The Indiana Pacers enter the 2021 offseason with two major needs on the roster. As things stand, the Pacers lack depth on the wings, especially defensively, but they also need to heavily invest in the backcourt moving forward.
T.J. McConnell is set to become a free agent after a very encouraging season in 2020-21 and his price may be out of Indiana’s range. If he does leave, Aaron Holiday and Edmond Sumner are the only promising guards left on the bench with Jeremy Lamb not offering much of his own.
How should the Indiana Pacers handle the guard situation?
Re-signing McConnell is certainly worth considering given the progress he made last season as the leader of the second unit. But if his price is too high and the Pacers are forced to look elsewhere, they may be in for a rough summer period. The 2021 NBA Draft has a handful of promising guards that could make an impact but that would require the Pacers to avoid filling a big hole on the perimeter.
Unless the Pacers trade back in the first round and accrue extra picks, they will only have one pick high enough to really make an immediate impact. The plan with that pick – 13th overall – should be to add the best player available but with an emphasis on wings.
Moses Moody is the early leader in the clubhouse to be Indiana’s selection if he is on the board when the Pacers are due to pick. His 3-and-D potential on the perimeter is exactly what the Pacers are looking for after a disastrous season from that spot a year ago.
Other wings in the range include Corey Kispert, Ziaire Williams, and Franz Wagner who all bring something different to the table. Of the bunch, Kispert has been linked to the Pacers in mock drafts more often than anyone.
The wing crop is highly favored earlier in the draft and landing one at 13th overall will be tough for the Pacers. However, if a wing is available, Indiana needs to prioritize him over any of the guards.
Josh Giddey is the most commonly linked guard to the Pacers in the lottery and he has a ton of potential as a playmaker and passer with the second unit until he takes over the starting job. Sitting behind Malcolm Brogdon and playing with a bench that consists of Justin Holiday, Goga Bitadze, and Edmond Sumner could give Giddey a key role in his rookie season.
While I do love Giddey and his upside as a ball-handler, he does not bring enough shooting and defense to the court to warrant selecting him over others in my opinion. Aaron Holiday has done well in the past as a playmaking guard when given the chance but last season was out of his element.
Running Holiday in that role next season with Moody or another wing occupying the first-round selection makes much more sense from a win-now perspective. Sumner could also help with some of the responsibility while Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon split time with the second unit to be the point guard as well.
It would be much easier for Indiana to replicate the offense with LeVert, Holiday, Brogdon, and Sumner handling the ball than to have Giddey or Davion Mitchell leading the bench unit and having no wings off the bench behind T.J. Warren.
There are some veteran free agents who will be available this summer that could take on part of the role as well. If McConnell demands a good chunk of change from a contender, Indiana could look at Elfrid Payton, Ish Smith, or Frank Mason III on cheaper deals to split the minutes.
Guard depth is crucial in the NBA and the Pacers have two very good starters on the roster. Adding depth behind them while also allowing LeVert and Brogdon to play consistent minutes would be a smart move for a team trending towards wanting to compete. Can Rick Carlisle construct the right roster?