Indiana Pacers: 4 bold predictions for the 2022-2023 season

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Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Opening night is just a little over a week away for the Indiana Pacers. They’ll host Washington in their first game of the season, and as of this writing, Washington is giving two points to the Pacers. So, it’s fair to say this game is a toss-up.

Toss-up games are ones that hopefully Indiana can win more than they lose. This season is most likely not going to be pretty from a win-loss perspective. One of the main things everyone is talking about in regard to the Pacers is how they’ll be in contention for a lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. And this upcoming draft class is projected to be very deep and very talented.

If you haven’t heard, the headliner of the class is Victor Wembanyama, a 7-foot-2 Frenchman who has a fairly complete game. He is the prize every bad team is after. So, besides possibly tanking for Wembanyama, what else can Pacers fans look forward to for the season?

Related: NBA games today – Get watch times for the latest NBA preseason matchups

Here are four expectations for the Indiana Pacers season.

Indiana Pacers will trade several key players this season

We’ll get this one out of the way quickly. Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, and Daniel Theis are the three names on the roster that are most talked about being traded away this season. There is one other name that should be talked about as well, and that is T.J. McConnell. McConnell is a fan favorite and a scrappy, hard-nosed player. 

On a contending team that suffers an injury or two, both Theis and McConnell could hold some importance to them. The hope with them is that they can return something of value. Their return won’t fetch much. Possibly a young rotational player or maybe combined a late first-round pick at best. 

Turner and Hield are the two players that can fetch the biggest return. The front-runner for them is the Lakers. These two teams are currently locked in a stalemate waiting to see which team will blink first. The Pacers want the Lakers to become desperate and include a second future first-round pick. While the Lakers want the Pacers to get an injury scare from their players and move both of them for only one future first-round pick. 

With these two, I’m taking ‘the field’ that another team will be the one to make a successful trade in acquiring both or one of these players. No team can ever have too much shooting or shot-blocking. There is a small hope/chance that both of these guys aren’t dealt away before the trade deadline. And possibly an even smaller hope/chance that Turner signs another contract with the Pacers.

Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Smith don’t have big leaps in development

Here is a plausible hypothetical situation that the Pacers could find themselves in. All of the love and excitement that Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Smith showed at the end of last season is all fool’s gold. Both players show that they are only rotational guys and possibly end-of-the-roster-type players like Goga Bitazde.

It’s painful to say that as all three of these guys have flashed that they all are worthy of consistent NBA minutes. However, the reality is that this might very well be the case. And if so, then the team is looking at a core of Haliburton and Chris Duarte for the team to build around. I’ll leave Bennedict Mathurin out for now as he’s a rookie. Also more on him in a separate article.

This would leave the Pacers needing starters at the small forward, power forward, and center positions. That is if Turner and Hield are traded away. This season it is imperative that I-Jax and Stix pick up where last season left off and continue to improve over the course of the season.

The team also needs newcomer Aaron Nesmith to show what he is about. He wasn’t able to crack the rotation in Boston but he should have an opportunity in Indiana. This might be his last opportunity to prove he belongs in the NBA if he can’t prove he can play. 

Rick Carlisle will doing a bunch of rotation experimentation

The biggest thing that fans need to look for is not only individual player development but also the team’s development. The beginning portion of the season will most likely be about Rick Carlisle finding the best possible lineups to use. For example, who are the best five guys to be the starters? Who are the best guys coming off the bench? And what players play well with each other. 

As a coach, you always want to put your players in the best possible situations to succeed. And in the Pacers’ case, Carlisle could be having to do this a few times if the team trades away some of its veterans. While all of this is going on there are going to be games that need to be won.

The team will win some and lose some of these. With young teams come inexperienced mistakes. Now, the Pacers do have some players on this roster, that are expected to be a part of the team long-term, and that have a couple of years of NBA experience. This should help them win some games. 

However, the rest of the young guys will need to gain this experience quickly. This will involve them executing the coach’s game plans and trusting in the team’s veterans. Expect to hear the phrase “That’s just the inexperience showing. They’ll learn as they get more experience” or something similar.

“Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?”

A favorite movie line from a great movie The Gladiator is the above. This team, while it may struggle to win games, should be entertaining to watch. Haliburton himself is already showcasing his entertaining abilities in the preseason. 

I-Jax is going to have a strong reel of highlight dunks. Mathurin is going to be a joy to watch. He may struggle to begin the season but he’ll find his footing. And once he does, his swagger should spread throughout the team. 

This will be the most athletic team the Pacers have fielded in history. Subsequently, this athleticism should also translate to an exciting style of play. This team should be able to get out in transition with more frequency. The days of the slowdown and half-court sets should be minimalized. The modern era of NBA basketball will be happening on a nightly basis in Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

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