Undrafted Free Agents Who Would Be Steals for Indiana Pacers
There are several undrafted free agents who would be steals for the Indiana Pacers.
Some of these prospects, like the New Mexico Lobos' Kendall Williams, were invited by the Pacers to attend their predraft workouts two weeks ago. Others, such as Nevada's Deonte Burton—an unheralded point guard—are not yet on Indy's radar but should be.
Some bigger-name undrafted rookies have the potential to thrive in the Pacers system but have already committed to the summer leagues of other clubs. The University of North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo (Golden State Warriors) and Michigan State's Keith Appling (Portland Trail Blazers) are some of them.
A diamond in the rough or two should be somewhere out there for the Indiana Pacers. Any of these early summer league signees can still wind up in blue and gold.
Last week, this author mentioned that Indy's biggest need is a playmaking point guard. The team also needs to shore up its bench—particularly by finding a backup center and another shooter.
Are any of these unsung heroes up to the task?
Honorable Mention: Keith Appling, Point Guard, Michigan State Spartans
2013-14 stats: 11.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.5 APG, 0.4 BPG, 1.2 SPG
The Pacers would be wise to go for a veteran playmaking point guard, as the George Hill era produced good results but not good enough to get them what they wanted—an NBA title. Hill is best suited to a combo guard role off the bench.
C.J. Watson did a credible job as Hill's backup. While Donald Sloan showed some promise as the third point guard, he was an erratic shooter who wasn't reliable when Indy's offense sputtered.
While Michigan State's Keith Appling wasn't much of a factor on the offensive end during the NCAA tournament, the Pacers still invited him for a predraft workout on June 12, per Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss. The team is clearly intrigued by his upside.
DraftExpress.com's Josh Riddell summed up Appling's potential value in the pros:
Appling's value lies in his ability to play solid defense, not make mistakes, and score occasionally in transition. He shows solid potential as a backup point guard, although it will be interesting to see if the faster pace of the NBA helps him break out of the often vanilla style of play he mostly showcased under Tom Izzo.
While an improved jump shot will raise his ceiling as a player, Appling could carve out a nice role in the league by playing to his strengths, being a steady ball handler and continuing to distribute the ball to his teammates while leading a second unit.
Based on Riddell's assessment, Appling should be a good fit for the Pacers, who thrive on defense. Should he be taken in, expect head coach Frank Vogel and Watson to develop Appling's game even more.
Deonte Burton, Point Guard, Nevada Wolf Pack
2013-14 stats: 20.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.4 APG, 0.5 BPG, 1.5 SPG
An upgrade over Appling at point guard would be the Nevada Wolf Pack's Deonte Burton.
According to Bleacher Report's Daniel O'Brien, the 6'1" Burton plays much larger than his height:
Nevada's Deonte Burton is somewhat undersized at 6'1", but he's got speedy creativity off the dribble and can attack the rack physically and vertically.
He drives and slashes against defenses with a James Harden-style aggressiveness, often drawing fouls or scoring over opponents. From the perimeter, his jump shot is still questioned, (he shot 31 percent on three-pointers as a senior), but his stroke looked good during pre-draft workouts.
Burton's other big offensive contributions as a point guard are his improved passing skills and his ability to operate the pick-and-roll. He's exciting to watch when he turns the corners off screens, and he will keep opposing defenses on their toes.
Factor in his physical defense and great instincts on that end, and you're looking at an awesome spark off the bench.
O'Brien wasn't kidding when he said Burton can really take off. Check him out posterizing the Boise State Broncos here.
As a capable two-way player, he ought to thrive in Indy's system. With a year or two of further seasoning, he should contribute consistently off the bench and even start in games when the No. 1 point guard is down with an injury.
Kendall Williams, Point Guard, New Mexico Lobos
2013-14 stats: 16.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.9 APG, 0.1 BPG, 1.6 SPG
If the Pacers want more size in a backup point guard, Kendall Williams is their man.
As the above video illustrates, he has good passing skills and the knack for finding the open man. He is also capable of running the break, taking it strong to the hole and spotting up from the outside.
NBADraftBlog.com's Ed Isaacson sizes up the versatile Williams:
Still, Williams has continued to improve almost every area of his game, and he was comfortable playing both on and off the ball. If defenders don't give him enough credit, he can score points in bunches, including getting to the basket or knocking down long-range jumpers.
