Indiana Pacers: How the franchise can model themselves after the Denver Nuggets

Indiana Pacers, Myles Turner, Nikola Jokic - Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, Myles Turner, Nikola Jokic - Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indiana Pacers are currently in a tough spot. After finishing last season 4th in the Eastern Conference, then-head coach Nate McMillan was fired after being eliminated in the first round for the fourth straight year under McMillan, three of which being 4-0 sweeps. The Pacers then brought in new head coach Nate Bjorkgren with hopes he could get them over that first-round hump that McMillan could not.

Fast forward to May 8th, 2021, and the Pacers currently sit in 10th in the Eastern Conference after a loss to the Washington Wizards, which dropped the Pacers to 31-36 on the season, ensuring the Pacers can no longer have a winning season for the first time since the 2014-2015 season, the last time they failed to make the playoffs.

Recent drama has turned Nate Bjorkgren’s future with the Indiana Pacers in question and with such an underwhelming season, big changes may be in store. 

The Pacers are going to have to make roster changes in the offseason. The current makeup of this team has not worked, and will likely not work in the future, so players are going to have to be moved. As the Pacers look at what to do, they should look no further than the Denver Nuggets. Denver’s biggest stars have similar makeups and play styles to some of Indiana’s biggest stars.

The most obvious are Nikola Jokic and Domantas Sabonis. I am not saying Sabonis is anywhere near the level of Nikola Jokic, Jokic is an MVP talent, but Sabonis is an All-Star level talent who has a very similar playstyle to Jokic. Sabonis is a big who can ball handle, create for others with nifty passes, has a strong post game, and has the ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc.

The other similarity the two teams share is Jamal Murray and Caris LeVert. Both of these players are able to handle the ball, create for others, create for themselves, score 30+ points on any given night, and play a good two-man game with their big (Jokic & Sabonis).

Denver has built themselves into a title-contending team relying on Jokic and Murray running a strong two-man game, which is something Indiana should try to do with Sabonis and LeVert. Recently, with injuries piling up for the Pacers, Sabonis and LeVert have had the ability to showcase their two-man game. Both are averaging over 25 points per game since Sabonis returned to the lineup, and are both sharing the ball, combining for over 15 assists per game as well.

Indiana Pacers need to find their Michael Porter Jr.

One key piece that Denver has to Indiana does not is Michael Porter Jr. Porter is a very lengthy wing who can score the ball at an elite level. He compliments Jokic and Murray perfectly because he can be a guy who they can kick it to for an open shot but is also a guy who can pick it up and get his own when Jokic and Murray can not, or are off the floor. T.J. Warren is someone who could be that for the Pacers, but with his injury issues, Pacers may need to look elsewhere.

One guy who could possibly fill that role is Gordon Hayward. Hayward could be in play for the Pacers in a trade that could include Myles Turner. Hayward was averaging just under 20 points per game before his injury and is a guy who can knock down open shots as well as create for himself, like Porter Jr., but to a lesser extent. Like Warren however, Hayward also struggles with staying on the floor, so the Pacers might want to stay away from him.

The other way to get a guy like that is through the NBA draft. A guy like Jonathan Kuminga would be a great addition to play on the wing at the three and four spots, and try and develop him to become that third elite scoring option like Michael Porter Jr. Kuminga will likely go before the Pacers pick, so the only way of getting him would be by trading up, which is not out of the realm of possibility with pieces like Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren, and Myles Turner, who could all be moved.

A more realistic draft choice would be Josh Giddey. Giddey is someone who should be there when the Pacers pick, and is someone who has length, can create, but needs to work on his shooting and scoring. If Giddey could develop his offensive scoring game, he could be a great addition to fill that Porter Jr. role eventually for the Pacers.

Lastly, the Pacers need to add steady shooters and defenders to fill out the team like Denver has in Aaron Gordon, Will Barton, and Monte Morris. The Pacers currently do not have any real consistent shooters or defenders, so being able to add even one or two would be huge for the Pacers.

Denver is a small market team who was able to build themselves into a title contender, which is why the Indiana Pacers should look to them as inspiration this offseason. They already have pieces that are similar to Denver’s, albeit lesser versions, but still good enough to be able to compete. This will be a very important offseason for the Indiana Pacers and their future.

Next. 4 draft targets who could bring shooting to the Pacers. dark