NBA

Pacers eliminated from playoffs: Pascal Siakam’s free agency a key offseason storyline in Indiana

The Pacers’ unexpected run to the 2024 Eastern Conference Finals has ended unceremoniously. Indiana, which was back in the conference finals for the first time since 2014, was swept by the 1-seed Celtics.

While the Pacers squandered multiple opportunities that would have prevented a sweep, the franchise is ahead of schedule on its path to becoming a perennial contender. The run is even more impressive considering rising star Bennedict Mathurin missed the entire postseason, and All-NBA guard Tyrese Haliburton’s conference finals ended early due to his troublesome left hamstring.

Indiana’s 2023-24 season was highlighted by Haliburton’s leap and the payoff of the calculated risk to acquire impending free agent Pascal Siakam via trade. The Pacers also enjoyed breakouts from Andrew Nembhard and Aaron Nesmith, both of whom appear to be key parts of what the franchise is building for the future.

The past two Eastern Conference Finals runners-up (Heat, Celtics) returned one season later to advance to the Finals. Here’s what lies ahead for the Pacers, who will look to be the third.

MORE: Final results for 2024 All-NBA First, Second and Third Teams

Key storyline: Pascal Siakam’s future in Indiana

Pascal Siakam

Ahead of this year’s trade deadline, the Pacers made a major move to acquire Siakam from the Raptors.

The risk involved with the deal is tied to Siakam’s impending free agency. While Siakam turned 30 near the end of the regular season, he performed at an All-Star level during Indiana’s postseason run and is a key part of the franchise’s vision for the coming years.

Indiana inherited Siakam’s Bird Rights with the trade and can offer him a five-year deal worth roughly 30 percent of the 2024-25 salary cap ($42.3 million based on projections). For that reason, the Pacers have a leg up on other teams that could try to strike a deal for Siakam.

In January, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported, “Siakam is excited about the deal to the Pacers and expected to be eager to work out a new contract with the franchise this summer.”

Siakam did not sign a contract extension to get the highest possible payday last offseason. The Pistons, 76ers, and Magic are among the teams projected to have plenty of cap space and could give Siakam’s representation a call when free agency opens.

So, what does this mean?

As evidenced by the team’s success while learning on the fly, Siakam is the type of player who can allow Indiana to compete with the best of the teams in the East. A trio of Siakam, Haliburton, and Mathurin is a solid core worth building around.

In addition to Siakam’s future, Obi Toppin’s restricted free agency will be a major storyline, as he could command a nice payday on the open market. With Siakam seeking a big deal, Haliburton’s contract extension kicking in, and Myles Turner approaching free agency in 2025, the Pacers will need to make some important financial decisions.

It all begins with Siakam.

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Pacers upcoming free agents

The Pacers have nine players that will make free agency decisions this offseason. No questions loom larger than those around Siakam and Toppin, two key members of Indiana’s rotation.

Indiana acquired Siakam and Toppin in separate trades under the belief that each player could play a key role in the team’s future. Toppin’s status as a restricted free agent adds intrigue to his market value.

Unrestricted Restricted Player option Team option
Kendall Brown Quenton Jackson* Jalen Smith  
James Johnson Obi Toppin    
Doug McDermott Oscar Tshiebwe*    
Pascal Siakam Isaiah Wong*    

*Two-way contracts

Pacers future salaries, roster

Haliburton is entering the first year of a five-year maximum contract he signed in 2023. After earning an All-NBA Third Team selection, the 24-year-old will earn north of $42 million next season and is under contract through at least 2029.

In addition to Haliburton, Indiana’s young core of Mathurin, Nembhard, Nesmith, Ben Sheppard, and Jarace Walker are under contract beyond the 2024-25 season.

The biggest question is around Turner, who is currently set to enter free agency in 2025. The longest-tenured Pacer, Turner has continued ton

Player 2024-25 2025-26 2026-27 2027-28 2028-29 2029-30
Tyrese Haliburton $42.3 million $45.7 million $49.1 million $52.5 million $55.8 million UFA
Myles Turner $19.9 million UFA        
Aaron Nesmith $11.0 million $11.0 million $11.0 million UFA    
T.J. McConnell $9.3 million (NG) UFA        
Bennedict Mathurin $7.2 million $9.2 million (TO) RFA      
Jarace Walker $6.4 million $6.7 million (TO) $8.5 million (TO) RFA    
Jalen Smith $5.4 million (PO) UFA        
Isaiah Jackson $4.4 million RFA        
Ben Sheppard $2.7 million $2.8 million (TO) $5.0 million (TO) RFA    
Kendall Brown $2.1 million (NG) $2.3 million (TO)        
Andrew Nembhard $2.0 million $2.2 million (TO) UFA      

PO = Player option

TO = Team option

NG = Non-guaranteed

UFA = Unrestricted free agent

RFA = Restricted free agent

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Pacers 2024 NBA Draft picks

The Pacers own picks 36, 49, and 50 in the 2024 NBA Draft.

Indiana does not own a first-round pick in 2024 as part of its deal to acquire Siakam from Toronto. The Pacers own second-round picks from the Raptors, Cavaliers, and Pelicans. Despite not having a pick in the first round, Indiana’s recent selection of Nembhard is a reminder of the value present in the second round.

In his most recent two-round mock draft, The Sporting News’ Kyle Irving has the Pacers selecting guard Trey Alexander in addition to forwards Tyon Grant-Foster and Cam Spencer.

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