Pacers Report Cards: Grading every Pacers player at season's end

With the playoffs on the way, now is a good time to give out end-of-season grades for every Pacers player.
Mar 16, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA;  Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) celebrates with
Mar 16, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) celebrates with / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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Rick Carlisle

With all the players taken care of, there's only one more individual to grade, and that's Coach Rick himself.

At the halfway point of the season, I gave Carlisle a B, stating that he did a good job adapting his coaching style and leading Indiana to an all-time great offense, which is still true. What's also still true is that Carlisle gave full control to Tyrese Haliburton and let him play at his own pace, resulting in a hyper-efficient offense and constant running, which has helped Indiana immensely this season.

One thing that has changed for the better, is Carlisle's defensive approach. Halfway through the season, the Pacers were a terrible defensive team, constantly losing games on that end and not being able to guard a parked car. Part of this was due to Carlisle's high-energy offense, which relied on tiring the other team out and playing at full force all throughout.

In theory, this would lead to more fast break opportunities and the other team not being able to get their offensive sets in order, but this was not the case and Indiana's defense struggled mightily before the Pascal Siakam trade.

Since the trade, however, Carlisle has done a fantastic job improving the defense with his new addition. With Siakam there to take pressure off Nesmith and guard wings himself, Carlisle has been able to experiment with different defensive rotations which have paid off fruitfully.

Indiana went from one of the worst defenses ever in the first half of the season to a top-half defense in the second half of the season, completely changing their identity for the better and just in time for the playoffs at that.

However, a new problem started brewing after the defensive improvements, and this has been touched on plenty of times. For as good as Carlisle and the Pacers were, especially against top-tier teams, they struggled far more than they should have against lottery teams. Speaking on it feels like beating a dead horse at this point, but the Pacers would probably like to have a record better than 20-14 against below .500 teams, by far the worst out of any playoff team in the league.

While this cannot be fully blamed on Carlisle, as he is not the one physically playing basketball, it is up to him to motivate the players and tell them to not phone in games against worse teams. By far his biggest misstep came in the aforementioned Chicago game, where he opted to have Aaron Nesmith foul in the final seconds with Indiana all but having the game in the bag. This foul was Nesmith's sixth of the game, leading him to sit out the final 3.8 seconds and watch DeMar DeRozan hit a game-tying shot to send it to overtime, which the Pacers lost.

After this game, speculation began on whether Carlisle was the one to take the Pacers over the hump, and if this habit of awful losses would stick around in future seasons. Of course, it is important to know that Indiana is still young, and young teams often lose winnable games due to their immaturity, but at the same time, Carlisle needs to be in there motivating them and steering them in the right direction.

This is not to say that he did a terrible job this year. Far from it, in fact, as Rick Carlisle helped take a team that was in purgatory two years ago to the sixth seed and 47 wins, all while leading one of the best offenses of all time. This alone gets him a good grade, and the seal of approval so far. Whether he is the man to take Indiana over the hump in the future is up for debate, but for now, he's done a fantastic job with what he's been given.

Final Grade: B (Some bumps along the way, but a good coach regardless)