Why the Pacers’ ample cap space could be a double-edged sword in free agency

Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Heading to the 2022 NBA Free Agency, the Indiana Pacers will be in an envied position. Touting the third-most cap space in the association, the front office will have a lot of spending power to throw at free agents, a luxury that they have not enjoyed for quite some time now.

Thus, while this year’s crop of available players is certainly far from the deepest and the most talented, the Pacers are still pretty much in control of how they may want to improve the roster, especially considering the imbalance that the team’s current deck boasts.

However, their ample cap space could ultimately prove to be a double-edged sword this summer. Here’s why.

Why the Indiana Pacers’ ample cap space could be a double-edged sword

Naturally, any team having considerable wiggle room in free agency has the advantage over other cash-strapped teams, and of course, the Indiana Pacers are still in that position. With just four other teams having the requisite cap space to make a run at the better free agents available, the Blue and Gold will have less competition for their targets.

However, not all that glitters is golden. Considering the Pacers’ current rebuilding stage, the team actually has to be even more careful throwing money at free agents.

Over the years, Indiana’s brass has been criticized as a persistent frugal spender. That was further amplified by the fact that the franchise was actively eyeing to be competitive, not matter the ceiling. The times have now changed. With the Pacers clearly pivoting to a rare, full-on youth movement, this is not the best time to be reckless spenders.

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With $25.6 million to spare, the team may be better off pursuing an impact role player or two who could fix their roster holes and another young free agent prospect whom they can foster and cudgel into their core if things work out. This is undoubtedly playing it safe, but considering the hefty salary demands of this offseason’s top-tier free agents, an overpay may prove to be a step forward, but two steps back.

Overpaying makes sense given that the Pacers’ young cornerstones, like Tyrese Haliburton, are still on their rookie-scale deals, but paying a lot of money up front for a player that marginally raises their ceiling will only prompt the team to veer away from their patient stance, which is definitely unwise as they lay the groundwork for a potential contender in the making.

For example, chasing Miles Bridges could be a good investment on the first impression, but the necessary overpay for him, considering the team’s current pecking order, could end up being a bad move that worsens in the following years. Meanwhile, someone like Deandre Ayton could appeal more, but sequestering a huge amount for his position, which is perhaps the spot that could be most mitigated by cheaper alternatives, could diminish the team’s future flexibility.

Ultimately, the Indiana Pacers are still in a favorable spot as a major free agency player, but given the franchise’s extremely uncommon willingness to start from the ground up, their big spending power should be used with smarter restraint.

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