The Indiana Pacers Are Here To Stay

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The Indiana Pacers Are Here To Stay

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The Indiana Pacers Are Here To Stay

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With the Indiana Pacers recently mounting a massive comeback win against the Los Angeles Lakers, they improve to 12-8 and sit 4th in the Eastern Conference standings. The Pacers didn’t have a lot of expectations coming into the season. With a blown up roster with a lot of new but uncertain commodities on their roster, many thought Indiana would be a bottom feeder with their only goal being to land Victor Wembanyama first overall. Instead, the Pacers have battled each and every game and find themselves atop the Eastern Conference standings. Led by Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner, and many others, here’s how and why Indiana has been so good to start this season.

Tyrese Haliburton’s Stardom

Tyrese Haliburton has always been one of the best players in his draft class. He was a leading ROTY vote-getter in 2020 trailing just LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards and found himself on the All-Rookie First Team. In his second season, he didn’t quite take the step forward many hoped he would be with Sacramento, but was still solid until they traded him to the Pacers in a package for Domantas Sabonis. 

While the Kings are having a terrific season, it’s clear that they traded away a potential future superstar. Haliburton is averaging 20 PPG on 48/38/85 shooting splits while leading the league in assists at 11.3. His genius passing and greatly improved playmaking has been on full display for Indiana this season:

Haliburton notably has had 48 assists since his last turnover (an NBA record) and has been utterly dominant when it comes to manufacturing offense. He’s certainly been aided by the plethora of lethal off-ball shooters Indiana has, but he’s also been incredible as an interior passer. Multiple times, he’s been able to find rolling bigs out of high ball screens or cutters who seek out open space on his drives.

He’s always been one of the NBA’s best passers but his playmaking and advantage creation has improved substantially because he’s gotten a lot better as a driver. He’s been top 15 in drives per game this season and is shooting 74% in the paint. Paired with his high volume shooting, he’s a truly versatile scorer who’s using his dribble to collapse defense and kick it out to open shooters.

The shooting has also been remarkable as always. He’s taking nearly five pull-up triples a game and connecting on 39% of them while also taking some spot-ups and connecting on them at a solid rate. He’s taken the leap as both a scorer and passer this season and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The scoring improvements have opened up more passing opportunities and he’s hitting every window he can find. 

Haliburton has truly developed himself into an offensive centerpiece. Using his lethal shooting and improved slashing, he’s finding his teammates at an all-time rate and uses a myriad of ways to generate open looks for his teammates. He’s had a lot of help on the offensive end of the floor, but he is the engine that makes everything go for this Pacers squad.

Off-Ball Shooters Galore

Indiana’s offense wouldn’t be able to function the way it has without the help of the lethal shooters they’ve been able to acquire over the past year. Their best shooters, Buddy Hield, Benedict Mathurin, and Andrew Nembhard, have been extremely important to the success of Indiana’s offense.

Buddy Hield has been the forgotten piece in the Domantas Sabonis-Tyrese Haliburton swap, but he’s having an awesome year for Indiana. He’s averaging 17 PPG and shooting 37% on near double-digit three pointers per night. He’s thrived in an off-ball role sprinting off of screens into threes and setting back screens to set himself up for shots. He’s even been self-creating offense for himself or running secondside PNRs. 

Bennedict Mathurin, a similar archetype player to Buddy Hield, has also thrived playing off of Haliburton and getting easy shots from the perimeter. Coming out of the draft, Mathurin’s biggest strengths were his ability to shoot and attack off the catch as a scorer, while ball-handling and consistently self-creating were things he needed to work on. However, he’s managed to be one of the league’s most efficient scorers as a rookie because he’s been utilized to perfection.

He’s shooting and hitting threes at a high clip (5.8 attempts per game, 41.7%) and he’s been using this shooting to force closeouts and destroy them with his athleticism and finishing ability. He’s getting to the line at an unprecedented rate for a rookie (5.9 attempts) and he’s been a tremendous player attacking off the ball. 

Lastly, Andrew Nembhard has been very solid as a rookie. He’s primarily a point guard but because of his shooting, he can play off the ball and drills threes like he did against the Lakers. He’s also a really smart player with a tremendous feel for the game who fits in perfectly with this roster. 

Tyrese Haliburton being surrounded with a trio of nuclear guards/wings who can shoot from deep at a high level has proved to be a perfect combination. With them playing at one of the highest paces in the league as well, they’re able to get out and run in transition and Mathurin in particular can use his athleticism as a play-finisher or the shooting can run wide and get open in the corner for Haliburton to kick it out to them. These shooters are essential to Indiana’s identity, and their offensive production has been needed.

Myles Turner’s Emergence

One should always be wary when a player breaks out in a contract year, but Myles Turner having a career season has also been a huge reason for Indiana’s success. Turner was always dubbed as someone who could break out offensively and become a huge factor on that end of the floor but he’s never been able to do that consistently. However, it looks like that’s changed this season.

Turner’s averaging a career-high 18 PPG on 54/40/83 shooting splits. He’s shooting volume threes and connecting on a ton of them, he’s finishing shots around the rim at a career rate, and he’s been able to attack the rim and draw free throws (5.1 per game) at double the rate he did last season. He’s given Haliburton a real option as a popper and roller in the PNR and his efficiency around the rim (83%) and behind the arc (40%) has made him a lethal play-finisher.

He’s not self-creating a lot nor is he expanding his game as a pull-up shooter in transition but his ability to simply knock down open shots and carve out space in the PNR has made him an incredible pairing with Haliburton. When you pair all of this with his all-world rim protection, Turner is making a solid case to be an All-Star big this season.

Can The Pacers Maintain Success?

The Pacers will likely be in the play-in tournament but if they continue playing at this level, they could secure a top six seed in the East. With Haliburton’s brilliance as an offensive engine along with their collection of overqualified off-ball shooters, their offense is one of the most fun in the league. If they can continue to shoot at this level with Haliburton being a borderline All-NBA type player, Indiana will secure a spot amongst the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

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