Williams may not seem very strong, but he has no problem looking to initiate contact with anyone when he is heading to the rim. He is a very good perimeter defender and he was able to defend either guard spot well. Williams has a strong understanding of the game and while there is nothing flashy about his game, he makes his team better on both ends of the floor.
Williams and Deonte Burton are two point guard prospects the Pacers should not miss out on. If they land either man, that player will be an upgrade over the erratic Donald Sloan as Indy's third point guard.
James Michael McAdoo, Power Forward, North Carolina Tar Heels
2013-14 stats: 14.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.9 BPG, 1.3 SPG
It's hard to fathom why James Michael McAdoo, a second-team All-ACC selection last season, was not drafted.
Despite the snub, Hotchkiss notes McAdoo's versatility was something the Pacers took notice of when they invited him to their first predraft workout two weeks ago:
As a prospect, he has a reputation as a player who can do a lot of things well, but doesn't have one elite skillset. He is a talented scorer with good moves around the basket and a defender capable of guarding a traditional power forward or a more perimeter-oriented player.
McAdoo's biggest weakness is likely his lack of a consistent outside shot (he was 0-for-9 from three-point range in college).
The former Tar Heel was impressed with the Pacers' workout, noting it was the first team workout he'd had (with) the entire coaching staff present. And like (Indiana Sycamores guard Jake) Odum, McAdoo admitted it was extra special to work out in front of (Pacers president Larry) Bird.
The Pacers, as evidenced by the presence of guys like Paul George and David West, are high on players who can contribute on both ends of the court. McAdoo has the potential to develop as a bench player. With West and Luis Scola both in the twilight of their careers, the North Carolina product can even take on a bigger role a la Antonio Davis, who suited up for Indy in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Patric Young, Center, Florida Gators
2013-14 stats: 11.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.1 BPG, 0.6 SPG
Listed at 6'9" by DraftExpress.com, Patric Young was an undersized center in the collegiate ranks. He is better suited as a power forward who can play the 5 spot on occasion like Luis Scola.
While Young is still raw on the offensive end (although he shot .541 from the field, he shot just .596 from the free-throw line, per ESPN), his defensive prowess has always been his strength, as noted by DraftExpress.com's Kyle Nelson:
Yet, for as raw as Young remains on the defensive end, he is one of the most intriguing post defenders in the draft. His numbers don't pop off the page and he is undersized for a center, but he projects as a very good NBA defender due to his unique combination of length, strength, athleticism and fundamentals.
For instance, Young is easily one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in college basketball, able to hedge quickly and stay in front of all but the quickest guards. He showed the versatility to guard most NCAA big men with outstanding lateral quickness to go along with his size, strength and versatility.
Perhaps most importantly, however, he plays with energy and aggressiveness and should be able to translate his defensive prowess at the collegiate level to the NBA.
As unpolished as Young is on offense, he has the makings of another Dale Davis if he works on his rebounding a bit more. Another plus about him is his durability—he never missed a game in his NCAA career, per Nelson.
Artem Klimenko, Center, Russia
2013-14 stats (in Russian Basketball Super League play, per NBADraft.net): 13.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 0.8 BPG
Could Russia's Artem Klimenko possibly join Ian Mahinmi not only as Roy Hibbert's backups but as international players patrolling the lane for the Indiana Pacers?
The thought of it, as much as Klimenko's play, is intriguing.
As seen in the above video, he has a wide array of moves around the basket and can even stick the occasional jumper. He can body up on people and even make great outlet passes just like David West.
O'Brien assesses this 20-year-old behemoth's potential:
However, you can't teach 7'1", and its' hard to find 7'1" undrafted free agents who run end-to-end and have great hands like he does.
The big fella shows promise on his pick-and-roll footwork as well as his basic post moves. Klimenko will be able to score over either shoulder in the NBA, and he's got great instincts on the offensive boards. Defensively, he's long, but he won't be a lethal shot-blocker due to his lack of springs.
He needs to put on another 25-30 pounds in order to operate effectively in the paint, but the raw materials are there for him to impose his will on both ends.
In addition, DraftExpress.com's Jonathan Givony says Klimenko "appears to have excellent potential to develop into a solid backup center, at the very least, in the right setting."
His lack of experience in the more physical American game may be a factor going against him. The Pacers need more depth at the center position. If this youngster's skill set develops even more, he could be that serviceable third center off the bench.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of June 28 and are courtesy of ESPN.com.