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7 free agents the Indiana Pacers should pursue

The Indiana Pacers wrapped up the 2023 NBA Draft, coming away with two first-round picks they really like. Jarace Walker, out of Houston, is expected to be the future power forward and wing defender they’ve been coveting. Meanwhile, Ben Sheppard is a player who could likely replace Buddy Hield if he’s not extended.

The Pacers will again be one of the younger teams in the NBA this upcoming season. Even if they sign a veteran free agent, that will still be the case. The team is looking to push the pace a bit on their rebuild.

It was reported that the Pacers had talks with Atlanta about acquiring D’Andre Hunter but balked at the idea of sending the 7th overall pick in exchange. Regardless, this year’s NBA free agent class is chock-full of players who can fill some of the Blue and Gold’s needs, which is bigger wings.

With each of these players, we’ll include if they are a restricted or unrestricted free agent, if the last team owns the players’ Bird Rights, if the player or team has an option, and for how much. Remember, Bird Rights present a team with the ability to offer more money than if they were to sign with a new team.

Instead of focusing on Harrison Barnes who has widely been linked to Indiana, we’ll focus on some other players who aren’t being talked about as much. Here are seven free agents that the Indiana Pacers should go after.

Related: NBA Rookie of the Year 2023-24: Top NBA ROY odds and candidates to win, including Chet Holmgren

Jerami Grant – UFA: Bird Rights

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

This one might be a long shot for a couple of reasons. First, Portland needs to decide what they want to do with their franchise player Damian Lillard. If he wants to stay then Jerami Grant might be more inclined to re-sign as well. However, if Lillard wants out, then Grant might too.

If Grant hits the market, he’ll likely have his choice of any destination. This is where it might be challenging for the Pacers to convince him to join. There’s no question that the Blue and Gold are an ascending team. They most likely won’t be competing for a championship this season. However, a run at the playoffs is certainly in the range of outcomes. Add in the fact that they’re in the East, and they might be a bit more desirable. 

Grant would be an ideal fit since can play both forward positions, stretch the floor, be another scorer for opponents to worry about, and play some defense. He’s only 28 years old, so he could be on the fringe of the team’s timeline. And last year, he shot a career-best 40% on 3-point attempts.

Related: NBA free agency: Where will James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Draymond Green land?

Kyle Kuzma – UFA: Bird Rights

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Washington Wizards
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Washington is fully embracing a rebuild after trading away their franchise player, Bradley Beal. They’ve also already traded away Kristaps Porzingis. The only other star left on Washington’s roster is Kyle Kuzma. Now, it’s being reported that Sacramento is expected to pursue him. Which, if the team is losing the aforementioned Harrison Barnes, makes sense.

However, another team that is also thought to have an interest in Kuzma is the Indiana Pacers. Kuzma wouldn’t offer the defensive presence this team sorely needs and lacks. He would offer some more offensive punch and spacing on the floor. Kuzma is coming off arguably the best season of his career. So there does need to be some buyer beware as this may be a situation where he had a great year at the right time and then settles back into his normal output.

Even if Kuzma did resemble closer to his career averages, he would still be a good player for the Pacers to acquire. He’s a veteran who fits the team’s timeline and has championship experience. He could help provide some insight into what it takes to make it to the top and what’s needed to reach that goal. While Kuzma might not be the most desirable free agent, he will have his share of suitors, and signing him won’t be easy or cheap.

Related: NBA Power Rankings: Latest rankings following the 2023 NBA Draft

Rui Hachimura – RFA: Bird Rights

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Rui Hachimura is a player that many Pacers fans wanted the team to acquire prior to last year’s trade deadline. Instead, he was traded to the LA Lakers, helping their season around while making the Western Conference Finals. It’s not surprising that his offensive output decreased upon playing alongside Anthony Davis and LeBron James. 

However, his defensive output did see an increase. This was to be expected as the Lakers acquired him not for his offensive abilities, but to help shore up the other end of the floor. Now, the Lakers hold Hachimura’s Bird Rights and can offer him more money than others. They are in a bit of a financial crunch with tons of money tied up in their two stars and several other key players set to be free agents. 

It’s possible the team decides to re-sign Austin Reaves instead of Hachimura. This would allow the Pacers to finally get their man. Hachimura has never panned out as many thought he would considering he was the 9th overall pick in the 2019 draft. At this point, perhaps what we’ve all seen from him is what he is. And the Pacers would rather not impact the development of their youth for a player who is only moderately better.

Related: Indiana Pacers reportedly interested in signing starter away from NBA contender

Grant Williams – RFA: Bird Rights

NBA: Boston Celtics at Miami Heat
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Boston is coming off a bit of a disappointing season. They finished last season with the second-best record in the East and a consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearance. However, they were bounced by an 8th-seeded Miami team. Boston also made a fairly big trade prior to the draft. They sent their starting point guard, Marcus Smart, to Memphis as part of a three-team trade that saw them get Porzingis in return. 

