Indiana Pacers: Grading Nate Bjorkgren’s turbulent rookie season

Nate Bjorkgren, Indiana Pacers - Credit: Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Nate Bjorkgren, Indiana Pacers - Credit: Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Indiana Pacers head into the summer facing big, decisive questions about the future of its rookie head coach, Nate Bjorkgren. With the man on the sidelines failing to elevate the team this season, even missing the playoffs for the first time in six years and at the crux of locker room discord, the first-year tactician may be on his way out.

Like most fans of the Blue and Gold, I was initially ecstatic about the hiring of Bjorkgren. After all, he was one of the architects behind Toronto’s championship run in 2019. Aside from that, Nick Nurse credited him for his creative flair in the X’s and O’s of the game, even being the main proponent of the box-and-one scheme that they used against Stephen Curry to usurp Golden State and win the title.

As the Pacers found themselves in a constant matinee with then-coach Nate McMillan, failing to get past the first-round in five consecutive season, the front office took a gamble and hired the rookie coach in hopes of him being the catalyst for more playoff success. Sure, Indiana avoided its traditional first-round exit, but this time, it’s because the team didn’t even get to the postseason.

First-year coaches don’t always make the engine run smoother than before, but with the Indiana Pacers’ unprecedented decline and the widespread improvement in the East, waiting for him to chisel out his flaws and improve may not be worth an exhaustive waiting game anymore, especially with the team hungry for success. That being said, how exactly did Nate Bjorkgren fare in his first year with the Blue and Gold?