Pacers 2023 offseason primer: Targets, outgoing free agents, trades, draft needs and more

Feb 15, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) and guard Buddy Hield (24) in the second half against the Chicago Bulls at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 15, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) and guard Buddy Hield (24) in the second half against the Chicago Bulls at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indiana Pacers have some strong pieces in place but need to make the most of offseason trades, free agency and the NBA Draft to take the next step.

The Indiana Pacers got off to a surprisingly hot start to the 2022-23 season, putting up a 12-9 record and positive point differential through the end of November. Injuries mounted, some of their shooting numbers regressed and they went 23-38 from then on. However, a lot of positives came out of that early run of success and gave the team a direction that carried them through the rest of the season and into the offseason.

It was assumed that both Myles Turner and Buddy Hield would be traded as the Pacers leaned into their youth movement. But Turner had one of his best seasons, appeared to reconcile any lingering frustrations with the front office and ultimately signed an extension. Hield’s shooting was electric and the Pacers kept him as well. He was one more year on his contract and could go back on the trade market, but it’s possible the Pacers have established enough good vibes to get him to re-up at a reasonable price.

In addition to those two veterans, Tyrese Haliburton emerged as an All-Star and one of the best young point guards in the league. He flirted with a 50/40/90 season while averaging 20.7 points, 10.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game, adding strong defense as well. He is the foundation around which the rest of this roster is being built.

The last piece of the puzzle was strong rookie campaigns from Bennedict Mathurin and second-round pick, Andrew Nembhard. Mathurin was a key rotation player right from opening night, averaging 28.5 minutes across 78 games and averaging 16.7 points per game. His shooting tailed off as the season went on but should continue to improve and he’s established himself as a strong complementary scorer with his slashing ability and steady trips to the free-throw line. Nembhard has great size at the point guard position and was a steady two-way presence, averaging 9.5 points, 4.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds, shooting 35.0 percent from beyond the arc.

The Pacers have a few other talented young players who showed flashes during the season — Jalen Smith, Isaiah Jackson, Aaron Nesmith, Chris Duarte — and could develop into reliable contributors as this roster pivots toward contention next season. But the biggest priorities this offseason are finding some long-term answers at the 3 and the 4, who can fit with Turner, Hield, Haliburton and the bench and keep this team growing.

Indiana Pacers outgoing free agents

The Pacers have just a few players entering unrestricted or restricted free agency.

  • George Hill, 37, PG
  • James Johnson, 36, PF
  • Lance Stephenson, 33, SG
  • Oshae Brissett, 25, SF
  • Kendall Brown, 20, SF (RFA)
  • Gabe York, 30, PG (RFA)

Of this group, Kendall Brown is the only one likely to be brought back. As a second-round pick, he played his rookie season on a two-way contract and will be a restricted free agent. He appeared in just six games for the Pacers but showed enough in the G League to be worth keeping around.

Indiana Pacers trade targets

The Pacers seem prepared to build steadily and it seems unlikely that they will jump into trade conversations for any of the biggest targets who are likely to be available this offseason. However, they have a few assets like the reasonably hefty salaries of Daniel Theis ($9 million) and T.J. McConnell ($8.7 million) that could be used to help facilitate deals for other teams, returning some future values to the Pacers.

All that is to say, the Pacers probably won’t be pursuing specific players in trades. They’ll be exploring how they can use those veteran contracts or cap space creatively to improve the team down the line.

Indiana Pacers free agent targets

As with the trade market, the Pacers are likely to be looking for value and upside more than specific high-profile targets, and may not want to lock themselves into any long-term deals. They are projected to have around $12 million in cap space and players like Cam Johnson, P.J. Washington, Grant Williams, Jalen McDaniels and Naz Reid could conceivably make sense for them. However, that will depend a lot on what they are able to get in the NBA Draft and how the market shakes out for those players, as the Pacers would probably only be interested if they saw an opportunity to buy low.

Indiana Pacers NBA Draft targets

The Pacers have five picks in this year’s draft, three first-rounders and two second-rounders — No. 7, No. 26, No. 29, No. 32 and No. 56. With the No. 7 pick, they’ll likely be looking at a potential star that they can plug in at the 3 or 4 positions and allow to continue growing with the rest of their young core.

At that range, they’ll likely be looking at players like Cam Whitmore, Jarace Walker, Taylor Hendricks or Anthony Black. With Haliburton, Mathurin, Hield, Nembhard and Turner in place, they really need a player who can defend multiple wing and frontcourt positions. It would be great to get someone who can also space the floor, but offensive versatility may be even more important.

It’s possible the Pacers could try and package their either two first-round picks to move up but that depends on finding a significant target just outside the lottery. If they end up keeping the rest of their picks, they will have the luxury of taking some upside swings as they look to build their wing and forward depth.

For more information on this year’s NBA Draft class, check out our latest Mock Draft and Big Board.

THE WHITEBOARD. Subscribe to our NBA daily email newsletter. light

Check out The Step Back for more news, analysis, opinion and unique basketball coverage. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to our daily email newsletter, The Whiteboard.