How Good is the 2020-21 Roster at the Indiana Pacers?
The Indiana Pacers want more than to just simply make the NBA playoffs every year. They got that with head coach Nate McMillan, but after yet another early playoff exit, they decided to make a change.
In comes Nate Bjorkgren, who promises to deliver a more exciting brand of basketball.
He has a solid roster to work with, as Victor Oladipo is still on hand despite ongoing trade rumors, and Indy returns virtually all of the key pieces that made them a pesky out a year ago.
The question, of course, is if the Pacers have already reached their ceiling with their current group. To assess that for anyone planning on betting on the Pacers, join me for my Indiana Pacers roster analysis for the 2020-21 NBA season.
Indiana Pacers Roster in 2020-21
- Key Additions: Cassius Stanley, Jalen Lecque, Kelan Martin
- Key Losses: N/A
- PG: Malcolm Brogdon
- SG: Victor Oladipo
- SF: T.J. Warren
- PF: Domantas Sabonis
- C: Myles Turner
I’m not kidding when I say the Pacers return most of their core. They have a few guys who could depart, but veteran scorer Justin Holiday is probably the only name that matters that might not be back.
He’s gone on record in saying that incoming head coach Nate Bjorkgren’s system should be fun, though, so he doesn’t really sound like a guy that is trying to leave.
Oladipo could exit via trade, too, but for now, he says he’s committed to the franchise. And until he leaves, Indiana is set to return the same starters they had a year ago.
As has been the case for the past few years, this is good, but not necessarily great. The Pacers are built to play good defense and run an efficient offense, but to this point have not been a very explosive offense.
It’s arguable their starting five is good enough to be a bit more lights out, though, and the arrival of the aggressive Bjorkgren dares to unlock this lineup’s true potential.
Indiana Pacers’ Bench
- Aaron Holiday
- T.J. McConnell
- Jalen Lecque
- Jeremy Lamb
- Cassius Stanley
- Edmond Sumner
- Justin Holiday
- Kelan Martin
- JaKarr Sampson
- Brian Bowen
- Doug McDermott
- Rayshaun Hammonds
- Goga Bitadze
Indiana’s bench is actually a bit underrated, provided quality bench scorer Jeremy Lamb can make a healthy return. He is recovering from a torn ACL but is expected to make his return to the court sometime in January.
Sabonis says he has no limitations because of his foot that kept him out of the restart #Pacers— J. Michael (@ThisIsJMichael) December 1, 2020
With Lamb back, the Pacers have a pretty good bench on paper. He’s the go-to scorer in that group, while Aaron Holiday can also shoulder some of the scoring, and Holiday has never been shy to launch it, either.
McConnell is a strong floor general, Stanley is an intriguing rookie, McDermott is a sharpshooter from long range, and the team remains high on skilled big man Goga Bitadze.
It’s an underrated bench, but given the starting five’s past shortcomings, it may need to be better than it was a year ago when it ranked 25th in scoring among NBA benches.
Pacers’ Best Player – Domantas Sabonis
Indiana lacks a true superstar, so I’ll hear arguments for Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, and even T.J. Warren. But Sabonis is probably the most complete player they have, and he still has insane upside.
It’s pretty shocking to see that the Pacers weren’t a great rebounding team a year ago, even though this kid was a nightly double-double machine. Sabonis made a living on the boards, ending the year with 12.4 rebounds per game, while also breaking out in general last season.
Sabonis still has work to do as an offensive player, but he’s already so useful at age 24.
Last year, he scored 18.5 points per game and was incredibly efficient, shooting 54 from the floor and even displaying his playmaking and court vision with a career-high 5.0 dimes per game.
His shooting went way down (25% from three) from long range, but he flashed elite ability in shooting 52.9% the year prior. Sabonis battled injury last year but now is fully healed and should be ready to improve even more.
Indiana has their perimeter players carry much of the scoring burden, but it’s pretty clear Sabonis deserves and could handle an even larger role.
If he can keep progressing as his workload expands, it’s possible Sabonis isn’t just his team’s best player, but potentially one of the best big men in the entire league.
Indiana’s X-Factor – Jeremy Lamb
I hate to put this kind of pressure on Lamb, but everyone else is kind of spoken for in different ways. Sabonis and the other big names are already fringe NBA stars.
Everyone knows what they can do, and if they get better, they won’t really be true X-Factors for this team. They’ll simply be go-to options the Pacers know they can trust.
Lamb is a total unknown going into 2020-21 due to his injury, but a healthy return to his previous form would give the Pacers quite the jolt off the bench.
NBA fans had already witnessed Lamb’s scoring ability. He put up a career-high in Charlotte with 15.3 points per game two years ago, and his first season with the Pacers was a success (12.5 points per game).
He needs to get/stay healthy and pick those numbers up even more, however. If he can do that, a mediocre bench from a year ago could be considerably better, and it could aid the Pacers in their plight to take things to the next level.
Final Assessment of the Indiana Pacers Roster
Nothing has changed when you look at the Indiana Pacers roster going into the 2020-21 NBA season.
The only real differences are total hypotheticals. Jeremy Lamb could get healthy and provide a huge spark off the bench. Indiana’s other young bench players might develop into useful role players.
Victor Oladipi might get traded. Nate Bjorkgren’s aggressive approach could lead to more points, a faster pace, and Indiana taking things up a notch as a whole.
But the roster is the same ho-hum, decent group of guys that will defend, play hard, and play fairly efficient ball. That’s good enough to keep the Pacers in the mix for the NBA playoffs, but is it enough to get anyone to confidently bet on them to win 50+ games or win a postseason series?
I doubt it, but there are worse places to be in the NBA than mediocrity. Indiana is largely doing things the right way. Their roster is rock solid, they hired a good coach, and perhaps a future trade involving Oladipo would open things up for the better.