitive’ according to team president Kevin Pritchard.

“One of the things (Thursday night) presented us was the fact that we could have taken on some contracts, (but) eliminated up to $20 million in cap space,” Pritchard said after keeping both picks No. 23 and 50 in the 2018 NBA Draft. “We just kept saying, ‘Let’s be disciplined.’ We’ve been so disciplined not taking a bad contract so now the real games begin for us.

“The draft is a good place to look at the future, maybe you get a guy who gets into the rotation next year. T.J. (Leaf) last year didn’t play much but after a year we expect him to play. With our (new) draft picks it might take them a year to get into the rotation. Where we really get better is July 1. That’s where this is set up when we traded Paul (George) and brought in Domas (Sabonis) and Victor (Oladipo). Part of that whole equation was being set up for $20 million in cap space July 1. I’m not saying we will sign a guy. There could be uneven trades. There could be a lot of things that happen with that. We preserved that. Why stay so disciplined until (Thursday) and then just lose your cap space immediately?”

For the Pacers to get to $20 million in cap space over the next 10 days, a couple of things will have to happen.

Either Thad Young will decline his $13.7 million player option, which would in turn open up a sizable void at the power forward spot—something the Pacers would need to fill, likely from outside the current team makeup.

Or the Pacers will move on from Al Jefferson (due $10 million next season, $4 million of which is guaranteed) and decline a $4.36 million team option on Lance Stephenson, and a $1.6 million team option on Joe Young (which should be a given after drafting a point guard in Round One on Thursday).

Right now, Thad Young declining his player option seems to be the most likely situation of the two, as the Pacers would be wise to retain Stephenson for one more season.

When Thursday got underway, the Pacers definitely entertained the thought of taking on a bad contract in order to climb higher in the draft.

Whoever that player was (maybe 10th pick F-Mikal Bridges, or 13th pick G-Jerome Robinson or 17th pick G-Donte DiVincenzo), Pritchard’s thinking always shifted back to why he chose not to do anything around February’s trade deadline.

Be patient, Pritchard reminded himself.

The Pacers are still in a favorable cap situation, particularly compared to the rest of the league, heading into free agency, offering the chance to still bolster this roster.

“We wanted the flexibility to see what this team could do,” Pritchard said. “They wildly overly achieved (last season) and they deserve to see if they can build on that.

“It’s my job to add a few more pieces that can help them get past the first round, or at least get to the playoffs. I wanted to have some flexibility to add a real player July 1st.”


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