The Indiana Pacers missed the playoffs this season for the first time since 2014-15. Yes, they at least got into the Eastern Conference play-in tournament—and won a game before being eliminated by the Washington Wizards. But that doesn’t count. The traditional playoffs are underway now and the Pacers are at home watching from their couches.
Although Indiana is one of the most well-stocked teams in terms of having players under contract for the 2021-22 campaign, there are some questions heading into the offseason. There are rumors that head coach Nate Bjorkgren could be fired after just one year at the helm. Trades are a possibility, too. Shooting guard Jeremy Lamb is one candidate to be on the move, as he will be playing on an expiring contract next season. Rebuilding teams love expiring contracts. Even though the Pacers just endured a disappointing 2020-21, they are likely of the opinion that they don’t have to rebuild; they would rather have assets to pay immediate dividends. After all, it’s not like their roster as it is currently constructed cannot be an obvious playoff team. They just need to be healthy—which they were not this season (a big reason why they were rarely one of our NBA best bets). Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and Myles Turner all missed time, as did Caris LeVert after he was acquired from the Brooklyn Nets. T.J. Warren played in only four games.
The Pacers have pieces (but not enough to be a top NBA pick next season)…and now they need some more. With the draft coming up next month, let’s take a look at the directions in which Indiana could go to improve its player personnel. For the sake of simplifying this piece and making it as accurate as possible, let’s assume that the Pacers bring back the vast majority of their current roster. Let’s also take it as a given that they do not win the draft lottery (or move into the top three). Assuming that doesn’t happen, they will likely own the No. 13 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Here are three names on which Indiana could focus.
Corey Kispert, SG/SF, Gonzaga
Kispert and the Pacers seem like a perfect match. He is projected to go off the board right around when they pick at No. 13, and he is a typical Indiana kind of player. The long-time Gonzaga star is never the flashiest or most athletic guy on the court, but he is fundamentally sound. His upside is not the highest, but you can be almost sure of what you are going to get from him. And what you are going to get is production, especially on offense. Kispert is without question one of the best shooters in this class, and what Indiana needs is both a significant scoring boost and depth in the backcourt. He could well make an impact on our NBA odds.
Jared Butler, PG/SG, Baylor
Kispert’s Zags lost to Butler’s Baylor in the National Championship. Both feel like possibilities for the Pacers, although this may be a little early for Butler. Then again, it may not be…. The 20-year-old’s stock rose throughout the NCAA Tournament, for which he earned Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors. Butler can play both guard positions while driving to the basket,
distributing the ball, and shooting it from the outside. He is NBA ready, too, and as mentioned above Indiana wants someone who can help it win now.
Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas
Chances are good that Moody will already be off the board, but you never know. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire during March Madness, so his stock is not as high as it otherwise would be. The former Arkansas standout is more effective than Kispert defensively and can shoot it almost as well at the offensive end. His size (6’6’’, 205 pounds) also makes him more dynamic than Butler. Moody could be an especially helpful selection if Lamb departs this summer.
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