Sports Column

Pacers retain key players, hope for success


The Indiana Pacers made a big splash during this past season when they acquired Pascal Siakam in a trade. That move helped them reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in a decade. Once the season ended, fans began to wonder if they’d make another big splash via trade or free agency over the summer. Instead of finding a new drummer, they’ve been more focused on bringing the band back together.

Signing Siakam to a four-year max deal is a huge splash, even though he was already on the squad. Any big contract comes with risk, but this is a deal the Pacers simply had to make. The combination of Haliburton and Siakam will be a lethal duo for years to come, and it gives the Pacers stability and talent at the top.

The Pacers also recently re-signed forward Obi Toppin to a four-year deal of his own. This decision undoubtedly divided the fan base. They’ve got last year’s lottery pick Jarace Walker available to take over Toppin’s role, and the Pacers could have used that money elsewhere. At the same time, this team is trying to build off of this year and win, and Toppin is a great fit with this group. Ideally, the Pacers will find some minutes for Walker at the three and four positions. And though there may not be enough minutes to go around to start the season, there will always be injuries that present opportunity for others in due time. Does retaining Toppin give this team the best chance of continued success next season? I think the answer is a resounding yes.

In addition to retaining those two forwards, the Pacers are reportedly signing James Wiseman to a two-year contract. Wiseman was the second overall pick in the 2020 draft, and is still just 23 years old. He will have a chance to take over Jalen Smith’s role, who recently signed with Chicago. The Pacers have also done well developing players who were struggling or not getting minutes at other places. Look what they’ve done with Aaron Nesmith, and Toppin and Smith. The franchise has a feeling about what they can do with James Wiseman, and this could look like another steal in the near future.

There’s still time for the Pacers to make a bigger move this off-season, though it’s probably unlikely. They don’t have a lot of money to spend, and are currently unwilling to include Jarace Walker or Bennedict Mathurin in a trade. If the Pacers end up running it back with (mostly) the same group next season — it may not be super exciting for fans, but it may be the right call. Yes, the Celtics aren’t going anywhere. Yes, the Sixers added old friend Paul George. Teams like the Knicks and Bucks will be awfully dangerous, and there’s always the chance that another team in the East takes a leap. At the same time, the Pacers have a really strong team. The experience they gained in the playoffs will be extremely important for their future. And they’ve still got Walker, Mathurin, Sheppard, and others who should continue improving with each passing year and opportunity. This is a team that gave the champion Celtics all they could handle in three of the four games played in that series.

So even if they don’t make a big move in the coming weeks, you can count on a really good team with a really strong chance to contend next season.


Tyler Smith covers the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Hoosiers for IndySportsLegends and is a frequent contributor to the Journal Review. He is also the youth and sports pastor at New Hope Christian Church.