On the Pacers, Buddy Hield and what's at stake
Hield is 30 and entering his 8th season (and a contract year). The Pacers are in a tricky spot less than two weeks before camp opens.
The Indiana Pacers’ roster largely looks the same as the offseason comes to a close. Less than two weeks before they open training camp (on Oct. 3), nine of their top 10 players from last season (in terms of total minutes) are still on the roster ahead of the 2023-24 season.
They added two possible rotational players in the draft (Jarace Walker and Ben Sheppard), acquired Obi Toppin via trade and made a splash signing NBA champion Bruce Brown to a free-agent deal with $22 million guaranteed this upcoming season. Chris Duarte was traded and Oshae Brissett signed with the Boston Celtics.
All 18 spots are filled, including the three two-way slots, and the roster clarity needed over the offseason was … incomplete. Still too many guards and bigs, and they still lack depth on the wing — the most important position, especially in the postseason.
That brings us to Wednesday where, as Shams Charania first reported on The Athletic, extension talks for Buddy Hield haven’t progressed with the Pacers and so trading him has become a possibility.
What are both sides thinking and how did they get here? Let’s explore.
Still A Few Moves Away
The Pacers are entering Year 3 of a rebuild and are still in the asset-gathering mode. They should win more than the 35 games they did this past season, but they’re not a contender; no, they’re still at least a few pieces away — especially another foundational piece (such as Pascal Siakam)
“We’re in a stage right now where we still have a lot of our powder dry, we have a lot of assets in the till, we got a lot of things that we can still do in the next several years,” head coach Rick Carlisle said in early July regarding the roster composition.
They have their future draft assets (and then some), All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton under contract through the 2028-29 season and no bad contracts. What does that also mean? Roster flexibility — or optionality, to use one of team president Kevin Pritchard’s buzzwords.
What I wrote in early July remains true: the roster is a work in progress. That’s why they called around to more than a half-dozen teams around the draft to check on acquiring wings like OG Anunoby, De’Andre Hunter, and Tobias Harris.
Yet one of the biggest questions about this team entering camp is which path will they choose to go down? Win and push for the playoffs OR give the younger guys more minutes and get one more big swing in the draft lottery?
I lean more toward the former, returning to the postseason for the first time in four seasons. Go get this group their first taste of the playoffs, experience that will be beneficial in the years to come.
How minutes are distributed may be the best tell.