There were two deadlines that passed in the NBA on Monday — the deadline to sign 2020 draftees to rookie-scale extensions and the deadline to ink veterans with two-plus years left on their contracts to extensions (if they are eligible).
For the Pacers, four players were impacted by the calendar — Aaron Nesmith, Obi Toppin, T.J. McConnell, and Daniel Theis. The former two were lottery picks in the 2020 NBA Draft and were eligible for rookie-scale extensions. The latter pair are vets who both signed four-year deals in 2021. Aaron Nesmith was the only player who agreed to an extension with the Pacers. He signed a three-year, $33 million extension with the Pacers, per sources. It ties him to the franchise until 2027. “It’s awesome, it’s exciting,” Nesmith said. The Pacers acquired him in a trade in 2022, and his first season with the team went well.
During the preseason, he showed growth, and there’s confidence he can be a contributor for the blue and gold going forward. An extension made sense for both sides. That can’t be said with as much confidence about the other three previously-eligible players, though. In Toppin’s case, the issue is that he’s new to the Pacers. Based on his past production, any extension would start at a lower number. But Toppin might believe that a new opportunity, and one that will give him more playing time at that, will make him much more valuable in free agency next summer.
The Pacers haven’t seen him play for them yet, so it’s hard for them to estimate what his future value could be to them. The situation just didn’t call for action. “That’s a question for (president of basketball operations) Kevin [Pritchard] and (general manager) Chad [Buchanan]. He just got here,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said of Toppin when asked about his extension outlook on Monday. View the original article to see embedded media. “Obi’s another guy that’s in the gym all the time, wanting to watch film, wanting to go on the floor and work on off days to get better,” he added.
Carlisle shared that Toppin has a big opportunity in Indiana, and that reality is part of why an extension may have been difficult. Buchanan agreed. “Obi is somebody we haven’t seen on our team yet. I think we would like to see how things play out there,” he said in late September. Toppin is a promising young player and will be a restricted free agent next summer, so the Pacers can keep him if he has a great season. An extension was unlikely, but one not getting done has little impact on the two parties’ future together. If Toppin plays well, he has a good chance to stick around. For Theis and McConnell, an extension didn’t make any sense.
They both have multiple years left on their deal (Theis has a team option for 2024-25), so assessing their situation after this season makes more sense. Technically, the Pacers could decline Theis’ team option and extend him during the regular season. His age and spot in the rotation makes that exceedingly unlikely. Both players are veterans, yet Indiana is a younger team. If the coming season ends with a postseason berth, or either of the two have a great year, perhaps an extension could come next summer.
McConnell is far more likely than Theis to be extended at some point, but it will depend on the coming campaign. Guard Buddy Hield is eligible for an extension throughout the season. With the offseason now in the rearview mirror, Indiana can focus on games. They begin play on Wednesday night.