The Indiana Pacers have been one of the most consistent franchises in NBA and ABA history.
Currently, the Pacers are one of the deepest and best defensive teams in the NBA. The Pacers have their own mini big three: Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, and Domantas Sabonis. Had Sabonis been healthy, the Pacers could have possibly won round 1 of the 2020 NBA playoffs against a strong Miami Heat team. In July 2019, the Milwaukee Bucks traded Brogdon to the Pacers for a first-round pick and 2 second-round picks.
The supporting cast of the Pacers is superb, with players like T.J. Warren, Myles Turner, Aaron Holiday, and Justin Holiday. The Pacers do still have room for growth and own 6 of their first-round picks in the next 7 NBA drafts. Warren was acquired by the Pacers in a 3-team deal and averaged 19.8 points per game in the 2019-20 season. Brogdon averaged 19.3 points and 8.2 assists per 36 minutes for the Pacers during the regular season.
In their 53 active ABA-NBA seasons, the franchise has made 36 playoff appearances. The Pacers were one of the most successful ABA franchises before joining the NBA in 1976. However, the franchise has only made 1 NBA final appearance, losing to the Lakers in six games in 2000. In the Pacers 44 NBA seasons, they have made the playoffs 27 times. During that time they have made 8 Eastern Conference Final appearances. Few NBA franchises can match the Pacers’ success in the NBA playoffs.
The Pacers’ time in the ABA is a major part of the franchise’s history. 8 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Players have played for the Pacers, and 4 of those 8 played in the ABA as well. In the ABA, the Pacers made 5 final and 7 divisional finals appearances.
Mel Daniels’s play was legendary for the Pacers and ABA. Drafted by both the ABA and the NBA, Daniels opted to play in the ABA, and in just his second year for the Pacers, Daniels averaged 22.4 points and 15.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. In his 8 ABA seasons, he managed to win 2 MVPs and 3 ABA championships. Despite being only 6’9, he led the ABA for three seasons in rebounds per game. Undoubtedly, Daniels was a big influencer on the success and culture of the ABA.
Reggie Miller is the Pacers all-time leader in points and minutes played. Miller averaged 20.2 points per 36 minutes for his playoff career with the Pacers. Miller led the Pacers during some of the franchise’s most successful seasons and playoff runs, including leading the Pacers to 6 Eastern Conference Finals appearances and NBA finals appearances. Miller had a long career with the Pacers and is 13th All-time in the number of regular-season games played. He is also in the top 50 in most career playoff games and 6th all-time in NBA career three-point made in the playoffs. For his playoff career, Miller averaged 5.6 three-point attempts per game, in an era where teams shot considerably fewer threes than now.
The 1999-20 Indiana Pacers are considered by many to be the best NBA team in the franchise’s history. The 1999-20 Pacers featured a litany of talented players, including Miller, Sam Perkins, Mark Jackson, Jalen Rose, and Chris Mullin. The Pacers managed to make the 2000 NBA finals and had the highest offensive rating in the NBA that season. The combination of Reggie Miller and head coach Larry Bird is something Pacer fans will always remember.
Larry Legend was an iconic figure in Indiana Pacer’s history. Bird became head coach of the Pacers in 1997 and had astonishing success with the Pacers during his tenure. The Pacers made the Eastern Conference Finals in all three seasons that Bird was on the sidelines coaching, and he coached the Pacers to their only NBA final appearance.
Bird would later serve as President of Basketball Operations for the Pacers franchise and help continue its success. He was with the Pacers when they drafted future All-Star Paul George and when they made the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals. With the Pacers, Bird was named NBA Coach of the Year and NBA Executive of the Year.