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Indiana Pacers 2024 NBA offseason preview: There’s plenty to build on with a healthy Tyrese Haliburton

Season 2023-24: 47-35

Highlight of the season: Remember that time, before the Tyrese Haliburton injury and before the Buddy Hield trade? When the Pacers had the best offense in the league and Haliburton averaged almost 27 points and 12 assists? Especially that time.

With less enthusiasm than expected. The Pacers couldn’t stay healthy and ran into the best team in the East, the Boston Celtics. Despite acquiring Pascal Siakam midseason, the Pacers lost a ton of floor space when they moved Hield to Philadelphia and never really got around to fixing it.

Haliburton, who dominated during the first half of the season, suffered lingering back and hamstring injuries, and his production dipped in the second half of the year, with only sporadic All-Star-caliber moments throughout the remainder of the season.

As a general rule, when a team’s best player goes down, it’s difficult to be too critical of that team’s performance. It is also difficult when the best player on a team is the point guard, and therefore the most important decision maker. The Pacers went on the offensive before the season and didn’t make the wrong choice. They had just caught the injury bug (Bennedict Mathurin missed the entire playoffs due to shoulder surgery) and lost too much talent.

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As such, the Pacers will likely run this thing again next year, optimistic that they won’t find themselves in a similar situation. After all, there’s a lot of encouragement in seeing a team with a healthy Haliburton, Siakam with a full training camp under his belt and the return of Mathurin, who can provide a solid scoring punch both off the bench and as a starter.

That doesn’t mean they are on Easy Street. Indiana was a terrible defensive team and also one of the worst rebounding units in the NBA. While Myles Turner had another quality season in terms of production, the 28-year-old remains an inconsistent rebounder, which is a problem as only two other players on the roster (Siakam and Jalen Smith) are pulling down more than five per game.

However, the Pacers’ biggest challenge this summer won’t just be filling defensive holes. It will be to fill those holes with players who can also contribute on the other end of the floor given the way they have leaned into a fast-paced offense.

Injured Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton reacts on the bench during the second half of Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference basketball finals against the Boston Celtics, Monday, May 27, 2024, in Indianapolis.  (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton cheers on his team from the bench during the second half of Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics on Monday, May 27, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

3&D players, regardless of position. The more two-way players they can find, even if they are a little older, the better. This team needs to find a better two-way balance to make a leap next year.

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Indiana has three picks in the second round and could find a sleeper to add to a playoff team. G League Ignite forward Izan Almansa did not get the chance to show his full potential this year as the Ignite lost lopsidedly every night. Creighton wing Baylor Scheierman has great size and shooting mechanics, and Wake Forest guard Hunter Sallis has a very smart scoring instinct. –Kristen Peek

Projected draft picks, pre-lottery: Nos. 36, 49 and 50

Outside of Haliburton, whose extension goes into effect this summer, Indiana’s cap sheet is fairly clean and a new deal for Siakam should easily be possible. The key will be to agree on a contract that isn’t expensive or too long, as Siakam is now 30, and the Pacers will likely regret paying him a max deal in four years.

However, it’s worth noting that the league’s salary cap should increase 10% through 2025, making Siakam’s current cap percentage increasingly lower as the contract ages.

Keyless agents

Pascal Siakam (UFA)

Obi Toppin (RFA)

Stay healthy and balance offense and defense to help the Pacers perform deeper in the postseason.

Despite a disappointing end to their surprising postseason run after being defeated by the Celtics, the Pacers have a promising future, led by Haliburton. Indiana’s offense ranked in the top three in pace and total possession, indicating strong potential for generating fantasy points. Haliburton provided value in the first round for fantasy managers as one of the few players capable of leading the league in assists and scoring more than 20 points per game.

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Although Turner didn’t reach his ADP, he finished in the top 60 for the seventh straight season. He remains one of the most consistent big men in fantasy, and hopefully we see his blocks creep over two in the future.

The move to acquire Siakam at the deadline worked, as the Pacers upset the battered Bucks in the first round and then outlasted the Knicks before falling to the Celtics. Siakam looked great in that opening series and at other times in the postseason run. He is an unrestricted free agent this summer, so his decision to return could dramatically reshape the Pacers’ future.

The rest of the roster will be a fascinating area of ​​interest. Andrew Nembhard’s exceptional performance in the Eastern Conference finals should give him the upper hand over Ben Sheppard at shooting guard, but with Rick Carlisle’s fluid rotations, nothing is set in stone.

Mathurin’s progress was not as great as expected despite being drafted in 98% of Yahoo leagues. However, his absence, plus the Hield trade, created an opportunity for Aaron Nesmith to shine, and he did not disappoint. Nesmith’s impressive efficiency, defensive skills and exceptional three-point shooting have positioned him as a key starting five moving forward and worthy of a late-round pick in the drafts.

If the Pacers decide to move on from Toppin (a restricted free agent), keep a close eye on Jarace Walker. Indiana is loaded with depth and young talent, so I wouldn’t be surprised if TJ McConnell, Sheppard and Isaiah Jackson become fantasy signings at some point next season. – Dan Titus

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