Connor Granlund is a freshman music education major. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. Write to Connor at email@example.com.
In preparation for a shortened 72-game season, the Indiana Pacers had a productive offseason with some significant changes to the team and coaching staff. Indiana will first be in action Saturday, Dec. 12, with a 7 p.m. preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
What is new for the 2020-2021 Season?
Following a 4-0 sweep by the Eastern Conference champions Miami Heat, the Pacers desperately needed a change. This first-round exit was their fifth in a row, and the front office finally took action. Head Coach Nate McMillian was fired, and former Toronto Raptors' assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren was hired to fill his role.
With Bjorkgren comes a new coaching staff, including NBA Veteran Greg Foster, former New York Knicks' assistant coach Kaleb Canales and Bill Bayno — who was retained from McMillian’s staff. Bjorkgren was the first head coaching hired outside of the franchise since Jim O’Brien in 2007, bringing new ideas to a team with potential — but stuck in mediocrity.
After an exciting 2019 offseason that brought players such as T.J. Warren and Malcolm Brogdon to Indiana, the roster did not change much, as the team prepared for the 2020-21 season.
As far as signings, Justin Holiday, a key rotational player for the Pacers last year, re-signed for a three-year, $18.1 million contract. Jakarr Sampson, another role player for the Pacers, re-signed as well for a one-year, league-minimum contract.
Both players were vital to the team’s success in previous seasons, and retaining them was a priority for Indiana during the offseason.
Along with retaining those players, Kelan Martin, who played collegiately for Butler University, was brought to the team on a two-year deal. Martin was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves roster last season on a two-way contract, averaging 6.4 points in 31 games played.
Indiana also brought in a number of young players on Two-Way and Exhibit 10 contracts. The Pacers used the 54th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft to draft Cassius Stanley from Duke University, who then signed a Two-Way contract with the Pacers. Indiana also brought back forward Brian Bowen II on a Two-Way Contract.
Guard Naz Mitrou-Long, center Amida Brimah and forward Rayshaun Hammonds were all brought in on non-guaranteed, Exhibit 10 Contracts.
What should be expected of the Pacers this season?
With a new coaching staff to adjust to and key players returning from injury, Indiana looks primed to take another step forward. The Pacers finished No. 4 in the Eastern Conference last season and should aim to keep that spot. There have been some significant changes in the Eastern Conference this offseason, and if the Pacers can keep that spot, they are in the running for a potential Eastern Conference Finals trip, or further.
It may seem overly optimistic to state that the Pacers could make the Eastern Conference Finals or the NBA Finals. Domantas Sabonis was a first time NBA All-Star last year and is looking to repeat his all-star berth. If Victor Oladipo can return to his all-star self, along with strong contributions from the starters and bench, the sky is the limit. If the team can stay healthy and flourish under Bjorkgren’s leadership, there is potential for anything.