The Indiana Pacers have been at the center of the NBA rumor mill for a few months now. A disappointing season in 2021 launched the team into rebuild mode. Fans are hopeful that this young core will have a bright future. This upcoming season and a key roster decision will determine just how bright that future will be.
Indiana Pacers 2022-23 Season Preview
2021-22 Season Recap
Last season was painful for many Pacers fans, but it could be a year that is looked back on fondly by the Indiana faithful. The Pacers made a memorable splash near the trade deadline, sending Domantas Sabonis, Justin Holiday, and Jeremy Lamb to the Sacramento Kings for Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, and Tristan Thompson. The day prior, Indiana had sent Caris Levert to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for a protected first-round pick and two second-rounders. Finally, the Pacers moved Torrey Craig back to Phoenix in a trade with the Suns for Jalen Smith and the final pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
The second half of the season was all about the development of the young core. Haliburton showed flashes of greatness with his ability to create shots for himself and others. The former Iowa State Cyclone has an uncanny accuracy with his jump passes. Smith played well enough to earn not only the love of Pacers nation on Twitter but a multi-year contract as well. Isaiah Jackson was another bright spot for Indiana. A former first-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers, Jackson was inactive for most of the season, but he showed his potential when he played. He scored at least 11 points in seven of ten games started in late February and early March.
Ohshae Brissett was another player that made the most of his opportunities in 2021-22. The 6’7” small forward scored in double digits in eight of his last ten starts. Rookie Chris Duarte played well, averaging 13.1 points per game. Myles Turner dealt with injuries again last season and entered the offseason with an uncertain future.
Pacers fans rejoiced when the team landed the sixth overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Many were equally happy when Bennedict Mathurin’s name was called at that spot. The shooting guard from Montreal is one of the best prospects in this class, and the Pacers will hope he becomes a multi-leveled threat for their offense. Indiana used that second-round pick from the Cavalier to select Andrew Nembhard, a solid point guard from Gonzaga. Nembhard should at least become a steady contributor off the bench as he handles the ball well and runs an offense while facilitating for others.
Malcolm Brogdon missed most of last season with an injury, playing in only 36 games. When the Pacers decided to move on, they allegedly worked with the veteran point guard to find a suitable landing spot. Brogdon was traded to the Boston Celtics for a package of five players and a conditional 2023 first-round draft pick. It’s unclear if any of the players acquired will make the Pacers rotation, but the draft capital will be helpful. With Haliburton established as the point guard of the future, it doesn’t make sense to clog up the backcourt with Brogdon when you can give more minutes to Duarte or Mathurin.
The Russell Westbrook Saga
You can’t adequately cover the Pacers offseason without mentioning the rumored offers between Indiana and the Lakers. The most common version of the trade that you will see is Russell Westbrook and two first-round picks in return for Turner and Hield. This rumor needs its own article in analyze thoroughly, so let’s leave it at this. The Pacers are asking for one first-round pick to take on Westbrook’s salary and another for the players. We can debate the fairness of that later, but for now, this trade can’t be completely ruled out.
Turner will start the season as a Pacer, but the two sides have yet to agree to a deal. Indiana may move Turner before the trade deadline, and the Lakers aren’t the only team in the league that could use one of the NBA’s best shot blockers.
Indiana Pacers 2022-23 Season Outlook
This young team is scary. With a few more pieces, the Pacers could be the next rising team in the east in a few years. The scary part to Pacers fans, though, has to be how close this team could be to contending for a Play-in spot as constructed. We’ve seen unexpected or ‘ahead of schedule’ rises from teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and Cavaliers taking leaps in the standings. Luckily, the Eastern Conference is getting stronger each year, and the Pacers will have a hard time beating playoff-caliber teams.
Some have called for this to be the Pacers’ path for the upcoming season. However, that could be the worst possible outcome for Indiana’s big picture.
For the better part of the last two decades, the Pacers have toiled with the purgatory that is NBA mediocrity. Always good enough for the playoffs and, with a few exceptions, never good enough to contend for a conference title. If Indiana plays beyond their expectations this year, it could doom them to repeat the cycle. The Pacers should continue to obtain assets and let their young core develop. One more painful year could give this franchise a future like its never had.