Pacers start long offseason looking to overhaul roster

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard sent a clear message at the trade deadline.

It’s time for a reorganization.

After posting a second straight home losing record, missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years and posting their fewest wins in a season since 1984-85, the Pacers are embarking on their biggest offseason overhaul in years.

A flurry of three trades in February culminated in two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis being sent to Sacramento and Caris LeVert, widely considered one of Pritchard’s key pieces, to the Cavaliers.

“This franchise, right now, is in one of the most exciting positions it could be with the potential for a top-five pick and the potential to possibly have the (first-round) pick out of Cleveland,” the coach said. Rick Carlisle, pointing to Indiana. he also has Houston’s first-round second-round pick. “We’re going to do well in the draft, and we’re going to have a great summer, and next year is going to be exciting.”

Things certainly can’t get much worse than last season.

Injuries again derailed the Pacers’ postseason plans, as Carlisle won just 25 games in the first year of his second tenure with the team. Extended absences from guards Malcolm Brogdon and TJ McConnell, forward TJ Warren and center Myles Turner, all projected to be key players in the rotation, prompted Pritchard to pull the plug and start trading.

The new plan is to build around point guard Tyrese Halburton. Indiana sees the 22-year-old as a star in the making, capable of ending his long search for a playmaking ball handler.

Haliburton’s new teammates accepted the move.

“I’m especially excited about playing with Tyrese, the way he got here and made an impact on our organization, our fans and the guys around him,” Turner said Monday. “He makes everyone better.”

Indiana Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton, top center, looks for a pass during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on Sunday, April 10, 2022, in New York. The Nets defeated the Pacers 134-126.

What else have the Pacers learned from mixing, matching and experimenting with lineups over the past 26 games?

Buddy Hield, who came from Sacramento with Haliburton, and Jalen Smith, who came in a trade with Phoenix, were also solid players. Rookie center Isaiah Jackson brings a different kind of post presence and rookie guard Chris Duarte became one of Indiana’s most consistent players until a toe injury sidelined him.

Small forward Oshae Brissett continued to develop, and Carlisle may have discovered a couple more hidden gems with midseason picks Duane Washington Jr. and Terry Taylor.

This summer could be just as busy as Pritchard tries to get the Pacers back into playoff position.

“I think we have to be healthy first, that’s obvious and then it’s up to the front office what pieces they add, what pieces they swap,” Brogdon said. “When you make a move like we did, a monumental move in the middle of the season, I think there are other moves that follow and I think we’ll see them this summer.”

WHATS NEXT

Brogdon and Turner would be the most attractive trade candidates. Both are proven veterans, capable of helping a playoff team become title contenders, and both have contracts to run. Brogdon has $22.6 million against the salary cap, while Turner, a two-time blocked shot champion, would be capped at $18 million. The Pacers could be looking to add more draft picks, free up cap space for free agency or add veterans.

WATCHING THE CAVS

The Pacers thought they would definitely have two first-rounders when they got the protected lottery pick from the Cavs two months ago. But a fainting spell late in the season has put that possibility in jeopardy. Cleveland finished eighth in the Eastern Conference and now needs to win a game to make the playoffs. Two losses would mean they keep the pick, preventing the Pacers from having three of the top 35 picks in June.

NOT OVER YET?

Fan favorite Lance Stephenson provided a second-half spark on and off the floor for Indiana. While it seems unlikely that Indiana would keep the 32-year-old on a young team for the future, Stephenson isn’t ready to end his career.

“I’m just trying to keep my body strong and fit,” he said. “I’m mad that the season is over because I feel really good right now, I feel like I can move on.”

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