We start our Central division preview with the Indiana Pacers
Basketball is just a week away, after an off-season that seemingly flew by. For Bears fans, I wrote a preview of all the teams in the NFC North, and I wanted to pay it forward to Bulls die-hards to look at the other teams in the Central division of the Eastern Conference. Today, we preview the rebuilding(?) Indiana Pacers.
Record: 25-57 (13th in Eastern Conference)
vs. Bulls: 1-3
Memorable moment: Trading for Tyrese Haliburton, keeping Myles Turner over Domantis Sabonis
Traded Malcolm Brogdon to the Boston Celtics
NBA Draft: Selected Bennedict Mathurin 6th Overall out of Arizona University
A team seemingly stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference for years, the Indiana Pacers are on the verge of a full-fledged rebuild(?). Last year, Indiana and the Sacramento Kings shocked the NBA world at the trade deadline when they agreed to a trade sending Guards Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield to Indiana in exchange for a package highlighted by Center Damontis Sabonis.
Haliburton, only 22 years old, is now the cornerstone for the Pacers (at least for this season), and they have enough talent on the roster to hang around the play-in tournament if their players remain healthy. The question is, will the Pacers want to stay competitive, and if so, why?
Direction / Wenbanyama
The Pacers are notorious for not tanking, a thought process led by owner Herb Simon. Indiana is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, basketball states in the country and the Pacers are very important to their community. It’s hard to tell people that love basketball so dearly that you’re going to intentionally suck for a year.
This is the year for that to happen.
Indiana is the only team in the Central division to not have much incentive to win this season, therefore they are the only team of the five in the Victor Wenbanyama sweepstakes, potentially. Wenbanyama is worth all the hype +10, and he’s going to historically alter the landscape of whatever franchise he joins. So, how can Indiana give themselves the best shot at drafting him #1?
Foward-Center Myles Turner has been on the trade market for at least 2-3 years, and the Pacers have been almost comically unsuccessful in dealing him. Guard Buddy Hield, is also a valued asset for any team who could use shooting (looking at you Lakers).
Indiana and Los Angeles have been linked for months, a potential Turner-Hield for Russell Westbrook swap that would surely involve one or both of the Lakers’ 2027 and 2029 first-round picks. If the Lakers start the year off poorly, they might panic and eventually pull the trigger on that trade, clearing the way for a Pacers tank job.
In terms of the on-court product, Indiana actually has young players worth watching. Haliburton, yes everyone loves him. Bennedict Mathurin, their first-round pick from the 2022 NBA draft, Center Jalen Smith, whom they acquired from Phoenix last February, and Forward Oshae Brissett, all should get plenty of runs. The front office should have a better knowledge of what they really have and who they want to keep when they decide to make a run in the now-loaded Eastern Conference.
Turner and Hield will be gone by the trade deadline and this team will finish last in the Eastern Conference, joining the Spurs, Jazz, and Thunder as the teams with the best chances to get Wenbanyama. Tyrese Haliburton will be awesome to watch until he gets shut down for the season due to “knee soreness”.
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