On the Pacers' pursuit of Deandre Ayton and owner Herb Simon's stance on offer sheets
Herb Simon is the longest-tenured owner in the NBA. And he's been opposed to signing restricted free agents. But have things changed?
LAS VEGAS — The Pacers are interested in adding Deandre Ayton.
He’s a restricted free agent, providing him the opportunity to sign with another team and giving the Phoenix Suns the opportunity to match.
But would they? Do they want to?
The Suns went 64-18 last season. Two seasons ago, they reached the NBA Finals. Chris Paul is 37 years old and that team is primed to win now.
The Pacers? They’ve undergoing their first true rebuild in decades. They selected inside the top 10 at the draft for the first time since 1989, before any player on the current roster was even born.
Another stat that stands out: The Pacers have only signed one player to an offer sheet. Herb Simon, the longest-tenured owner in the NBA, is adamantly opposed to bidding on another team’s player. It’s a long-standing belief he’s held since becoming owner of the team with his brother in 1983.
Forward Chris Copeland was the one restricted free agent they signed and it was nearly a decade ago, in 2013. When they signed him to a two-year deal worth over $6 million, they did so knowing the Knicks were restricted themselves and could not match it.
The Pacers also weren’t interested in taking Malcolm Brogdon away from the Milwaukee Bucks in 2019. The Bucks, another small-market team, were calling around to teams trying to offload him in a sign-and-trade and the Pacers front office offered two second-round picks.
In a unique scenario, Simon got involved and called Bucks owner Marc Lasry — then also included a future first-round pick.
Back in December, when Simon invited five local reporters to a conference room to discuss the state of the team and answer any questions, I asked him about what played out. And for the first time, he shared his philosophy behind it.