The Indiana Pacers clearly subscribe to the notion that in basketball the whole needs to outweigh the sum of the parts.
In a star driven NBA, teams overpay for celebrity. In Indiana, where celebrity is a meaningless measuring stick for people and players, the Pacers target players concerned with winning rather than Instagram followers.
So yesterday, when team were ready to hand max money to stars like Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, DeAngelo Russell, Kawhi Leonard, and others, the Pacers went after a guy whose nicknames include “The President”, “Humble Moses”, and “Uncle Malcolm”, and who has 1,030 Instagram followers.
Malcolm Brogdon was targeted early in the process by the Pacers, who covet his combination of leadership and youth every bit as much as his analytics.
Brogdon can play smart basketball. Exhibit A is his membership in the very exclusive 50-40-90 club – NBA players who have hit 50% of their field goal attempts, 40% of three-point attempts, and 90% of their free throws (Reggie Miller, Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Steph Curry, and Mark Price are the other seven members).
The Pacers also signed Jeremy Lamb, who is a lesser known player because he has spent his entire seven-year NBA career in Oklahoma City and Charlotte.
In 2018-2019, Lamb became a starter for the first time, and delivered 15.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Like Brogdon, he is 6’5 and an outstanding foul shooter (89% last season). Unlike Brogdon, three-point accuracy is not his stock in trade, hitting 35% last year (not bad, but not great).
Maybe as important for the Pacers is Ricky Rubio choosing to sign with the Phoenix Suns. Rubio will earn $17-million during each of the next three years for running the offense and shooting threes like he needs a map to find the rim. Rubio had been rumored to be a focus for the Pacers. Sometimes a team’s best deals are those they don’t make.
Brogdon signed a four-year, $85M extension to come to Indiana, and Lamb will be paid $31.5M over the next three years. With Victor Oladipo under contract for the next two years, Myles Turner for the next four, TJ Warren for the next three, and Domas Sabonis under control for at least the next two years, the young core of the Pacers seems to be set for the foreseeable future.
Is that core going to be good enough to contend for the top spot in the Eastern Conference? Everything has to break just right, and one of the young guys needs to develop into an elite player, but it’s a hell of a lot more likely today that it was yesterday.