Indiana Pacers 2021 Offseason Outlook


Overview


The Indiana Pacers completed the 2020-2021 NBA season with a record of 34-38 which placed them at 9th in the Eastern Conference and equal 17th in the league with the Washington Wizards. They qualified for the play-in tournament but after making it past the Charlotte Hornets, they fell to the Washington Wizards in the final qualifier for the playoffs. It looked like this would finally be the season that the Pacers’ regular season success translated to the postseason, but it proved to be a troubling time for this squad. A combination of injuries to their stars and frustrations between the coach and playing group derailed the Pacers’ season. After an extremely disappointing second half of the season and after trading their former star, Victor Oladipo, the Pacers have fired their first-year head coach and promised improvement entering next season with Rick Carlisle and Lloyd Pierce at the helm and a hopefully healthy playing group. As far as this offseason is concerned, there is very little flexibility to make major changes as most of their core playing group are already under contract, but the Pacers can look to the draft to add some depth and could potentially look into splitting up their frontcourt duo to improve via trade.


Salary Cap


Currently, the Indiana Pacers have 10 players with guaranteed contracts for the 2021-2022 NBA season. Edmond Sumner has a $2.3 million team option which I expect to be picked up. The Pacers are already over the cap and letting a core role player go to add a very small amount of cap room is not worth it. The Pacers also have some non-guaranteed salary in Oshae Brissett and Kelan Martin, both of which I expect to return either through this salary becoming guaranteed or by signing a longer-term deal in free agency. The Pacers do not have any restricted free agents but do have several unrestricted free agents including Doug McDermott, TJ McConnell, JaKarr Sampson and Cassius Stanley who is a two-way free agent. Due to most of their roster being already signed, the Pacers will be operating over the cap and therefore will only have access to the $9.5 million mid-level exception and the $3.7 million bi-annual exception.


Depth Chart 2020-21 Season–


2021 NBA Draft


The Indiana Pacers will have the 13th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft along with two late second-round picks. With this pick, it would be best for Indiana to target a forward to help as insurance with Doug McDermott entering free agency. If there are no forwards the Pacers like the look of, it would be fine for the Pacers to just go with the best prospect available. With the 13th pick in this year’s draft, the Indiana Pacers should look to target Franz Wagner, a 6’9” power forward out of Michigan. Wagner looks to fit in perfectly on this team as a versatile big man. He has some great defensive abilities which can be immediately impactful at NBA level. He has a great feel for the game and can even project to consistently stretch the floor which is extremely important when playing alongside Sabonis and Turner. While their may be some guard with higher upside available at this point in the draft, the Pacers are in the situation where they need to be focusing on team fit if they want to be a deep playoff contender.


Free Agency


The Indiana Pacers will have little to no flexibility this free agency period as they will already be well over the cap with most of their team already signed for next season. Their key free agents will be TJ McConnell and Doug McDermott. Both of these players have been key role players off the bench this season and are both coming off career years, but the Pacers will likely only be able to hold onto one of them. I believe the Pacers will end up retaining TJ McConnell over McDermott. If they follow through with drafting a forward in the draft, they will have enough depth at forward to allow McDermott to leave and I believe he will have a lot more offers than McConnell. Holding onto McConnell will mean they still have an important offensive creator off the bench and a defensive stopper in the backcourt. Along with McConnell, I expect Cassius Stanley and JaKarr Sampson to also return to Indiana next season.


Summary


The Indiana Pacers will enter the 2021 offseason coming off one of their most disappointing seasons of late and limited opportunities to make roster improvements. They do have a new, established coaching staff in Rick Carlisle and Lloyd Pierce who can help them grow as a team both on and off the court and with some injury luck and chemistry, this team can be hopeful that they can make some noise in the playoffs next season.


Projected Depth Chart 2021/22 Season –