Every year, the NBA surveys each of its team's general managers on a wide variety of topics, most of which relate to which players or rosters are the best entering a new season.
This year's GM survey, written by John Schuhmann, features 50 questions and ranges in topics from "Which team will win the 2023 NBA Finals?" to "What rule most needs to change?" Because there are so many unique topics, each team is represented in some manner as a response to some of the survey questions.
The Indiana Pacers are no exception. The team was listed as a survey response on six different questions, with three different players and head coach Rick Carlisle all receiving praise in various ways.
Face of the franchise Tyrese Haliburton was the first Pacer named. General managers were asked to name players who they felt were likely to have a breakout season in 2022-23, and Haliburton was named in the survey.
Several oddsmakers place Haliburton near the top of the list of the most likely players to win the Most Improved Player award this coming season, and these results from GMs reflect that. The 22-year old guard will have the ball in his hands often and will be tasked with being a leader for the blue and gold this season, so a big campaign could be coming for Haliburton in year three.
If the former Iowa State Cyclone can find the right balance of shooting and passing to maximize his increase in touches, he could become the sixth player in Pacers history to win the Most Improved Player trophy. That would certainly make him a breakout player should it occur.
Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin was named in response to two different questions in the survey. The 2022 sixth overall pick was the highest draft pick for Indiana as a franchise in over three decades, and he received praise from GMs.
One of the questions asked front office executives to look five years into the future and wonder which rookie will be the best player at that time. Mathurin received votes in response to the prompt.
Given that the Arizona product was selected sixth overall in the most recent draft, it is noteworthy that at least one decision maker views the guard as having the highest potential in his draft class. The Pacers will certainly hope that is the case, though Josh Jackson was the player who received the most votes in response to this question five years ago. Sometimes, scouts and GMs are wrong.
The other survey question in which Mathurin received praise was related to his draft slot —the Pacers guard received votes when general managers were choosing who they viewed was the steal of the draft compared to their pick number. Mathurin was taken sixth overall, meaning one executive is high enough on the 20-year old to think that he should have been a top-five pick — or higher.
Mathurin has yet to play in a game for the blue and gold, but he was great for the team in summer league. He averaged 19.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per game across three games and was named to the NBA 2K23 All-Summer League First Team. Indiana will hope that success carries into his entire pro career.
The final Pacer to be named as an answer to one of the survey questions was backup guard T.J. McConnell. McConnell, a 30-year old veteran who is entering his fourth season with the team in the Circle City, was identified as one of the active players who could make the best head coach in the future.
McConnell's father is a basketball coach in Pennsylvania, and the two have worked together often. If genetics has anything to say, the Pacers guard will be a fine coach someday.
Last season, after T.J. McConnell suffered a broken wrist that sidelined him for months, he acted as a coach during many Pacers practices. Many within the organization found him helpful in that setting, and if McConnell ever does become a coach, that experience could prove to be valuable.
Speaking of coaching, Indiana's head coach, Rick Carlise, was also named in multiple survey questions. The first one asked general managers to name the coach that makes the best in-game adjustments, and Carlisle received a few votes.
Carlisle has earned a reputation for his skills as an in-game tactician dating back to his time guiding the Dallas Mavericks. He will often whip out a unique lineup or new set at just the right time to tip the balance of a game, and it helped the Pacers at times last season. Indiana is deep this year with players who could be worthy of playing time, so Carlisle could turn to this skill frequently.
The other ability that Carlisle received praise for was his offense — he received votes from GMs who were asked which coach executes the best offense.
The Pacers struggled last season and had a lack of talent compared to other teams. On top of that, they made numerous midseason trades and altered their identity throughout the season. Even with all of those challenges, Carlisle's team finished with essentially a league average offense in 2021-22. With more stability and a full offseason together, it wouldn't be surprising if Indiana finished near the top-10 in offensive rating this coming season.
No general managers projected that the Pacers would be a playoff team in 2022-23, which is unsurprising. The team is entering a rebuild, and the coming campaign is more about development than wins and losses.
Indiana begins their season with preseason play tomorrow in Charlotte. It will be Mathurin's first chance to prove that he deserved to be drafted higher and Haliburton's first chance to show what a breakout campaign might look like.
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