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2023-24 NBA Season Preview: Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers
Can the Indiana Pacers make the NBA playoffs in 2023-24? (Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports)

2023-24 NBA Season Preview: Indiana Pacers

Training camp for the 2023-24 NBA season is officially underway! Up until opening night on Oct. 24, we will be previewing all 30 NBA teams! Today, to continue our series, we will be previewing the Indiana Pacers, who look to make another leap in Tyrese Haliburton and Rick Carlisle‘s second full season in the organization.

What happened last year?

The Pacers took a major step in the right direction in 2022-23, improving their previous year’s win total by 10 wins, finishing 35-47. They ultimately fell short of the playoffs for the third straight year, but that was not their ultimate goal. In Haliburton’s captaining the ship, the Pacers finished No. 21 in offensive rating (113.8)–nearly two points better than its mark in 2021-22, which ranked No. 18–though finished with a minus-3.3 NET Rating. They finished just outside the top half in both effective field goal and true-shooting percentage but were one of the best teams in the NBA at sharing-while-caring with the seventh-best AST:TO ratio.

Offseason recap:

The Pacers had quite a good offseason. They drafted bruising forward Jarace Walker No. 8 overall, who’s the perfect fit to 1.) roam around their back-line defensively 2.) defend upwards of 3-4 positions, even as a rookie and 3.) complement Myles Turner‘s spacing and playmaking. They also drafted Ben Sheppard in the second round. In free agency, they signed Swiss Army knife Bruce Brown to a two-year, $45 million deal, while signing Haliburton to a well-deserved rookie max extension. They also bought low on Obi Toppin, who’s a good fit in their frontcourt and should almost certainly receive more leeway in Indiana.

Projected Starting Five?

Tyrese Haliburton, G — Haliburton blossomed in his first full season in Indiana, averaging 20.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists and 1.6 steals on 49.0 percent shooting and 40.0 percent from 3-point range. He earned his first All-Star bid and got compensated pretty well over the offseason. I’m very confident he can take another leap in this offense, as he enters his age-23 season.

Buddy Hield, G (for now) — Buddy Hield‘s been mixed in trade rumors and could be dealt by the start of the season. But until that occurs, we’ll assume he’ll be in Indiana. No player has made more 3s than Hield over the last five years and he’s shot over 40 percent from 3-point range in the last six seasons. He’s also coming off a career-best season, efficiency-wise. He’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, and some team (not the Pacers) will pay him like such.

Bruce Brown, Anything you want him to be — You want someone to be the rolling big and a short-roll decision-maker in a pick-and-roll? Bruce Brown’s got you! You need someone to space the floor? Bruce Brown’s got you!! You need someone to defend 1-4 (1-5 on some nights) and be ultra versatile in myriad roles? Bruce Brown’s got you!!!

Obi Toppin, F — Toppin didn’t get a sizable opportunity in New York behind Julius Randle and didn’t completely fit on that roster, so he now has a better opportunity in Indiana. He averaged 7.4 points and 2.8 rebounds and could be a good fit in the pick-and-roll alongside Haliburton. Expect him to get plenty of action vertically as an above-the-rim threat, a feature this roster lacked previously.

Myles Turner, C — Turner was the beneficiary of a two-year extension midseason last year after being involved in myriad trade talks. He still might be in the future, but the 7-foot big is one of the best rim protectors in the sport and averaged a career-high 18.0 points (3.5 points more than at any point in the previous seven years) on 65.1 percent true shooting, amplifying his production in his first full season not next to Domantas Sabonis as a roller/popper.

Notable Reserves:

Aaron Nesmith, G — Nesmith established himself as a starter last year, and while I’m not sure that continues at the start of the 2023-24 season, he took a considerable leap after getting traded from Boston last offseason. In 73 games (60 starts), he averaged 10.1 points and 3.8 rebounds on 56.6 percent true-shooting. He could be next in line for an extension if Hield gets moved before the season.

Bennedict Mathurin, G — Mathurin finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting last year after a rambunctious start to the season, averaging 16.7 points and 4.1 rebounds on 43.4 percent shooting as a rookie. There might be lumps in the road, but he’s absolutely one of the building blocks of this franchise and expect his role to gradually improve as a sophomore.

Biggest X-Factor? Bennedict Mathurin

It’s not always easy for second-year players to take a substantial leap with a year of film under their belt, but Mathurin is not one of those players I’m concerned about. I expect his processing speed to take a leap and his sheer efficiency to improve after getting off to a roaring start as a rookie. He’s a hyper-competitive athlete–and while his offense is further along than his defense, playing alongside Haliburton makes life easier for him. If Hield at any time during the season, Mathurin’s opportunity and room for growth will continue to amplify.

Season projection?

I expect the Pacers to be a play-in team this year after falling just short a year ago. I’ll peg them going 40-42.


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