The Indiana Pacers have strengthened an already promising roster this offseason as they aim to snap a three-year playoff drought. However, whether the core is ready to take the next step remains up for debate.
Here’s our prediction of the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Pacers this season:
Ceiling: 43-39 and first round playoff exit
Indiana had a strong start to last season, posting a 23-18 record before All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton suffered a knee injury that cost him 10 games, during which the team went 1-9.
Haliburton, who averaged 20.7 points and 10.4 assists, would later miss an additional 14 games, derailing Indiana’s season, but that didn’t stop it from inking him to a five-year $260M extension this offseason.
Although the Pacers didn’t make many headline-grabbing moves, they enjoyed a solid offseason. They spent first-round picks on forward Jarace Walker and guard Ben Sheppard, added ex-Nuggets swingman Bruce Brown through free agency and traded for former Knicks forward Obi Toppin in a low-risk, high-reward deal.
Brown’s championship experience will be invaluable for Indiana’s young core and Toppin’s skill set is perfect for the team that averaged the most transition points in the NBA last season (27).
The rest of Indiana’s roster shouldn’t be overlooked either, with quality veterans in center Myles Turner and sharpshooter Buddy Hield. Guard Bennedict Mathurin is also an intriguing piece after demonstrating a knack for scoring as a rookie, recording the third-most points off the bench by a first-year player in NBA history (1,028).
If Haliburton stays healthy, Indiana will be in the mix for a play-in spot and could advance to the first round.
Floor: 37-45 and miss playoffs
While it’s too early in Haliburton’s career to assume he’ll miss significant time with injury like one could with some of the NBA”s other stars, Indiana’s 7-19 record without him last season is a concern. Andrew Nembhard would likely assume starting point guard duties if Haliburton.
Despite showing flashes as a rookie when Haliburton was out, recording 13.8 points and 7.0 assists in such games, he posted the 12th-worst defensive rating among all players with at least 60 appearances (120.4).
Additionally, even though the Pacers clearly upgraded their roster this offseason, it’s unlikely they’ll make a substantial leap forward from last season, when they ranked 21st in offensive rating (113.8) and 26th in defensive rating (117.1).
Ultimately, Indiana needs to do all it can to at least qualify for the play-in tournament, as its floor is too high to secure decent lottery odds if it misses the postseason.
Being a middle-of-the-road team that’s too talented to miss out on a high draft pick but not good enough to make the playoffs is a nightmare scenario in today’s NBA, especially since the 2024 prospect pool looks underwhelming.