The 2021 Indiana Pacers In Review

July 20th, 2021

By Alan Lu

This season was a massive disappointment for the Pacers that resulted in the firing of first-year head coach Nate Bjorkgren at the end of the season.  Domantas Sabonis did end up being an All-Star, but T.J. Warren ended up getting hurt four games into the season and missed the rest of the year, and the Pacers won less games than expected.  They were able to defeat the Hornets in their first play-in tournament game, but they lost to the Wizards in the second one, and they ended up missing the postseason this year.

Indiana Pacers’ star center, Domantas Sabonis put up sterling numbers on a disappointing Indiana Pacers’ team this year.
(Photo:
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images, via SB Nation’s Cornrows)

C Domantas Sabonis
2021 (IND): 62 GP, 20.3 PPG, 12 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 54 FG%, 32 3PT%, 73 FT%, 20.6 PER, 60 TS%, 6.9 WS, .149 WS48

Sabonis is a mobile, skilled center that had a very good season this past year.  He made his second All-Star team, and he also showed off solid all-around skills.  He is a terrific passer that racked up many assists.  He didn’t block many shots or knock down threes at a high rate, but he did just about everything else well.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting center on the Indiana Pacers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3.5 stars

Malcolm Brogdon had a solid season overall on a disappointing Indiana Pacers’ team this year.
(Photo:
Andy Lyons/Getty Images, via The Undefeated)

G Malcolm Brogdon
2021 (IND): 56 GP, 21.2 PPG, 5.9 APG, 5.3 RPG, 45 FG%, 39 3PT%, 86 FT%, 17.9 PER, 56 TS%, 4.2 WS, .105 WS48

Brogdon had a solid season overall, as he especially excelled as a scorer and facilitator.  He is a very offensively skilled player that can play three positions well, and he also played at or near an All-Star level, but he didn’t quite defend as well this year.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting point guard on the Indiana Pacers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3 stars

Myles Turner had a solid season when healthy, and he did a tremendous job of blocking shots this year. Unfortunately, he also ended up getting hurt this year, and the Pacers ended up missing the playoffs.
(Photo:
Andy Lyons/Getty Images, via FiveThirtyEight)

C Myles Turner
2021 (IND): 47 GP, 12.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.4 BPG, 1.0 APG, 48 FG%, 33 3PT%, 78 FT%, 15.3 PER, 60 TS%, 3.3 WS, .110 WS48

Turner had a solid season this year, as he did a tremendous job of blocking shots, and he also played good defense to help his team.  He also provided versatile scoring skills.  He’ll need to be more consistent in knocking down outside shots, and he’ll need to improve his passing and rebounding, but Turner’s ability to space the floor and defend may make him a solid starting big man in the NBA.

2021 Season Grade: B-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting power forward on the Indiana Pacers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3 stars

F T.J. Warren
2021 (IND): 4 GP, 15.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 53 FG%, 0 3PT%, 80 FT%, 11.6 PER, 56 TS%, 0.1 WS, .045 WS48

After having scored 53 points in a regular season game in the Orlando bubble last season, big things were expected for Indiana’s rising star forward, T.J. Warren.  However, he ended up playing four games before getting hurt and having to miss the rest of the season with a foot injury.

2021 Season Grade: I (I for Incomplete)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting small forward on the Indiana Pacers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3 stars

G-F Caris LeVert
2021 (IND): 47 GP, 20.2 PPG, 5.2 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 44 FG%, 33 3PT%, 81 FT%, 17.8 PER, 53 TS%, 2.4 WS, .077 WS48

LeVert played fairly well, as he showed off his all-around skills when he was healthy.  He struggled with his outside shot and he had a mass in his kidney, which sidelined him.  When he was healthy, he was able to contribute to help his team, especially on offense.

2021 Season Grade: B-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting small forward on the Indiana Pacers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3 stars potential)

G-F Justin Holiday
2021 (IND): 72 GP, 10.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 41 FG%, 38 3PT%, 79 FT%, 10.4 PER, 57 TS%, 3.1 WS, .069 WS48

He generally excelled as a shooter and passer, but he didn’t defend nearly as well as he did last season.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Indiana Pacers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

G-F Jeremy Lamb
2021 (IND): 36 GP, 10.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.5 APG, 43.5 FG%, 41 3PT%, 95 FT%, 15.8 PER, 59 TS%, 15.8 PER, 2.1 WS, .132 WS48

He played well when he was healthy, as he showed off solid all-around skills to help the Pacers when he was on the floor.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Indiana Pacers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

