The Indiana Pacers have had an extremely surprising 2017-18 NBA season. It has been a year that fans certainly didn’t expect, and the media expected even less than the fans did. Following the Paul George trade, the national media gave the Pacers no chance to make a run to the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Nate McMillan and company have proven the media wrong. They are currently the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. and the future couldn’t look brighter.
Kevin Pritchard took over the general manager position for the Pacers this past offseason. Unfortunately, the first move that he was forced to make was to trade Paul George. He pulled the trigger on a trade that sent George to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, which many thought was a measly return for the talent that George possesses.
Despite all of the national hate for the move, Indiana has made out nicely. Oladipo became an All-Star this season and will likely win the Most Improved award this season, while Sabonis has developed nicely this season and is looking like a long-term piece for the franchise.
Looking ahead to the upcoming offseason, the Pacers could have major cap room to work with. Pritchard has been known to be aggressive when it comes to building a contender and that likely won’t change this offseason if the Pacers can find a piece or two that they think fits their current core.
All of that being said, which free agents could be potential targets for the Pacers this coming offseason?
Perhaps the most obvious potential target for the Pacers is Aaron Gordon, who Sean Deveney of Sporting News has already mentioned as a likely target for Indiana. Gordon has had a nice season for the Orlando Magic, averaging 17.9 points per game to go along with 8.1 rebounds. Gordon could slide in as the starting power forward if Thaddeus Young opts out of his contract, or he could be the Pacers’ starting small forward.
Gordon is one of the most athletic talents in the NBA and would be a huge pickup for Indiana. He is a restricted free agent, however, which will give the Magic the opportunity to match any offer sheet that Gordon signs in free agency.
Another intriguing fit for the Pacers would be Los Angeles Lakers’ forward Julius Randle. There is a chance that the Lakers will try to keep him, but many think that he could walk in free agency due to the Lakers’ desire to create more cap space to pursue stars. Randle has come into his own this season in L.A. and would be a perfect fit at power forward for the Pacers long-term.
Randle has averaged 16.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. He has improved on the defensive end of the floor as well and has received some comparisons to Draymond Green due to his ability to impact the game in so many areas. While he won’t come cheap, the Pacers could have interest in a player with his talent.
Just like Gordon, Isaiah Thomas has been talked about as a potential fit for the Pacers this offseason. Some don’t like the fit, as Thomas has had major hip issues over the past couple years and his defense leaves a lot to be desired. Others see a potential offensive boost who is capable of being a lethal playmaker for his teammates.
Thomas may not be the best fit for the Pacers this offseason. Darren Collison has come on strong as the starting point guard in Indiana and has proven himself worthy of the starting job. If the Pacers were to bring in Thomas, that would likely signal the end of Collison in Indiana, which might not be in the team’s best interest.
Will Barton is without question the most intriguing player on this list. He has had a big year for the Denver Nuggets and is set to test free agency for the first time since making a name for himself in the NBA. Barton has averaged 15.3 points per game to go along with 5.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists and has shot 44.8 percent from the field overall and 36.3 percent from the three-point line.
Indiana may retain Bojan Bogdanovic next season, but even if they don’t, Barton is an ideal replacement. He is a good defender and while he may not shoot the three like Bogdanovic, he can still score at a high level. Barton will have a lot of interest in free agency, and the Pacers could very well be one of those teams.