2021 NBA Offseason In Review: Indiana Pacers

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2021 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s offseason moves, examine what still needs to be done before opening night, and look ahead to what the 2021/22 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Indiana Pacers.

Free agent signings:

Note: Exhibit 9 and 10 deals aren’t included here.


  • Acquired the draft rights to Isaiah Todd (No. 31 pick) from the Bucks in exchange for the draft rights to Sandro Mamukelashvili (No. 54 pick), the draft rights to Georgios Kalaitzakis (No. 60 pick), either the Pacers’, Cavaliers, or Jazz’s 2024 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable), and either the Pacers’ or the Heat’s 2026 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable).
    • Note: If the Cavaliers’ and Jazz’s 2024 second-round picks are the two most favorable of the three, the Bucks would acquire the least favorable of those two picks.
  • Acquired the draft rights to Isaiah Jackson (No. 22 pick; from Lakers) in a five-team trade in exchange for Aaron Holiday, the draft rights to Isaiah Todd (No. 31 pick), and cash ($1MM).
    • Note: All of the Pacers’ outgoing assets were sent to the Wizards.
  • Acquired the Spurs’ 2023 second-round pick (top-55 protected) in exchange for Doug McDermott (sign-and-trade), the Pacers’ 2023 second-round pick (top-55 protected), and the right to swap their own 2026 second-round pick for either the Pacers’ or the Heat’s 2026 second-round pick (whichever is least favorable).
    • Note: The Pacers created a $7,333,333 trade exception in the deal.
  • Acquired the draft rights to Juan Pablo Vaulet from the Nets in exchange for Edmond Sumner and the Heat’s 2025 second-round pick (top-37 protected).

Draft picks:

  • 1-13: Chris Duarte
    • Signed to rookie scale contract (four years, $17,704,528).
  • 1-22: Isaiah Jackson

    • Signed to rookie scale contract (four years, $12,156,661).

Contract extensions:

  • None

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

  • Hired Rick Carlisle as head coach to replace Nate Bjorkgren.
  • Hired Lloyd Pierce, Ronald Nored, Mike Weinar, Jenny Boucek, and Jannero Pargo as assistant coaches; lost assistant coaches Kaleb Canales and Greg Foster.
  • T.J. Warren remains sidelined indefinitely while recovering from his left foot injury and is expected to miss the start of the season.
  • Caris LeVert is dealing with a stress fracture in his back and is expected to miss the start of the season.

Salary cap situation:

  • Remained over the cap and below the tax line.
  • Carrying approximately $133.5MM in salary.
  • $4,657,951 of non-taxpayer mid-level exception still available ($4,878,049 used on Torrey Craig).
  • Full bi-annual exception ($3,732,000) still available.
  • Four traded player exceptions available, including one worth $7.3MM.

Lingering preseason issues:

  • The Pacers have 12 players on guaranteed contracts, with six – including Kelan Martin, Oshae Brissett, and Brad Wanamaker – on non-guaranteed deals. The Pacers could retain three of those non-guaranteed players or just two if they want to keep their 15th roster spot open.
  • Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, and Myles Turner are eligible for veteran contract extensions until October 18.
  • T.J. Warren and Jeremy Lamb are eligible for veteran contract extensions all season.

The Pacers’ offseason:

It was a disastrous 2020/21 season in Indiana, where the Pacers – who cited former head coach Nate McMillan‘s lack of postseason success when they let him go – underperformed to such an extent that they didn’t even make the playoffs under new coach Nate Bjorkgren, losing a play-in game to Washington to end their season.

Injuries could be blamed at least in part for the Pacers’ letdown of a year. Key players like Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, and Malcolm Brogdon all missed double-digit games. T.J. Warren was sidelined for nearly the entire season. And Caris LeVert, acquired in the four-team trade that sent Victor Oladipo to Houston, was forced out of action when he was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma of his left kidney following what was supposed to be a routine physical.

Still, Bjorkgren, a veteran assistant coach, didn’t adjust well to the top job, rubbing those in the organization the wrong way with an abrasive approach to leadership. The Pacers parted ways with him after just one year, with president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard acknowledging he made the wrong call in last year’s head coaching search.

This time around, the coaching search was far narrower in its scope, as the Pacers zeroed in quickly on a familiar face. Rick Carlisle, who coached the team from 2003-07, has returned to Indiana and will try to get a team that had five consecutive playoff appearances prior to 2021 back on track.

The Pacers appear to be betting heavily on Carlisle’s ability to get more out of the team’s core players than Bjorkgren did last season. Despite some rumblings that the front office would consider trading Turner, Brogdon, or another one of Indiana’s other starters, the club actually had a fairly quiet offseason in terms of player movement.

The biggest name to be traded was Aaron Holiday, who never gained the sort of role he wanted in Indiana and had been the subject of trade rumors for a while. The Pacers sent him to Washington in a deal for the No. 22 pick, which was used on Kentucky center Isaiah Jackson.

Unlike No. 13 overall pick Chris Duarte, Jackson probably isn’t ready for regular minutes as a rookie. While the Pacers raved about the big man’s energy and athleticism during training camp, he’s still just 19 years old, nearly five full years younger than Duarte, who was viewed as one of the most NBA-ready players in the 2021 draft class. There’s no reason the former Oregon sharpshooter can’t become a fixture in Indiana’s rotation immediately, and he should provide a boost to a team that ranked in the middle of the pack in three-point attempts and percentage last season.

Duarte’s ability to hit outside shots and space the floor will be crucial, since Indiana lost Doug McDermott, one of the NBA’s top marksmen. McDermott had a career year in 2020/21, but entering the free agent period, there was a sense that his price tag would be too high for the Pacers, who were expected to prioritize re-signing point guard T.J. McConnell. That turned out to be the case — while Indiana got McConnell back on a deal that pays him $8.4MM annually, McDermott signed for nearly $14MM per year in San Antonio.

The Pacers will miss McDermott’s shooting, but if Duarte proves he’s ready to contribute immediately, the drop-off shouldn’t be too significant, and the team was able to re-sign McConnell and add free agent wing Torrey Craig for a lesser combined cap hit than McDermott’s. McConnell and Craig are tough veterans who will help stabilize a defensive unit that experienced a dip in production last season after back-to-back top-six finishes.

The Pacers’ upcoming season:

Indiana is counting on Carlisle’s influence and some better injury luck to fuel a bounce-back year in 2021/22. Even if they’re right about Carlisle’s potential impact, there are early signs that the injury bug that plagued the Pacers a year ago isn’t done with the team yet.

LeVert and T.J. Warren aren’t expected to be ready for the start of the season, Brogdon is banged up, and underrated wing Edmond Sumner sustained an Achilles tear that prompted the club to trade him in a salary-dump deal in order to create some extra breathing room below the tax line.

There’s enough talent on the Pacers’ roster that a return to the postseason in 2022 is a very realistic goal, especially if Carlisle can get more out of the Turner/Domantas Sabonis frontcourt pairing than his predecessors did. But Indiana’s offensive upside is limited if Warren and/or LeVert aren’t at 100%, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that some personnel changes may be required to unlock the full potential of the roster.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and Spotrac was used in the creation of this post.

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