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Fantasy Basketball Breakouts, Busts, and Locks - Indiana Pacers

Welcome back to the second annual fantasy basketball exercise in which RotoBaller dissects each NBA team's breakouts, busts, and locks. As the fantasy basketball season demands extreme detail and attention, taking the time to identify game-breakers and game-changers in the NBA makes the difference between winning or losing your league. Thankfully, RotoBaller is here to help in that regard.

Today, the Indiana Pacers dominate the scope. Coming off a 35-47 season, finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers seek playoff positioning moving forward. With Buddy Hield on the trading block, the young talent on the roster lick their chops waiting for the opportunity to play. Playoff appearance or not, rich in fantasy hopefuls, the Pacers make for an exciting field of talent.

Below are the breakout, bust, and lock picks for the 2023-2024 Pacers.

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Indiana Pacers Fantasy Breakout - Bruce Brown

"With great power comes great responsibility."

On the heels of one of the best championship runs by a role player, Bruce Brown received a significant pay raise from the Pacers in NBA free agency. The Pacers want to win, as they haven't made the postseason since 2020. Given the lucrative opportunity, usage will increase, making Brown a prime breakout for fantasy basketball.

During the Denver Nugget's magical championship campaign, Brown did more with less, invoking school teachers in the states to reenact the Leonardo Dicaprio meme where he points at the television. On a mere 18.4 usage rate, Brown produced 23 fantasy points per contest in 20 playoff games. Unlike in Denver, Brown will likely crack the starting lineup for Indiana.

Although Nikola Jokic isn't coming through that door, Pacers franchise player Tyrese Haliburton comes as a blast from the past regarding pure point guard play. Brown doesn't need the ball in his hand to produce, and like his former Siberian teammate, Haliburton loves to dish the rock.

While Brown doesn't suffer from the three-point line as he did early in his career, expecting the former Miami Hurricane to light it up would make for a silly assumption. However, as Jokic's one-time whiskey-drinking partner, you have to be resilient. Brown is as tough as they come, evident in his constant drives to the basket. Remarkably, 54 percent of Brown's offense stems from points scored in the paint. Like a blue-collar worker equipped with callus-riddled hands, Brown puts on his helmet and gets to work, not worrying about collateral damage, earning free throw reps.

Not spoken of enough, historically, Rick Carlisle gets maximum production from role players. The 2011 NBA championship coach showcased in Dallas his knack for knowing where in the basketball hierarchy to slot players. Although not an All-Star, Brown carries the swagger of one and, more importantly, has the defensive intensity Carlisle appreciates. Brown's scoring average won't ascend to All-Star levels. Still, he will get the looks playing alongside Haliburton, and the self-instilled do-or-die approach to basketball accumulates numerous counting stats.


Indiana Pacers Fantasy Bust - Jordan Nwora

Admittedly, the bust candidate in this exercise doesn't fall on the player. Scoring 13 points per contest in 11 games as a Pacer last season, Jordan Nwora appears as a breakout candidate. However, in light of Indiana's numerous moves in the offseason, Nwora's scoring is bound to decline for the coming season.

Nwora, although not a bust in the general sense, will drastically fall on the team's totem pole of importance, leading to a significant drop in production from a fantasy standpoint. Perhaps he'll have a heat-check performance where he explodes for 30 points, but frankly, such a scenario will occur as frequently as a game in which Kawhi Leonard and Paul George play together.

Even in the deepest of leagues, Nwora shouldn't be touched. Consider Nwora's last season's scoring average a product of a team without a true identity. The Pacers won't need the services of Nwora, leading to a role void of fantasy relevance.


Indiana Pacers Fantasy Lock - Tyrese Haliburton

Haliburton is both a fantasy and advanced stats darling. It's a no-brainer slotting as the fantasy lock for the Pacers. One of the few last legitimate pass-first point guards in the league, Haliburton proved as much, leading the league in assists percentage last season. Furthermore, the 2023 FIBA backup point guard dished dimes efficiently, evident in his finishing fifth in assists to turnover ratio.

While he's still budding as an NBA star, Haliburton is already an impactful fantasy player. Last season he provided a compelling case as an elite fantasy selection. Averaging 44.5 fantasy points per contest, the former Sacramento Kings guard finished 19th in the league, right below Trae Young. In his forthcoming fourth season, anticipate a leap in production on many fronts.

Primed for an All-NBA campaign, don't allow his sleeper status from a league-wide standpoint to fool you into not taking Haliburton when available. Being that he's not a flashy fantasy player to the casual fan, you will likely get Haliburton as a value mid-round - making Haliburton one of the more valuable selections in any fantasy league. Expect Haliburton to lead the Pacers in nearly every statistical category. It will be that great of a season from the one-time All-Star.

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