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

2023-24 season: 47-35

Highlight of the season: Remember that time, before the Tyrese Haliburton injury and before the Buddy Hield trade? Back when the Pacers had the best offense in the league, and Haliburton was averaging almost 27 points and 12 assists? Definitely 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 the midseason acquisition of Pascal Siakam, the Pacers lost a ton of floor spacing when they moved Hield to Philadelphia, and never really got around to solving it.

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

As a general rule, when a team’s best player goes down, it’s tough to be overly critical of said team’s performance. It’s additionally difficult when a team’s best player is the point guard, and thus the primary decision-maker. The Pacers leaned into offense before the season and didn’t make the wrong call by doing so. They just caught the injury bug (Bennedict Mathurin missed the entire playoffs due to shoulder surgery) and lost too much talent.

As such, the Pacers are likely to run this thing back 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 field a healthy Haliburton, Siakam with a full training camp under his belt and the return of Mathurin, who can provide a solid scoring punch either off the bench or as a starter.

That’s not to say they’re on Easy Street. Indiana was a dreadful defensive team and one of the worst rebounding units in the NBA as well. While Myles Turner had another quality season in terms of production, the 28-year-old remains an inconsistent rebounder, which is a problem when just two other players on the roster (Siakam and Jalen Smith) pulled down more than five per game.

The biggest challenge for the Pacers this summer won’t be to just fill defensive holes, however. It will be to fill those holes with players who can contribute on the other end of the floor as well, given how they’ve 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’re a bit on the older side, the merrier. This team needs to strike a better two-way balance to make a jump next year.

Indiana has three second-round picks and could find a sleeper prospect to add to a playoff team. G League Ignite forward Izan Almansa didn't get a chance to show his full potential this year with how lopsided the Ignite were losing each night. Creighton wing Baylor Scheierman has great size and shooting mechanics, and Wake Forest guard Hunter Sallis has really smart scoring instincts. — Krysten Peek

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

Outside of Haliburton, whose extension triggers this summer, Indiana’s cap sheet is fairly clean and should easily allow for a new deal for Siakam. The key will be to find common ground on a contract that isn’t expensive or too long, given that Siakam is now 30, and the Pacers will likely regret having to pay him a max deal over four years.

However, it is worth noting that the league’s salary cap should increase by 10% in 2025, making Siakam’s pending cap hit percentage lower and lower as the contract ages.

Key free agents

Pascal Siakam (UFA)

Obi Toppin (RFA)

Stay healthy and strike a balance between offense and defense that allows the Pacers to make a deeper run in the postseason.

Despite a disappointing end to their surprise postseason run after being swept by the Celtics, the Pacers have a promising future, spearheaded by Haliburton. Indiana's offense ranked in the top three in pace and total possessions, indicating a strong potential for generating fantasy points. Haliburton delivered first-round value for fantasy managers as one of the few players capable of leading the league in assists and scoring over 20 points per game.

Though Turner didn't reach his ADP, he finished in the top 60 for the seventh consecutive season. He remains one of the most consistent big men in fantasy, and hopefully we'll see his blocks creep back over two going forward.

The move to acquire Siakam at the deadline worked out, 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 moments in the postseason run. He's an unrestricted free agent this summer, so his decision to return could dramatically reshape the Pacers' future.

The rest of the roster is set to become a fascinating focus area. 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 significant 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 didn't disappoint. Nesmith's impressive efficiency, defensive skills and exceptional 3-point shooting have positioned him as a key player in the starting five moving forward and worthy of a late-round pick in drafts.

If the Pacers decide to move on from Toppin (a restricted free agent), keep a close eye on Jarace Walker. Indiana is flush with depth and young talent, so it wouldn't surprise me to see T.J. McConnell, Sheppard and Isaiah Jackson become fantasy assets sometime next season. — Dan Titus