The Indiana Pacers had a strange odyssey dating back to last summer.

Indiana began the year understanding star combo guard Victor Oladipo would miss the first few months of the season. The Pacers accounted for the loss in playmaking by prying Malcolm Brogdon away from the Milwaukee Bucks and trading scraps for T.J. Warren.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard also signed Jeremy Lamb to a three-year deal, giving the Pacers another capable scorer in the backcourt.

Calamity promptly ensued.

There were certainly positives to the 2019-20 campaign. Domantas Sabonis made his first All-Star team and established himself as one of the best bigs in the game. Brogdon proved to be a terrific add, and Warren gave the Pacers scoring and rebounding. But there was also plenty of strangeness.

Injuries stacked up over time, with Sabonis eventually missing the entirety of the restart and Lamb suffering a torn ACL in the regular season. Oladipo's return was defined mostly by lackluster play. Nate McMillan was extended in August, then fired just weeks later after the Pacers were swept by the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

The strangeness extended into the offseason. There were reports Oladipo — on an expiring contract this year — openly talked about his desire for other teams, only for Dipo to dunk on the reports and declare loyalty to the organization.

But perhaps the craziest part of this whole saga is, for all the nuances of the past 17 months, the Pacers did almost nothing to bolster the roster in the past month-plus.

Let's take a closer look at Indiana's offseason.

Hiring a new coach

The McMillan situation was pretty ridiculous. That is not to say he was the right coach for the Pacers moving forward, but rather the handling of his job was pretty atrocious.

In any case, Indiana had to find a new coach this offseason, and the Pacers went with former Toronto Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren.

Bjorkgren has a long track record of success in coaching and player development, including his years in the G League. He also has ties to guys like Warren, whom he coached with the Phoenix Suns' G League affiliate.

The Nick Nurse protegee is said to be an offensive-minded head coach, which is a plus considering the Pacers are already one of the best defensive teams in basketball.

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Bjorkgren also wasted little time getting acquainted with his top stars, per Wheat Hotchkiss of

That different feeling can be attributed to new head coach Nate Bjorkgren, who made a quick impression on both Oladipo and Sabonis. Shortly after his hiring was announced on Oct. 20, Bjorkgren flew out to meet individually with his star players, spending two days each with Oladipo in Florida and Sabonis in Los Angeles, where he watched their workouts and shared his vision for the franchise.

Both players noted Bjorkgren's energy and enthusiasm as qualities that really stood out in those initial meetings in addition to his basketball IQ.

It is unlikely guys like Oladipo and Sabonis would outright question Bjorkgren's credentials as the team's new hire. But the fact they have been openly vocal in their support speaks volumes.

Things could obviously change once the games start. But Bjorkgren brings a new philosophy to the franchise that was looking for a change of pace after moving on from McMillan.

Time will tell whether Bjorkgren can maximize the talent on Indiana's roster, but he certainly appears to be off to a good start.

Grade: A-

Free Agency

This section does not merit a ton of coverage.

The Pacers did essentially nothing in free agency, choosing to focus on internal options. Indiana re-signed both Justin Holiday and JaKarr Sampson while also adding another wing in Kelan Martin.

Holiday had a terrific year for the Pacers, shooting 40.5 percent from beyond the arc on 4.5 attempts per game. It made sense to bring the 31-year-old back given his shooting and positional versatility. Holiday never particularly guarded at a high level, but he posted the best Defensive Box Plus/Minus (1.8) of his career.

Sampson played sparingly for Indiana last season, but he can fill the role of undersized forward in small lineups while still providing toughness and athleticism.

The Pacers also traded T.J. Leaf for Jalen Lecque, who could be stashed in the G League given Indiana's backcourt depth.

Grade: C

The NBA Draft

The 2020 NBA Draft was even less eventful for the Pacers, who had just one second-round pick.

Indiana used that selection to draft Cassius Stanley out of Duke. The Pacers promptly signed Stanley to a two-way deal, giving him the opportunity to split time between the NBA and the G League.

Stanley's slippage toward the end of the draft was rather surprising.

The former Sierra Canyon star averaged 12.6 points and 4.9 rebounds at Duke while also shooting 36.0 percent from beyond the arc on 3.0 attempts per game. Stanley has decent size — though he could stand to put on muscle — and jumps through the roof.

Indiana will give Stanley every chance to develop. He is what some might call “toolsy,” but is certainly capable of being a solid NBA player.

Grade: C

Striking out on Gordon Hayward

This is probably the most notable part of Indiana's offseason.

The Pacers and Boston Celtics worked on a sign-and-trade that reportedly could have brought Hayward to Indiana in exchange for Myles Turner, another rotation player and a first-round pick. There were other rumors the offer was just Turner and Doug McDermott for Hayward.

However, Celtics president Danny Ainge hinted Tuesday Hayward might not have wanted to return to his hometown Pacers. That rationale is validated by the fact the Charlotte Hornets were willing to offer him a four-year, $120 million contract.

Still, it feels like the Pacers might have wasted their time pursuing Hayward.

The Indianapolis native probably would have been a better fit for the roster than Turner is currently. Hayward can handle the ball and spearhead more ball movement. He also spaces the floor and plays sound defense on the wing.

Alternatively, Sabonis' dominance in the paint has forced Turner to consistently expand his game to the perimeter. Turner has showed glimpses of being a strong stretch big, but his usage was mostly mitigated in Indiana's offense.

None of this matters now. The point is moot with Hayward going to Charlotte. But it must still leave a sour taste in the mouth of Pacers fans in the sense the team might have missed an opportunity.

Grade: D+


It is hard to blame the team for its lack of cap flexibility and draft capital, especially considering the Pacers were so active last offseason.

Still, merely relying on internal improvements is an interesting formula for combatting the strength of the teams at the top of the Eastern Conference. Plus, the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat should both be much-improved this season, with the Nets getting a healthy Kevin Durant back and the Heat still on a high from their run to the NBA Finals.

All these things add up to a very “meh” offseason for the Pacers, who could be one of the top teams to watch at the trade deadline if things go south.

Overall Grade: C