• The Pacers were coming off a 35-47 record in the 2022-23 season, good enough for 11th in the Eastern Conference. Franchise point guard Tyrese Haliburton had shown growth in his game, finishing 6th in the Most Improved Player voting for the season as well as making the All-Star Game for the first time in his career, but was only able to play in 56 games due to injuries. Haliburton’s style of play is pass-first, and it became clear that he had a special ability to make the right passes and get his teammates involved at a high level. With that in mind, the Pacers came into the season making a few tweaks to their roster and looking to build around the skill set of Haliburton with the hopes of making a push towards the Playoffs.

    How’d It Go?

    The 2023-24 season was a massive success for the Pacers. Not only was the team able to win 12 more games than the previous season and make the Playoffs with a 47-35 record, but they were able to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2014. The biggest factor for their success was their playing style on offense: A “run-and-gun” approach, constantly pushing the pace and taking the first best available shot to them.

    This resulted in the Pacers finishing with the 2nd highest offensive rating on the year at 121.0. The team led the league in points per game with 123.3 per contest.

    Their approach would unsettle opponents, as their relentless pace and commitment to playing fast made them very difficult to guard. Regardless of it being off a miss or a make, the Pacers would push the ball and get into their offense as fast as possible. Many teams would struggle with adjusting to this offensive approach during the regular season and the Pacers were able to capitalize, putting up some ridiculous scoring numbers.

    The key in being able to play in such a way effectively was Haliburton. His ability to make go-ahead passes while also having excellent court vision off pick-and-rolls allowed the Pacers to find good shot opportunities despite playing at such a high pace at all times. Haliburton’s style of play is infectious, as his moving the ball quickly and getting his teammates involved got everyone in a Pacers jersey running and engaged.

    The team also found success in the In-Season Tournament, surprising many by beating the Bucks in the Semifinals before losing to the Lakers in the Finals. The Tournament served also as a stage for Haliburton to “announce” himself as one of the future superstars of the league with his strong play. Haliburton’s first half of the season was spectacular. Unfortunately for him and the Pacers, Haliburton suffered a hamstring strain in January.

    Haliburton’s numbers dipped significantly following his return from the injury at the end of January for the remainder of the season. However, the Pacers were able to acquire All-Star Pascal Siakam via trade from the Raptors for Bruce Brown and multiple draft picks prior to the trade deadline. Siakam was an ideal fit for the Pacers’ style of play, and was able to take some of the pressure off Haliburton on offense. All in all, the Pacers should feel good about their season and will look to keep improving next year.

    Coaching

    Rick Carlisle deserves a lot of credit for how the Pacers performed this past year. Installing the high-paced offensive style, which was a perfect fit for Haliburton’s way of playing, was a great decision. From a fantasy perspective, this was a blessing. Many players on the roster such as Myles Turner, Obi Toppin and Bennedict Mathurin, among others, benefited from this style of play from a statistical perspective. It was evident that regardless of who the Pacers were playing that they would stick to their approach offensively. This led to very high scoring games.

    Carlisle and his coaching staff stuck to their ideologies even through early season struggles. After a tough 110-117 loss vs. the Magic on December 28th, their sixth defeat in their last seven games, the Pacers were standing at a 14-14 record. Carlisle continued to preach patience and believe in what they were doing. He did not waver from his plan and installed his players with confidence to shoot the ball when given the opportunity.

    On the other hand, the one negative that needs to be highlighted from a coaching perspective was the Pacers’ lack of defense. There is no doubt that their style of play contributed to their struggles on the defensive end at times. Taking shots early in the shot clock from the outside would result in long rebounds for opponents, allowing them to fast break the other way. Their constant fast play on offense was also physically taxing for the players. It can be difficult to maintain the same intensity on defense for 48 minutes when you are asked to sprint out at every opportunity on offense. The Pacers finished 24th out of 30 teams in defensive rating on the year, and Carlisle and his staff will need to find ways to improve on that in 2024-25. On the other hand, it’s quite an achievement for the Pacers to have advanced as far as they did despite a leaky defense.