F Doug McDermott
2021 (IND): 66 GP, 13.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 53 FG%, 39 3PT%, 82 FT%, 15.6 PER, 63.5 TS%, 3.8 WS, .112 WS48

McDermott shot the ball very well, and he excelled as a floor spacer in his role for the Pacers.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

McDermott will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

G T.J. McConnell
2021 (IND): 69 GP, 8.6 PPG, 6.6 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 56 FG%, 31 3PT%, 69 FT%, 16.9 PER, 58 TS%, 4.8 WS, .128 WS48

McConnell played very well, as he shot the ball very well from inside the arc, racked up a lot of assists per minute, and he also excelled as a rebounder and defender when he was on the floor.  Sometimes he doesn’t shoot the ball enough and he didn’t make threes at a high rate, but he did everything else well when he was on the floor.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

McConnell will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

G Edmond Sumner
2021 (IND): 53 GP, 7.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 52.5 FG%, 40 3PT%, 82 FT%,12.7 PER, 63 TS%, 1.4 WS, .077 WS48

He shot the ball much better than last year, and he was quite effective as a scorer, but he didn’t pass the ball nearly as much as he did before, and he also didn’t defend quite as well this past season.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player for the Indiana Pacers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

Has a team option that can be exercised for next season.

F Oshae Brissett
2021 (IND): 21 GP, 10.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 48 FG%, 42 3PT%, 77 FT%, 17.2 PER, 64 TS%, 1.8 WS, .165 WS48

Oshae Brissett had a tremendous, second season in the NBA.  He really improved his outside shot, and he played a pivotal role to help lead his team to a win over the Charlotte Hornets in a play-in tournament game. 

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Indiana Pacers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

Brissett is on a non-guaranteed contract next season.

G Aaron Holiday
2021 (IND): 66 GP, 7.2 PPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 RPG, 39 FG%, 37 3PT%, 82 FT%, 9.2 PER, 50 TS%, 0.2 WS, .009 WS48

He shot threes reasonably well and showed some playmaking skills, but he struggled to score consistently inside the arc or to defend this past season.

2021 Season Grade: D+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

C Goga Bitadze
2021 (IND): 45 GP, 5.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 43 FG%, 25 3PT%, 74 FT%, 16.3 PER, 52 TS%, 1.5 WS, .129 WS48

Bitadze had an up and down season this year with the Pacers.  He struggled to shoot or score the basketball, and he also ended up getting into a bizarre shouting match with an assistant coach this year.  On the plus side, he did a very good job of blocking shots, and he excelled as an interior defender this past year.  He also passed the ball well to help get assists.

2021 Season Grade: C-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

F Kelan Martin
2021 (IND): 35 GP, 4.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 45 FG%, 40 3PT%, 90 FT%, 13.9 PER, 55 TS%, 0.4 WS, .066 WS48

He didn’t play very much this season, but he excelled as a shooter and rebounder in limited minutes.

2021 Season Grade: B-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Martin’s contract is non-guaranteed next season.

C Amida Brimah
2021 (IND): 5 GP, 2.6 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 1 BPG, 63 FG%, 100 FT%, 16.6 PER, 70 TS%, 0 WS, .073 WS48

He played well in just a few games that he played at the end of the season.  He was projected to be a rim protector, and he played his role, as he really excelled as a shot blocker and interior defender for his team late this year.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

F JaKarr Sampson
2021 (IND): 29 GP, 4.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 50 FG%, 20 3PT%, 65.5 FT%, 10.9 PER, 53 TS%, 0.3 WS, .044 WS48

He rebounded the ball very well, and he also showed that he can attack the basket to score on offense, but he struggled to knock down outside shots, and he didn’t pass or defend well this past season.

2021 Season Grade: D+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
NBA Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Sampson be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

This was one of the highlights of the 2020-21 Indiana Pacers’ season, and somehow this only registered a 44 for Cassius Stanley. This looked to be one of the more underrated dunks of the night in the 2021 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Unfortunately for Stanley and the Pacers, this season was all downhill after that brief moment in time.
(Source:
Twitter/@BleacherReport)

G-F Cassius Stanley
2021 (IND): 24 GP, 1.5 PPG, 30 FG%, 23 3PT%, 78 FT%, 5.5 PER, 38 TS%, -0.1 WS, -.050 WS48
2021 (G-League): 12 GP, 12.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 42 FG%, 27 3PT%, 53 FT%, 9.6 PER, -0.1 WS, -.010 WS48

He’s a very athletic swingman, and he initially played well in very limited minutes off the bench in the NBA, but other than throwing down a very underrated jam in the 2021 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Stanley was quite disappointing both in the NBA and in the G-League.

