The Pacers’ biggest move of the offseason was hiring head coach Rick Carlisle, who should be a welcomed addition after the reported dysfunction of the short-lived Nate Bjorkgren era. Carlisle inherits a team with a solid foundation of talented veterans, but Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren are already battling injuries. If the Pacers can stay healthy, this feels like a perfectly competitive team with limited postseason upside because of the lack of a star shot creator. Could Indiana eventually put together some assets for a legitimate No. 1 option? As long as Carlisle is the head coach, you can bet the Pacers will always have a win now mindset.
The best case scenario for the Pacers is that T.J. Warren and Caris LeVert are both healthy and playing by the end of December while the rest of the roster remains healthy. Rick Carlisle influences improvements at both ends of the floor with a consistent deep team that can adjust to various matchups around the league and the Pacers quietly return to overachieving with a 50-plus win season.
The injury bug continues to ravage the Pacers rotation while the double-big combo of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis fails to be a plus under a third coach, leading the team to finally pull the plug and make a midseason deal that will not pay immediate dividends and have the Pacers missing the playoffs as they finally reshape the team by making additional deals with an eye toward the future.
Most likely, the Pacers will manage sporadic injuries throughout the year but have enough depth to manage with a competitive rotation that will battle for a playoff spot in the East finishing a game or few over .500. Upgrading their performance at the defensive end alone will give the Pacers a boost from last season. Expect Malcolm Brogdon to be a stronger leader for the good of the team after doing his part to get the past two coaches fired, which should also show up in his play on the court.
I’m most excited for the last stand of the Turner and Sabonis pairing for the Pacers. Either they, and the team as a whole, need to figure out how best to utilize the two bigs with a relatively healthy rotation or we will see the same clunkiness which should bring an end to the double-big, double-salary situation. Rick Carlisle indicated that they have ideas for zagging while the league is zigging in their offensive approach. Seeing how this plays out should be plenty entertaining.