Indiana Pacers: The future is bright with Tyrese Haliburton

NBA Indiana Pacers Tyrese Haliburton (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)
NBA Indiana Pacers Tyrese Haliburton (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports) /

The future is bright for the Indiana Pacers because of Tyrese Haliburton. 

The Indiana Pacers currently own the fifth-worst record in the NBA. They are bound to finish the season with the franchise’s worst record since the 1988-89 season. Pacers legend Reggie Miller was in his second season that year and Indiana won 28 games as opposed to 54 losses.

With just three games left in the regular season — two against the Philadelphia 76ers and one against the Brooklyn Nets — and a record of 25-54, Indiana could very well finish worse than that 1988-89 team.

However, fans and media members alike saw this coming. Through their first 25 games, Indiana went 9-16. Their season rapidly fell into the abyss, forcing the front office to make substantial changes to the roster after years of preaching continuity despite a lack of definitive success.

Near the trade deadline, Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan and his staff decided to trade away the franchise’s star player and former two-time All-Star: Domantas Sabonis.

The deal itself was a hefty one as the Pacers shipped Sabonis, Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, and Tristian Thompson.

Nearly two months later, it’s looking like the Pacers got away with highway robbery with how good Tyrese Haliburton has played in the Blue and Gold.

Per StatMuse, Haliburton has averaged 17.3 points, 9.8 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.9 steals per game on 49.1 percent shooting from the field and 40.9 percent from 3.

The second-year pro also recently became the first player ever to have multiple games of 15 assists and 0 turnovers before turning 23 years old in NBA history.

Beyond the numbers though, Haliburton has given the franchise a lot more clarity and the fans real hope about the Pacers’ future. He profiles as the perfect modern point guard who can be the cornerstone of the franchise for a decade-plus.

He’s the type of player that’s easy to build. He’s cut from a rare cloth. He’s truly the type of player that makes everyone around him better.

Don’t believe me? Watch these highlights from Indiana’s game back in February against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

His unselfish style (always looking to dish it off to his teammates), the way he moves without the basketball, his constant communication, and his ability to rarely look frustrated or angry at his teammates all combine to make the type of guy players want to play with and be around.

Just look at how Buddy Hield, also acquired in that Sabonis deal, has played since joining the Pacers.

The former Oklahoma Sooner has looked rejuvenated, upping his numbers to 18.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.9 assists in 23 games as a Pacer as opposed to his 14.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game as a King earlier this season.

This Pacers team may be losing a ton, but they have a similar feel to the Memphis Grizzlies that went from having the second-worst record in the league back in the 2017-18 season to now owning the second-best record in the league and being legitimate title contenders.

The similarities are that the Pacers have a ton of young, promising players in Haliburton, Chris Duarte, Oshae Brissett, Jalen Smith, Terry Taylor, and Isaiah Jackson who all enjoy playing together just like Memphis has in Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr, Dillion Brooks, Desmond Bane, and company.

Indiana also owns a ton of valuable assets in Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, T.J. Warren, and Malcolm Brogdon which the front office could decide to keep or use to get draft picks and players better suited for the team. Similar to what Memphis did in Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Jonas Valanciunas, Jae Crowder, JaMychal Green, Avery Bradley, and Andre Iguodala.

The one and most important thing Indiana needs to do in order to be the next young and upcoming team in the NBA is to hit in the draft. That’s the one thing Memphis has done better than any other franchise over the past three to four years. If Indiana wants to get to where the Grizzlies are now, they can’t afford to miss on draft picks, especially as a small-market franchise.

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It’ll be interesting to see what Indiana does in the offseason. Three to four years from now we may all look back at the Sabonis deal and realize that was the start of something special in Indiana as it nested them Tyrese Haliburton.