He brought forth rebounding and athleticism, but he didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well as expected.  He could still project into a defensive specialist role, but the Pacers cut two other second-year project players in the NBA in Brian
Bowen
and Jalen Lecque, and Stanley may be dangerously treading this path in the NBA right now.

2021 Season Grade: D-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA (Rotation player in the G-League)
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1 star (2 stars potential)

Their Former Head Coach:
Nate Bjorkgren
2021 (IND): 34-38, did not make the playoffs
Coaching Career: 34-38, 0-0 in his playoff career

Bjorkgren got off to a fast start, but he essentially crashed and burned, as he lost the respect of the players and control of the locker room.  Though their team managed to win a game in the play-in tournament, they lost the game there, and they still missed the playoffs.  His team fell considerably short of expectations, even though they did lose T.J. Warren for the season after he played four games, and Bjorkgren ended up getting fired at the end of this season.

2021 Season Grade: D (Recently Fired)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Head coach somewhere in a professional league, or assistant coach in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Nate Bjorkgren was fired at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

New Head Coaching Hire for the 2021-22 NBA Season:
Rick Carlisle
2021 (DAL): 42-30, 3-4 in the playoffs
Coaching career: 836-689, 63-70 in his playoff career, won an NBA championship with the 2011 Dallas Mavericks

He had a fairly solid year with the Dallas Mavericks, as he got them to more wins than expected in the regular season.  Carlisle had a near MVP season out of superstar point forward, Luka Doncic.  They were a solid offensive team that looked to be an intriguing team heading into the playoffs this year.

They ran into a tough first round series against the Los Angeles Clippers, and after winning the first two games, they couldn’t close the deal as they lost in 7 games.  They couldn’t defend well enough, they didn’t find a way to make use of Kristaps Porzingis, and his tendency to play too many centers in the postseason made them too slow to guard the Clippers down the stretch.  Still, Carlisle should be a big upgrade over Bjorkgren, and he at least could get the Pacers to get on the same page and to winning basketball, or to the playoffs at the very least in the East.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Head coach of the Indiana Pacers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

A Brief Summary of the 2020-21 Indiana Pacers’ Season:

It started well for the Pacers, but things quickly snowballed because the relationship between the coaches and players deteriorated, and Bjorkgren started to lose the respect of his players.  They won a play-in tournament, and lost in the second game, and they missed the playoffs, as they fell short of expectations.

The 2020-21 Indiana Pacers’ Season Grade: D+

The Indiana Pacers’ Projected 2021-22 NBA Rotation:

Projected Starters:
C Myles Turner
F Domantas Sabonis
F T.J. Warren
G Caris LeVert
G Malcolm Brogdon

Key Reserves:
G-F Jeremy Lamb
F Oshae Brissett
The 13th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft
G-F Justin Holiday
G Edmond Sumner

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
C Goga Bitadze
F Kelan Martin
G Aaron Holiday
C Amida Brimah
G-F Cassius Stanley

Others:
The 54th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft  – Likely a Stash Pick, or a Player that ends up on a Two-Way Contract
The 60th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft – Likely a Stash Pick, or a Player that ends up on a Two-Way Contract

Impending Unrestricted Free Agents:
G T.J. McConnell – Not Expected Back
F Doug McDermott – Not Expected Back
F JaKarr Sampson – Not Expected Back

Players with an Impending Team Option:
G Edmond Sumner – Expected Back

Projected Offseason Plan for the Indiana Pacers:
The Pacers will be capped out, and they don’t really have a roster that fully meshes well together.  In order to maximize their floor spacing, they will likely need to trade either Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis so that the floor is not clogged on offense.  They need more shooters on offense, and they could use either a point guard or wing players that can shoot, score, and create their own shots up on offense, while being able to capably defend on the floor.

The 2022 Indiana Pacers’ Expected Win-Loss Record, and Projected 2022 Season Finish:
37-45, 10th in the Eastern Conference

Expected 2022 Season Outcome:
The Indiana Pacers will likely end up in the play-in tournament, and they are expected to fight for the 7th or 8th seed in the East next season.

I primarily went to Basketball-Reference and No Trade Clause for research purposes. For more information on my ratings scale and how I rate NBA players and coaches, you can find it here. Thanks for reading.

NBA Scouting Live
error: Content is protected !!