One to-be free agent forward the Indiana Pacers should closely monitor

Rick Carlisle - Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Carlisle - Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2022-23 season has just started, and while it’s definitely way too early to forecast possible free agency moves, the early returns from the Indiana Pacers should be enough to prognosticate how they could approach next summer, at least on the surface.

One of the team’s most glaring problems is their lack of balance on the roster. While the Pacers are loaded in the backcourt and considerably deep in the big man positions, the club lacks the typical 3-and-D forwards that the league is currently obsessed with. When your options consist of a rarely-used Oshae Brissett and a 35-year-old James Johnson, you’re definitely lagging behind the tropes of modern roster-building.

Hence, Indiana’s brass should closely monitor this upcoming free agent forward’s play in the season in hopes of potentially having him atop their wishlist in the offseason.

The Indiana Pacers front office should monitor this upcoming free agent forward

With an up-and-down tenure with the Lakers finally behind him, Kyle Kuzma has been a pretty solid contributor for the Washington Wizards since arriving there via the much-maligned Russell Westbrook trade. In 75 games with his current club, the 27-year-old has tallied 17.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game, starting all games in both forward positions.

If you still cling onto the memes and social media narratives to ornament your perception on Kuzma, you should probably move on. Once profiled as a tall, scatterbrained shot-chucker, the 2020 NBA champion has revitalized his game by significantly improving his defense, shot selection, and even playmaking. In fact, he led the Wizards in defensive win shares last season, and continues to lead the team in that department in the present campaign.

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A near-lock to decline his player option and enter free agency, the Indiana Pacers should be able to pitch themselves as a sensible destination for the 27-year-old. Not only does the team possess the financial ammunition to make a solid case (projected to have anywhere between $36 to $51 million in cap space), but the Pacers also have a compelling role that could entice Kuzma.

At 6’9 with great athleticism, Kuzma is fully capable of playing both forward positions, and has even played some shooting guard with the lakers in their jumbo-sized lineups. Indiana lacks a front court piece that is malleable enough to fit into various lineups, and this is where he can make a difference.

Hypothetically, the Pacers could start him at the 3, negating the need for the team to shoehorn small lineups due to personnel. Against smaller teams, he could play the 4. This versatility alone guarantees that he won’t cannibalize or eat into the roles of other players such as Jalen Smith and Isaiah Jackson.

The Indiana Pacers are widely expected to bolster their roster by banking on the draft for the foreseeable future. However, if they want to accelerate their program and launch themselves into the playoff picture, if not more, then filling in the gaps on their roster should not be overlooked.

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