Jon Elmore probably isn’t getting drafted by the Indiana Pacers, but making him an undrafted free agent signing and stowing him on the Fort Wayne Mad Ants wouldn’t be a bad idea.
We are… here to talk about why the Indiana Pacers should take a serious look at bringing Jon Elmore into their organization. (Let’s go ahead and note I am a Marshall fan and you should take that into account as you read. Go Herd!) Elmore is working out with the Pacers today, and you probably haven’t heard of him unless you caught one of the early NCAA Tournament games a year ago.
Elmore’s story is an unconventional one. After signing a letter of intent and then leaving VMI to be closer to his ailing grandfather, Elmore enrolled at Marshall but did so without knowing for sure if he had a spot on the team thanks to the NCAA’s draconian rules.
However, thanks to a call from one former Marshall coach to the current one, Dan D’Antoni, there was a path to him playing again.
That opened the door for Elmore and Marshall to make a run into the NCAA Tournament. With the opportunity, they shined as they upset Landry Shamet’s Witchita State Shockers. Elmore held Shamet to 3 of 13 shooting while scoring 27 points on 13 shots ‚— with plenty of swagger.
Elmore isn’t afraid to take step-back 3-pointers — something made much more popular by James Harden of the Rockets, who are coached by Dan’s brother Mike D’Antoni. Hillbilly Harden showed some Stephen Curry in him too by launching up a 3-pointer from the coach’s box in an incredible heat check.
Elmore and Marshall struggled in the next round against West Virginia University, but the Thundering Herd’s upset in the first round was memorable for the way Marshall and Elmore played the game.
Problem is, as we noted, that was two seasons ago. The Herd failed to win enough games to earn a bid after losing in the Conference USA tournament this season. Marshall didn’t overly regress but without their big man Ajdin Penava on the other end of the Herd’s pick and rolls, things weren’t as smooth as they were a season before for Elmore and Marshall.
But that doesn’t change what Elmore can do.
What Jon Elmore could bring to the Pacers
Jon Elmore is no one-trick pony as averages of 20.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.1 assists a game can attest to. He isn’t overly dominant as a point guard, but he isn’t afraid to shoot, either.
As our own Ben Pfeifer noted before the college season, Elmore has a good mix of court vision and passing skills. He doesn’t always make the right decisions as he drifts between wanting to score and wanting to set up his teammates, but he keeps opponents on their heels.
He does have some modest turnover issues, but it’s a matter of risk and reward vs him making boneheaded decisions.
He creates problems for opponents by knowing when and where to find his teammates while also threatening to score from deep. Elmore made 36.4% of his 3-point attempts last season and put up over half of his attempts from range. His mid-range shooting was bad — under 30 percent — and a reminder that despite Elmore’s ability to score from deep and at the rim, he had questionable shot selection at times.
Marshall’s offense had NBA elements — Dan D’Antoni is a believer in analytics — so translating a 3-point and rim heavy offense to the NBA shouldn’t be as hard as be if he was more reliant on his mid-range game. It’s a weakness, but one hopes he can work around.
His physical tools — a 6’3 average athlete with an average wingspan — point to defensive issues in the NBA, as well as the fact he won’t bully anyone with his size. But if he can follow a similar path as Georges Niang by using his basketball IQ to make up for it, there’s a path to the NBA.
But it will start in Fort Wayne if the Pacers sign him.
While Elmore does many things you hope an NBA could do, he wasn’t done them consistently against top-flight competition. Elmore needs to prove that his playmaking and passing are enough to overcome his lack of quickness. The former Herd point guard must show he can knock down 3-pointers and stretch the floor against tough competition.
Letting him prove himself on your Summer League team and then placing him on your G-League team is the right approach for a player like Elmore. He’ll need to sharpen his decision making, and maybe that passing and scoring don’t translate to the NBA, but it’s worth finding out if it does.
Jon Elmore isn’t worth taking a big risk on, which is why he likely isn’t getting drafted, but he is worth taking a risk, even if a small one. Some NBA team will take a flier on him to find out if his skill can translate, and I hope it’s the Pacers. But I am a little biased.