This will have an impact on what Boston decides to do with Grant Williams. Especially since they have a bit of a salary cap issue. Unlike the previously mentioned Grant and Kuzma, Williams is a restricted free agent meaning Boston will be able to match any offer he receives. And now that Porzingis is on the roster, Williams will see a decrease in minutes. 

He does offer Boston some lineup flexibility and just like with Kuzma, Williams is coming off his best season. It was reported during the season that he is looking for a big payday this offseason.

In Boston, he was roughly one of the last options for scoring. With the Pacers being young, might Williams feel he should be one of the first scoring options? There’s no question his defense would be greatly welcomed. But would he be ok with, again, being one of the last scoring options? If he’s ok with that, then he could be a better fit for the Pacers than any of the previously mentioned players.

Related: NBA trade tracker: NBA trades today with grades and analysis

P.J. Washington – RFA: Bird Rights

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Oklahoma City Thunder
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Charlotte is in a precarious spot. They are still rebuilding or building, depending on your viewpoint, but they also have some redundancy and question marks on the roster. P.J. Washington is a restricted free agent who will get paid the most from Charlotte.

However, they drafted Brandon Miller, kept Miles Bridges, and still have Gordon Hayward on the roster. They also have Nick Richards and Mark Williams at the center spot. During Washington’s time in Charlotte, he’s mostly played the power forward and center position.

The team appears to be committed to Williams being starting center. Then there’s the question of what they want to do with Bridges. For now, we’ll assume it’s Bridges at small forward and Miller at power forward. So, then Washington is competing for minutes off the bench. Now, the situation with the Pacers isn’t entirely better. He could be starting or coming off the bench. 

Most likely though, if they acquire Washington, then they’re going to be sure he gets meaningful minutes. Something that would certainly benefit him is that he should be a good fit next to Myles Turner.

Washington can be the team’s small-ball center if they choose to have a small lineup. If Charlotte decides that they can only keep Bridges or Washington, then it’s possible they don’t match an offer he receives.

Related: NBA trade rumors: Latest buzz on Zion Williamson, Pascal Siakam and more

Herbert Jones – Club option $1.8M

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t the New Orleans player that many are wanting, but Herbert Jones can fill the same need as Trey Murphy. Jones isn’t a huge offensive weapon, but he is a player capable of being the traditional 3&D player. There is also the fact that New Orleans has over $103 million tied up in three players, and with the new CBA rules, the team could be in some serious cap hell. 

Then of course, there is Zion Williamson. If he’s healthy for most or a full season, he’s going to get major minutes at the power forward spot. Brandon Ingram is the starter at the small forward spot. Then there’s the aforementioned Murphy, who plays the same spot as Jones and who is better.

So Jones will be hard-pressed to find minutes. But the team has an option to pick up, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them decline it and then sign him to a new deal. This would provide some future financial flexibility.

On the other hand, his lack of minutes could negatively impact his development, and this could end up being a bad move on New Orleans’ part. That is if they aren’t able to trade him. However, if Jones does hit free agency, the Pacers would be an ideal fit. He could easily slot in as a starter alongside Turner or come off the bench. Just like with Williams, Jones would be an underrated good fit with this young Pacers team.

Related: 10 best centers in the NBA: Joel Embiid overtakes Nikola Jokic in battle for best big man in basketball

Jalen McDaniels – UFA: Bird Rights

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Brooklyn Nets
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen McDaniels may not get as much attention as his brother Jaden, but Jalen is a good player in his own right. Last year Jalen was traded from Charlotte to Philadelphia, and like with Hachimura, McDaniels’ offensive output decreased, but his defensive output increased.

Philadelphia’s roster has a lot riding on what James Harden will do, impacting what new head coach Nick Nurse decides to do with the lineup. It’s possible that McDaniels will be playing on a new team this upcoming season. 

Again, McDaniels would be a good fit alongside Turner or coming off the bench. One important thing to note. Last year once he was in Philadelphia, his three-point shooting percentage rose to a career-high of 40%. Now, a lot of that has to do with his number of attempts per game going down. For his career, he was attempting 4.2 three-pointers and in Philadelphia, he was only attempting 2.6 while maintaining the same number of makes.

Something to keep in mind, if he were to sign with the Pacers would he revert back to his career norm, or would he stick with fewer three-point attempts? Regardless, his defensive capabilities and versatility would be greatly welcomed. And while Philadelphia can offer him the most money, their lack of a salary cap makes that point a bit moot. So, Indiana could simply offer him more money than Philadelphia can afford while also remaining competitive in the Eastern Conference.

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