Pacers forward could opt-in for 2024-2025 NBA season

The fourth-year veteran has the power to stay in Indiana or explore free agency.
Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

As the Pacers season has been over the past couple of weeks, the front office has a few decisions to make. The priority is to try to lock up forward Pascal Siakam.

The veteran forward was a mid-season acquisition to help the Pacers gear up for a deep playoff run. This was the first time Indiana has qualified for the postseason in the past four seasons.

Another big man on the Pacers roster who is looking for a contract is Obi Toppin. He started a majority of the games at the power forward position until Siakam came to Indiana.

On the season, Toppin averaged 10.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists a game. He did so while shooting 57.3% from the floor and 40.3% from behind the arc.

Jarace Walker just finished his rookie campaign with the Pacers. Their 2023 first-round pick averaged 3.6 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in just 33 appearances this regular season.

What if the Pacers can't sign both Siakam and Toppin?

In the event Siakam and/or Toppin do not return to the Pacers, a $5.4 million decision by another utility forward/center can help alleviate their loss(es). That is the cost to the team if Jalen Smith opts in for the 2024-2025 season.

He would be smart to do so. Last year, he averaged almost 10 points while pulling in 5.5 boards and recording an assist a game.

Smith is only 24 years old and is a former first-round pick himself. He was drafted by the Phoenix Suns tenth overall in 2020 from the University of Maryland.

Also traded to Indiana during the middle of a season, this was Smith's second full season as a member of the Pacers. In the 2022-2023 NBA season, the 6'9'' player averaged 9.4 points while grabbing 5.8 boards a game.

Smith's field goal percentage was 47.6% then. He saw a major increase in his shooting as he was about 11.5% better a season later.

Potentially a more affordable option for the Pacers, the team may elect to move forward with Walker and Smith backing up Siakam and Turner. Toppin may command too many dollars if Indiana is more focused on Siakam returning.

Smith played in seven contests this postseason. He tallied 13 points and 14 rebounds and made half of his four attempts from three-point land. Of those 14 rebounds, seven of those were offensive boards, too.

Teams like the Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, and Philadelphia 76ers may be in the market for Smith. Andre Drummond and Nicolas Claxton are both free agents. Philadelphia may explore bringing in the Pacers' big men to provide a youthful and experienced backup to their star, Joel Embiid.


Without a first-round pick in this month's draft, the best option to plug a hole in the depth chart is having Smith opt in for another year. Smith returning on his own accord may be the best and easiest option available for the Indiana Pacers.