The crowd was rocking Monday night as the Indiana Pacers knocked off the Boston Celtics to advance out of the quarterfinals of the NBA In-Season Tournament. It was a playoff atmosphere and the young Indiana Pacers brought playoff intensity, sealing a 10-point win over the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The win locked in a spot in the In-Season Tournament semifinals but it also brought the Pacers to 11-8 and the No. 6 seed in the East. They have the best offense in the league, by a wide margin and are currently in position to escape the Play-In Tournament and seal a playoff appearance outright, their first in three years. The Pacers also have the eighth-youngest roster in the league and the future is looking incredibly bright right now.
Here are the three biggest things working in their favor right now.
3. The Pacers are loaded with talented young depth
For an up-and-coming young team like the Pacers, the future hinges not just on star power but on a well of young talent ready to fill roles and offer collective upside through individual development. Indiana has a slew of players who fit the bill.
In the 2022 NBA Draft, the Pacers added a pair of talented backcourt players who should be key pieces in the future. Bennedict Mathurin finished fourth in the rookie of the year voting and was a reliable rotation piece from Day 1. He still needs some serious work on his defense and playmaking but he's already an explosive scorer with a knack for getting to the free throw line. Andrew Nembhard has already taken over as the back-up point guard and become one of Indiana's most important players with his steady playmaking and tough defense at the point of attack.
In the 2023 NBA Draft, the Pacers landed Jarace Walker an elite defensive prospect with incredible physical tools. However, Walker has had a difficult time breaking into the rotation as a rookie, in part because of the emergence of Aaron Nesmith — a 24-year-old wing who has been playing up as a small ball 4 and making a huge impact at both ends of the floor. He's averaging 11.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.0 steals in just over 24 minutes per game, shooting 55.1 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from beyond the arc.
In the 24-and-under category, the Pacers also have Ben Sheppard, Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Smith, all interesting young players with untapped upside who, even if they aren't of long-term value to the Pacers, could be flipped in other deals.