Indiana Pacers: What the team can learn from the Oklahoma City Thunder’s rebuild

Kevin Pritchard - (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Kevin Pritchard - (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Even as a small market, the Indiana Pacers have always managed to be competitive and consistent in a league that is more hospitable to its big market franchises. Despite not possessing a title to their name, the team has closed in on a championship multiple times, though its window to clinch the trophy has been closed for quite a while now.

Sounds familiar right? Well, we can say the same for the Oklahoma City Thunder, whose previous nucleus formed by tremendous drafting ignited a near-decade run of championship contention.

Sam Presti drafted three players who ended up being the Most Valuable Player in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden on separate occasions. Despite being one of the league’s smallest markets, OKC organically grew its core to become so potent that it seemed destined for a dynasty.

The Indiana Pacers are still competing despite the end of its brief title window

However, in a temperamental league like the NBA, chances come and go. For the Indiana Pacers, it was a quick ascent to the upper echelon of the league that soon went downhill before it even flirted with the podium.

The Circle City rode a defensive and physical identity bannered by the likes of Paul George, Roy Hibbert and David West to consecutive Conference Finals appearances in 2013 and 2014 before bowing down to the Miami Heat on both occasions.

Tumultuous campaigns followed suit, including PG’s freak injury that sidelined him in the 2014-15 season that spearheaded two mediocre seasons, the last of which prompted the star to force his way out of Indiana.

After trading George to Oklahoma City, the Pacers seemed poised for a rebuild, but found gems in Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, who both ended up netting multiple All-Star appearances. They relatively overachieved in the past three campaigns, though health remained elusive for the team as they still could not get over the hump.

In the present, Indiana remains competitive, though currently in a decline after another injury-riddled campaign in a fortified Eastern Conference. The likes of Sabonis, Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert and TJ Warren banner a Pacers team that has yet to grasp their potential as a complete unit.