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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Nate Bjorkgren, Indiana Pacers
Nate Bjorkgren, Indiana Pacers – Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

How do we rate Bjorkgren as coach of the Indiana Pacers this season?

The Indiana Pacers haven’t had as much organizational unrest this year since the notorious Jim O’Brien days. While that may be a relatively unfair comparison especially with the injuries, COVID, and the general peculiarity of the season, a team that prides itself on sound team culture doesn’t just go into a state of flux with the same roster in abrupt fashion.

Of course, losing smears everything for worse, but Nate Bjorkgren also deserves ample blame on his part for his inability to piece a team that can brave through adverse circumstances. An injury-marred season is not novel in Indianapolis, and with his predecessor having proven himself to be a master at adapting in previous seasons, a comparative view here screams “ah, the good ol’ days”.

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As Kevin Pritchard recently noted, Bjorkgren is a scientist at the X’s and O’s of the game, but there’s a reason why coaching is both a science and an art. Establishing himself as a rookie coach isn’t easy, but the general precedent for first-year coaches in the NBA is the trend towards improvement and gaining solid traction — two facets where he evidently fell short.

However, he himself acknowledged that he must improve. And he may still get that chance despite the franchise’s non-committal to him. But given the state of affairs in the East, and the elephant in the room for the franchise in the form of a substantial change, Bjorkgren may be the bell that strikes it all.

It’s easy to give a first-year coach some cushion with understandable struggles on the off-court intangibles, but that only comes with an immaculate on-court pedigree — something which he certainly hasn’t proven to have yet.

Overall Grade: C+

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