The Major Playoff Team Nobody is Talking About.

The 2019 NBA offseason was one of the most exciting few weeks we’ve had in recent NBA history.

Major names exchanged teams, such as Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and Kawhi Leonard. Even non-free agents who weren’t expected to be on the move changed teams, like Paul George. 

There’s a ton of storylines to follow with an upcoming NBA season, let alone one that’s coming off of such an exciting offseason. The LA Clippers appear to be the best team in the NBA with their two new elite talents. The Philadelphia 76ers are redefining what a “big lineup” is in the modern NBA with their acquisition of Al Horford. LeBron James finally has a second star with the Los Angeles Lakers, after trading for Anthony Davis.

Those are just some of the major headlines; believe me, there’s many more. However, there’s one team that has quietly had a great offseason that hasn’t been in many headlines. A team that, when healthy, can easily be a top 3 seed in a heavy Eastern Conference. 

No, I’m not talking about the new Miami Heat squad featuring All-Star Jimmy Butler. No, it’s not the Detroit Pistons adding a quality 6th man in Derrick Rose. It’s not even Boston who managed to add a top tier point guard in Kemba Walker.

I’ll stop listing every team in the East, and just tell you: I’m talking about the Indiana Pacers. 

Yes, the same Indiana Pacers team that will be without their franchise player Victor Oladipo for the first half of the season. 

Indiana has done a marvelous job over the past few years at managing contracts. They’ve given quality players good money for a reasonable amount of time. This is something that the Pacers’ front office — led by Kevin Pritchard — should be heavily applauded for. It’s not easy to do. 

Playing the Market

The Pacers came into the 2019 offseason with a ton of questions and a lot of salary cap space, with just over $58 million in guaranteed salary. While there was opportunity, there was an equal amount of uncertainty. They had the money to add a second star, along with quality role players. Indiana is a somewhat small market in the NBA, so the question arose: would a star choose to go there? 

Fortunately for the Pacers, they didn’t strike out in free agency. In fact, they quietly had one of the best offseasons in the entire NBA. No, they didn’t get the plentiful amount of major names floating around in 2019 free agency, but they did manage to round out the roster with quality talent. 

The Pacers began the 2019 offseason with a trade before the 2019 NBA Draft – and didn’t even give up their mid-first round selection who turned into skilled big man Goga Bitadze. Indiana managed to get TJ Warren — who was coming off of a breakout season in terms of 3-point percentage — for, well, nothing. The Pacers literally gave up “cash considerations” for a talented forward and a second round pick. 

The Pacers ended the 2019 Draft with a capable and proven player, that could be inserted into their team right away.

Malcolm Brogdon

The team had a plan entering free agency; get a player that could help the team before and after Oladipo’s return. What player fit that mold? Malcolm Brogdon.

The Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks orchestrated a sign-and-trade involving Brogdon in which the Pacers shipped off two draft picks, a first and second round pick. A quality move for the Pacers, as Brogdon was a huge reason behind Milwaukee’s recent success. He’s a player that can play on and off the ball, and is a proven 3&D player. A perfect fit alongside Victor Oladipo. 

Jeremy Lamb

The Pacers now needed a quality NBA wing to compensate for the loss of both Wesley Matthews (who ended up signing with the Bucks) and Tyreke Evans (who was banned from the NBA following a failed drug test).

Look no farther than Jeremy Lamb, a player who was one of the few bright spots on a mediocre Charlotte Hornets team. The Pacers managed to get him for a solid deal where he makes $10.5 million every year for the next three seasons. A great contract for a 15 point-per-game scorer and a guy that can hit full court shots to win a game: 

Role Players

Indiana ended their offseason by adding two solid role players for their bench, Justin Holiday and TJ McConnell.

Justin Holiday has proven over the past few seasons that he is a quality floor spacer that fits the mold of a modern NBA role player. Signing him also reunites him with his brother, Aaron Holiday. Pretty cool.

Speaking of Aaron Holiday, many Pacer fans expect him to have a big role in the upcoming season. There’s a ton of excitement surrounding him, and he will need to produce, especially with Darren Collison retiring (can’t believe I’m typing that in 2019) and Cory Joseph departing in free agency. The team signed McConnell as Holiday assurance.

TJ McConnell was a fan favorite in Philadelphia and went from an undrafted NBA player to becoming a quality backup point guard. He’s a scrappy defender, and can provide a spark off the bench if needed. The Pacers got him on a bargain of a deal making $7 million total over the next two seasons.

Exciting Times Ahead

With all of these free agency/trade additions, there is a reason for excitement in Indiana. Keep in mind, that isn’t even mentioning another season of growth among their young talent in Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, and TJ Leaf. 

It will definitely take some time for Victor Oladipo to find his footing once he returns; after all, he’s coming off of a devastating injury. But, if he can find his footing and build enough chemistry with his new team before the postseason, the Indiana Pacers can be one of the most dangerous teams in the East.

They now have the star power, depth, and experience to compete against the heavyweights in the Eastern Conference. Don’t be surprised if they are a late riser in the NBA standings, come April 2020.