The Indiana Pacers are redefining what's possible for NBA offenses

The Indiana Pacers are on pace to make history as one of the greatest offenses ever.

Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks: Semifinals - 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament
Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks: Semifinals - 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

Taking a deeper look into one of the best offenses in NBA history, thanks to the upstart Indiana Pacers.

Just last season, the Sacramento Kings set the record for the highest offensive rating (ORTG) in NBA history (119.4). We are now 20 games into this year and the Indiana Pacers are blowing that number out of the water (123.3).

It’s hard to say whether the Pacers will sustain this neck-breaking production, but if they can they will enter the conversation of the greatest offensive team we’ve ever seen.

To put into perspective how historic this offense has been, understand that the greatest offenses in NBA history typically have an ORTG that is significantly higher than the league average ORTG of that particular season.

Magic Johnson’s showtime Lakers had several offenses that were at six points better than the league average (+6). The 2017 Warriors were a +6.8 and the 2016 Warriors were a +8.1. The iconic 2005 “seven seconds or less” Phoenix Suns were a +8.4 and the 2004 Dallas Mavericks have the highest relative offensive rating (rORTG) in NBA history with a +9.2.

The 2023-24 Indiana Pacers through 20 games are a +8.9, meaning if the season ended today they would be the second-best regular season offense in NBA history by this metric.

Last year’s Kings took the league by storm with their lightning-quick pace and constant motion that empowered their movement shooters to make plays out of dribble handoff actions.

This Indiana Pacers team is redefining what is possible for NBA offenses. The Pacers make last year's Kings offense look like slow motion with their insane potent transition game.

The Pacers waste no time getting the ball upcourt as they look to catch their opponents not matched up. On this play, Jrue Holiday and Dalano Blanton both pick up Haliburton in transition which leaves Buddy Hield open for a deep three from thirty feet.

The Pacers are fifth in threes attempted per game and their head coach Rick Carlisle encourages everyone to attempt threes if they have even the slightest bit of space. This makes Indiana’s transition offense so dangerous because even getting matched up at the three-point line is not enough. 

The "not-so-secret" secret about being an effective transition offense is playing fast. Teams like Golden State and Sacramento have made a living feasting on unsuspecting defense.

Watching Indiana this season, their offensive rating is number one after they get a stop on defense. If another player hits the ground attempting a layup, you can guarantee Indiana is going to take advantage and score on the other end.

Their game against Philadelphia a few weeks ago was a great example of this. Buddy Hield inbounds the ball to Haliburton, who gives it back to him when he notices De'Anthony Melton isn't matched up. Hield gets the shot up in only three seconds and it's a bucket.

If teams crash the glass too hard, one rebound by Myles Turner is all Indiana needs to score two points on the other end.

In last week's game against the Miami Heat, Orlando Robinson hit the deck on his layup attempt and Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry tried to get a steal on Myles Turner. Indiana got the defensive rebound and had already leaked out, scoring in four seconds as the ball never touched the ground.

In the halfcourt, the Pacers are also number one. Tyrese Haliburton's efficiency and decision making is what makes this offense so dangerous. He doesn't take too many risks with his passes (which explains the low turnover rate) but he has incredible court vision.

His connection with Myles Turner in the pick-and-pop has gotten much better since last season. The vertical camera angle best captures this dynamic.

Jrue Holiday goes under the Turner screen in order to keep up with Haliburton. Al Horford is in drop coverage and Turner flashes to the three-point line, which means he's left open for just a second, which is all the time he needs.

This pick-and-roll action is so dangerous because if teams decide to switch the action, the Pacers will slow it down and hunt the mismatch.

Boston is a team that likes to switch a lot. Bruce Brown snakes the pick and roll until Derrick White is switched onto the bigger Myles Turner. Brown waits for Turner to get low post position and dumps it inside to him for an easy two points.

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The versatility, speed, and efficiency of this offense are what makes them so dangerous and effective. Led by one of the most dynamic guards in the league and one of the most brilliant offensive coaches in the league, the Pacers have raised the bar for what we thought was possible for NBA offense.