The Indiana Pacers are eager to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2020, but their ambitions are higher. They have not won a postseason series since reaching the conference finals in 2014. Tyrese Haliburton made his first All-Star team in 2023, but the 23-year-old is just getting started. The Pacers have a young roster and improvements are key to leaping up the standings.
ESPN had Indiana finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference (subscription required) and making the Play-In Tournament, but their aim is to finish in the top six and grab an automatic playoff berth.
It will take a few surprising performances from their young talent, but multiple players could make a jump. Rick Carlisle is a proven-winner, who helped the Pacers make a ten-win improvement last season. Haliburton plans on riding his Team USA stint into a massive year, and Indiana is hoping to see multiple breakout seasons from their roster.
Indiana Pacers that could shock the world this season
5. Obi Toppin
Toppin was the eighth overall pick in the 2020 draft by the Knicks, but he struggled to get minutes in New York. Toppin was behind Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett, and head coach Tom Thibodeau is known for playing his starters massive minutes. Still, the 25-year-old showed flashes and requested a trade to get more burn.
The 6’9 forward is an elite athlete who showcased an improved jumper last season. If his shooting can take another step forward, Toppin could have a massive campaign. The Pacers gave up two second-round draft picks to acquire the 25-year-old as he enters the final year of his rookie contract, but he could be a hot commodity in restricted free agency next summer if he breaks out.
Expectations are low for Obi Toppin after his disappointments in New York, but he will shock the world this season by becoming a starter and key contributor for the Indiana Pacers as they return to the playoffs.