INDIANAPOLIS – The season that seemed prepared to fall short of expectations since about February has finally come to an end.
In bowing out in the play-in tournament, the Pacers have missed the postseason for the first time since 2014-15, and just the second time in the last decade.
Indiana has now not won a first-round playoff series in 7 seasons. That’s the longest drought for the franchise since the late 80s/early 90s.
Here are 5 questions the Pacers must answer this offseason:
1. Will Nate Bjorkgren Return?
Contractually, Nate Bjorkgren is under contract for another season.
But with all the turmoil that has spilled out about his first season as head coach, the question is there:
Will the Simon family fire a head coach after one season for the first time in their near 40 years of ownership?
The answer to this is not easy.
You must acknowledge that Bjorkgren was dealt an awful, awful injury hand with his available personnel. Also, coaching amidst the COVID-19 protocols is less than ideal.
On the other hand, if it’s true that Bjorkgren has this reported split personality and isn’t able to connect with players/staff members, that sounds like an unfixable issue.
2. Will The Pacers Trade Myles Turner Or Domantas Sabonis?
The step forward from Goga Bitadze this season has brought this question more to the forefront.
Forcing a starting lineup of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis together doesn’t seem to be the best way to use your assets moving forward.
Moving one this offseason would allow for the Pacers to reap some notable return and try to re-tool the personnel to best suit what Nate Bjorkgren wants to do.
Sabonis, 24, is the two-time All-Star who does everything you want offensively (and rebounds). He’s also under a very manageable contract for three more seasons.
Turner, 24, is one of the elite rim protectors in the league and is under contract for two more years.
Considering Turner’s name has been floated around before on the trade market, he seems to be the more likely guy to be moved.
3. Does Herb Simon Feel The Need To Start Over?
It would be very anti-Pacers, and very anti-Simon for this to happen.
But the question has to be asked: Should the Pacers start over in management and at head coach?
We addressed Bjorkgren above, but team president Kevin Pritchard is far from absolved in this situation.
Pritchard has drafted poorly, and he was the one that took a risk on Bjorkgren, falling in-love with the head coach’s ‘positive’ attitude and what he showed on the white board Xs and Os wise.
The Pacers have had strong continuity, typically in-house, in their GM/President roles.
If the belief is more of a rebuild is needed, and another coach must be hired, would the Pacers make changes at both spots this offseason?
4. Is Malcolm Brogdon The Point Guard Of The Future?
There are two years remaining on the contract for the 27-year-old Brogdon.
He was brought to Indiana to be the new point guard.
Keeping him in that role though is something that needs to be analyzed this offseason.
There is no up and coming point guard on the roster ready to take the reigns over, so a new PG would have to come outside of the building.
Moving Brogdon off the ball would still give the Pacers an offensive piece that can be effective.
But this move would either need to come via a draft pick or by trading one of the big guys.
It has to be noted that injuries continue to stunt the career of Brogdon. In the last 4 seasons, he’s missed at least 16 games each year, and an average of 24 games per season.
5. What About The In-House Free Agents?
Of the main rotational guys for the Pacers, they have 2 free agents this offseason:
T.J. McConnell (28) and Doug McDermott (28)
Both players had some great moments this past season under Nate Bjorkgren, and both would help the Pacers moving forward.
But, it’s not that easy.
The Pacers aren’t in a great cap situation to hand out multiple contracts that would fall in the needed financial category to retain these two.
Plus, you have two guys who would love to sign another big/long contract to cash in on the strong contract years they just had.
It’s going to take some creativity (and want to from McConnell and McDermott) to keep these guys in Pacers uniforms.