A playoff berth would have been nice, but the Indiana Pacers’ miserable finish to the 2022-23 season shouldn’t put too much of a damper on what was such a promising season for them. To begin the year, the Pacers looked like they were on a steep upward trajectory, with a Tyrese Haliburton-named rocket strapped behind their back, but alas, it was simply a year too early in their rebuilding efforts, as they did not have the requisite depth and star power to withstand Haliburton’s absence back in January.
Even then, the Pacers’ future outlook remains one of the best in the NBA, especially when they have a few first round picks heading their way courtesy of the Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert trades. Moreover, their cap situation looks promising, as they have plenty of room (around $40 million should they renounce their current cap holds) to add an impact player while Haliburton is still on his rookie deal.
With that said, there may not be a better time for the Pacers front office to add an impactful free agent at a position of need, as they could very well face some cap crunches over the next few years once their young players start commanding more money.
Here are three players that the Pacers must target when the 2023 NBA Free Agency kicks off this coming offseason.
It’s clear that the Pacers have a gaping hole in their starting lineup at power forward; they have tried a few options at that position, namely Jalen Smith and Aaron Nesmith (settling for the latter as the season progressed), but for the team to reach the next level, it’s clear that the Pacers need more size and scoring from the position in one package.
Enter Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma.
Kuzma is in the middle of a career year with the Wizards, averaging 21.7 points and 7.2 rebounds, even though he played alongside high-usage players such as Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. And there could very well be plenty of shots to go around for him with the Pacers, and with an All-Star point guard in Tyrese Haliburton setting him up, he could be in for some nice, efficient production, making him such a solid fit in Indianapolis.
Of course, Kuzma has always had his sights set on a big-market team, making a move to the Pacers in free agency an unlikely outcome. Who could forget the time that Kuzma put the city of Orlando on blast?
But if Kuzma ever decides to change his mind, the Pacers should come calling.
The Pacers could also become linked with Kristaps Porzingis, although a fit between Porzingis and Myles Turner is a more iffy one than with Kuzma, given Porzingis’ lack of perimeter mobility on defense. Porzingis also has a ton of overlap with Turner on offense, as they both like to set up shop on the high post and they love popping out to the perimeter for catch-and-shoot opportunities.
Thus, if there’s a Wizards power forward the Pacers would want to get in free agency, it should be Kuzma.
Jerami Grant has played an instrumental part in a few playoff teams over the years, providing solid production for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets throughout the years. Grant, of course, chose to spread his wings when he decided to sign with the Detroit Pistons in 2020, rounding out his offensive game in the process.
As a result, Grant will be re-entering free agency as a full-fledged two-way player who could defend on the perimeter, provide some solid rim protection, and create his own shot, making him a solid fit, especially for a young Pacers team that thrives in transition.
One facet of the game that Grant wouldn’t be of much help to the Pacers will be rebounding, as he’s even a worse rebounder on a rate basis than the Pacers’ incumbent starting power forward, Aaron Nesmith.
But when it comes to adding some two-way versatility, the Pacers may not be able to do better in free agency than by signing Jerami Grant.
A huge part of the Sacramento Kings’ franchise turnaround, Barnes will be entering free agency in the good graces of his current team. After all, it will pain the Kings’ brass and fanbase to lose one of the team’s most solid veterans in free agency, making the possibility that Barnes stays in Sacramento the most likely one to come to fruition.
But if ever Barnes and the Kings can’t come to terms on an acceptable deal, the Pacers should float a call towards the 30-year old forward’s way.