The Indiana Pacers just wrapped up their worst season since
1989. Finishing with a 25-57 record, Indiana has decided upon a
path it hasn't ventured down in decades.
On Christmas, the Pacers were in no man’s land in the Eastern
Conference sitting at 14-19. The frontcourt pairing between
Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner was still working on occasion,
but it didn’t make any dent as a true competitor. Malcolm Brogdon
was supposed to be Indiana’s long-term answer as its primary floor
general, but he could barely stay on the court due to injury woes.
Speaking of injuries, Orlando Bubble superstar T.J. Warren didn’t
play in a single game this season due to a nagging foot injury;
four total games over two full seasons for the former Phoenix Suns
Indiana’s vision for a sustainable contender just simply wasn’t
working. Running stagnant with a roster that was just competitive
enough to sneak into the postseason, the Pacers finally pressed the
rebuild button during the holiday season. From Dec. 25 and on,
Indiana went on to an 11-38 finish.
After trading away Sabonis and Caris LeVert, Indiana is now in
an advantageous long-term position, even in spite of not conveying
the first-round pick acquired via the Cleveland Cavaliers.
(Cleveland will keep its first-round pick due to the loss to the
Atlanta Hawks on Friday night, as the team misses the NBA
The cupboard is anything but bare. Sending out Sabonis to the
Sacramento Kings brought back a potential face of the franchise in
Tyrese Haliburton. The second-year point guard from Iowa State
continued to blossom in a more featured role away from De’Aaron Fox
in Sacramento. Haliburton averaged 17.5 points, 9.6 assists and 1.8
steals for Indiana, immediately planting himself as a primary
pillar for the next great Pacers team.
Chris Duarte also made noise during his rookie campaign for
Indiana before a nagging toe issue hampered his availability
post-All-Star break. Showing a true scorer’s mindset, Duarte
displayed why he’s another key piece to the Pacers’ puzzle.
Outside of the Haliburton and Duarte pairing, plus the exciting
unknown ahead, the Pacers have one more young prospect that is so
intriguing to project.
Isaiah Jackson, the No. 22 overall pick from the 2020 NBA Draft,
has all the potential to take a massive sophomore jump in
Still a raw prospect, Jackson flashed tantalizing two-way talent
in different spurts throughout the Pacers’ midseason downturn. The
sample size for Jackson was small — 36 total games and 15 starts —
but it’s hard to ignore what the ceiling could look like for the
former Kentucky Wildcat big man.
Over Jackson’s final 18 games of the season, Indiana saw a
glimpse of true two-way success. In only 21.6 minutes per game,
Jackson averaged 12.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 2.2
blocks on an impressive 62.6% True Shooting percentage. When
stretching those minutes to per-36 thresholds, Indiana’s rookie was
outstanding: 20.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 3.6 blocks.
The reason why Jackson is such a moldable piece of clay for
Indiana is because of the uncertain future revolving around Myles
Turner. Having been the subject of trade rumors for multiple years
now, which again got red-hot back in February, Turner now enters
the last year of his contract. If the Pacers were to decide to move
off Turner this offseason, now would be the ideal time if it wasn’t
at the trade deadline, as it would allow Jackson to fully
Jackson showed already for the Pacers he can fill the Turner
role seamlessly. Not only can Jackson rim-run and block shots at an
above-average level, but the floor-spacing potential is certainly
there as well. Also, unlike Sabonis and Turner, Jackson provides
the Pacers an athletic lob threat that hasn’t been present within
the organization for years now.
Indiana is in an ideal spot to choose any direction for
Jackson’s immediate future. Whether it be moved up into a starting
role replacing Turner or slow-playing his development behind Turner
one more season, Jackson’s early trajectory is so promising.
Jackson checks the rim-protection box with emphasis, plus the
perfect pick-and-roll partner near the rim for Haliburton to
Entering arguably the most important offseason in franchise
history, Indiana can continue to blow it all up and reset around an
exciting core of young players. Haliburton, Duarte and Jackson are
locked in. The future top-seven draft pick is cemented as well.
Outside of that, anything is possible for the Pacers’ roster
Running in place for years at this point, the Pacers’ fresh
start was much-needed. Now, it’s time to see how all the new parts
work together over an extensive long-term period. As far as the
most interesting topics for the Pacers, Jackson’s potential Year 2
jump could eventually change everything in Indianapolis.