    During the playoffs, Carlisle also struggled in some clutch situations, failing to call timeouts in key spots. In addition to that, Carlisle took too long to make adjustments at times despite the team really struggling on the defensive end. The Pacers did have some injury luck go their way during their run to the Conference Finals, facing the Bucks and the Knicks in the previous rounds who had injuries to key players on their teams. However, the Pacers ended up losing Haliburton for their last two games of their series vs. the Celtics due to his nagging hamstring injury. The majority of the players on the roster had never been this far into the Playoffs, and a lack of experience in those spots was evident, especially down the stretch of close games. Considering this, it might be a bit harsh to criticize Carlisle, although there is no denying that he could have been more proactive in certain situations.

    The Players

    Tyrese Haliburton
    PG, Indiana Pacers
    SeasonTeamGPGSMPG FGMFGAFG% FTMFTAFT% 3PTM3PTA3PT% PTSREBAST STLBLKTO
    23-24 IND 69 68 32.2 7.2 15.2 47.7 2.8 3.3 85.5 2.8 7.8 36.4 20.1 3.9 10.9 1.2 0.7 2.3
    22-23 IND 56 56 33.6 7.4 15.0 49.0 3.1 3.6 87.1 2.9 7.2 40.0 20.7 3.7 10.4 1.6 0.4 2.5
    21-22 IND 77 77 35.0 5.6 11.8 47.3 2.1 2.5 84.2 2.1 5.1 41.4 15.3 4.0 8.2 1.7 0.6 2.6

    ADP: 6.9/8.8 (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 15/10 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 12/10 (8/9-cat)

    Haliburton’s season can be broken down into two parts: A spectacular first half of the season in which Haliburton was even at times playing at a top-5 level in 9-cat leagues, and a second half when he didn’t look quite the same after recovering from a hamstring injury. Overall, Haliburton had found the right balance between setting up his teammates but also being aggressive enough looking for his own shot. The combination of a league-best assists output while also adding efficient (for a guard) scoring, made Haliburton an elite fantasy option. Haliburton attempted a career-high 7.8 3-pointers per contest on the season. Despite having the ball in his hands at all times and averaging almost 11 assists per game, Haliburton was actually able to average fewer turnovers per game than the previous season at 2.3 per game.

    While the number of shot attempts from beyond the arc was a positive for fantasy managers with Haliburton on their squads, Halliburton’s shooting percentages did dip significantly compared to the 2022-23 season when looking at the season-long numbers. Which leads me to the less fortunate second “part” of his season, which started after sustaining a hamstring strain vs. the Celtics on January 9th. Surprisingly, the injury initially “only” cost him 10 games, but from that point onward, Haliburton was unable to get back to the level he was playing at prior to getting hurt. There was no doubt that despite Haliburton being out there, he was not playing at 100%.

    In subsequent interviews, it became evident that the Pacers and Haliburton were aware of this, but that financial incentives were pushing Haliburton to play through the injury. Haliburton was up for a potential contract extension in the offseason, and would become eligible for a supermax by making one of the All-NBA Teams. With the new 65-game rule in place in order to be eligible end-of-season accolades, Haliburton had to meet the criteria for games played in order to secure the supermax extension. While this makes complete sense from a financial perspective for the player, for fantasy managers this was a tough blow to take.

    Haliburton’s numbers across the board suffered a significant decline compared to what they were prior to the injury. His shooting numbers suffered the most. Haliburton’s struggles became evident once he started to pass on shooting opportunities and defer to his teammates. It looked at times during the second half of the season that Haliburton had lost some confidence in his jumper. How much the injury played a role in this is hard to quantify, but it absolutely played a part. Despite these outlined struggles, Haliburton ended the season as the 10th ranked player in per-game value in 9-cat formats for the season.

    Haliburton is clearly the leader of his team and the player the front office is building around. He should be able to start next season at 100% from a health perspective and will be a clear top-10 selection in fantasy drafts for the upcoming season. Depending on what occurs in the offseason regarding player movement, the case can be made that Haliburton should be considered as a top-6 selection in fantasy drafts for the 2024-25 season.

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