8 best free agent signings in franchise history, ranked

The Indiana Pacers are not exactly a prime free agency destination for the top free agents in the NBA. But this offseason, the Pacers did land a sought-after free agent in Bruce Brown, who became a key piece for the 2023 NBA Champion Denver Nuggets this past season. Brown isn’t a star by any means of the imagination, but his arrival in Indiana is certainly going to help this team make a jump in the Eastern Conference, especially after the Pacers secured their franchise star for the future by signing Tyrese Haliburton to a maximum contract extension.

Indiana doesn’t necessarily land the best free agents available. Throughout its history, the organization has signed underrated guys like Brown who can provide much-needed support for their established stars. With that said, let’s go back into the archives and check out the best free agent signings in Indiana Pacers history.

8. T.J McConnell

T.J. McConnell is a prime example of underrated talent that Indiana landed. McConnell is the very definition of a role player. The Pacers signed the point guard to a two-year, $7 million deal back in 2019 and has remained with the franchise since. The 31-year-old has been a key reserve and steady floor general for Indiana over the past four seasons. He should continue to be a vital piece for this franchise as they look to make the postseason next season with Tyrese Haliburton leading the way.

McConnell’s hustle and energy, especially on the defensive end, have made him a fan favorite in Indianapolis. In four years with the Pacers so far, McConnell is averaging 8.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 5.5 assists while shooting an efficient 53.3 percent from the field.

7. Monta Ellis

The Pacers seemed to have landed a big piece when Monta Ellis signed with the team in the 2015 offseason. The dynamic combo guard was already an established 20-point scorer in the NBA. He would have been a perfect complementary piece next to franchise star Paul George.

Unfortunately, Ellis didn’t find the same individual productivity he had in his previous stints before coming to Indiana during the 2015-16 season. His scoring average went down from 18.9 points per game to 13.8 points per game, his lowest output since his rookie season. His productivity further declined the following season, where he was relegated to a bench role and averaged just 8.5 points.

The 2016-17 season ended up being the final year of Ellis’ NBA career. While he did not have the best of stints with the Pacers, he was still a pretty established star that chose to come to Indy.

6. Darren Collison

Darren Collison is another player who endeared himself to Pacers fans. In 2017, the 6-foot guard signed and returned for his second stint in Indiana. Collison became a journeyman and in three other franchises (Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings) since his first go-round in Indiana from 2010 to 2012.

The UCLA standout returned as a more polished playmaker and helped the Pacers win 48 games in the 2017-18 regular season. On the campaign, Collison averaged 12.4 points and 5.3 assists and shot a league-leading 46.8 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

The following season, he once again helped Indiana win 48 games and make the postseason. He started in all 82 regular season games and turned in averages of 11.2 points and 6.0 assists, while still shooting a solid 40.7 percent from long distance.

Unfortunately, those wound up being the final years of Collison’s career. Instead of signing a new NBA contract, the NBA guard reportedly retired due to religious reasons. He did attempt to make an NBA comeback in 2021 and signed a 10-day deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. Ultimately, he never really made it back to the league.

5. C.J. Miles

C.J. Miles is another one of those underrated signings who thrived as a Pacer. Miles was also the quintessential role player and he had one specialization — three-point shooting. The left-handed shooter arrived in Indiana during the summer of 2014 as a 27-year-old veteran who already had nine years of NBA experience under his belt.

In his first year as a Pacer, Miles scored a career-best 13.5 points in 70 appearances (40 starts). He was the second leading scorer behind George Hill as Paul George sat out most of the season due to that infamous broken leg he suffered while representing Team USA in the lead up to the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Miles remained a key bench piece for Indiana the following two seasons, where he still averaged double-figures. In the 2016-17 season, he shot a career-best 41.6 percent from beyond the arc, which was the lone season of his career that he shot over 40 percent from three. Miles’ Pacers stint wound up being the best years of his career production-wise. In 210 games, he averaged 12.0 points on 41.2 percent field goal shooting and 37.4 percent three-point shooting.

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Another solid role player for a contending team, Malcolm Brogdon is a player who moved to Indiana and had his most productive years there. Well, so far. Brogdon entered Indy as an already established contributor to a championship-aspirant like the Milwaukee Bucks. He instantly became the lead guard of a Pacers team that was still in the thick of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. Brogdon helped Indiana make the 2020 NBA Playoffs on averages of 16.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and a career-best 7.1 assists during the regular season.

He was even much better the year after as he emerged as the Pacers’ leading scorer with an average of 21.2 points per game 45.3 percent shooting and 38.8 percent three-point shooting. Unfortunately, Indiana missed the postseason that year.

Brogdon’s main concern, however, was his inability to stay on the floor. He played just 110 games in the two aforementioned campaigns and just 36 games during the 2021-22 season, which ended up becoming his last year in Indy.

Nonetheless, Brogdon was still a pretty big free agent when he signed in Indiana. The 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year may not be a big name, but much like every player on this list, he is still a solid contributing piece who can help win games for teams.

3. Bruce Brown

This may seem way too premature to put Bruce Brown this high on this list. But with how the Pacers are trending right now, Brown might just end up as one of the savviest signings the Pacers have made. Indiana looks poised to make the jump into playoff contention with Tyrese Haliburton leading the way and Rick Carlisle manning the sidelines. Brown is the perfect complementary piece to plug into this Pacers squad that needs an injection of energy and hustle.

Brown brought exactly those two attributes to the table as a member of the 2023 Denver Nuggets championship team. During the regular season, the 6-foot-4 wing averaged 11.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.4 assists, while shooting 48.3 percent from the field. The 27-year-old was just as steady and more efficient in the postseason, where he shot 51.1 percent from the field and averaged 12.0 points and 4.0 rebounds.

Brown looks poised to have a breakout campaign as he figures to assume a starting role for Rick Carlisle’s team. He should average a career-best in multiple statistical categories this upcoming 2023-24 season.

After spending the first four years of his career as a solid role player for the Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards, Bojan Bogdanovic turned into one of the most reliable scoring stretch-fours in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers signed Bogdanovic to a two-year, $21 million deal in the 2017 offseason after the Wizards gave up his rights in free agency.

Bogdanovic averaged a then-career best 14.3 points in his debut campaign for the Pacers. But it didn’t take long for him to break that as he averaged a career-high 18.0 points per game in 81 starts. He also shot 49.7 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from beyond the arc, which, to this day, remains as the most efficient shooting campaigns of his career.

The 6-foot-7 forward only played a couple of seasons with the Pacers, but it was in Indiana where he established himself as an efficient and consistent scoring threat in the NBA.

David West is undoubtedly the greatest signing the Indiana Pacers ever made. In fact, he is the only All-Star player on this list. West already established himself as an All-Star big man and a nightly 20-point scorer when he played with the then-New Orleans Hornets. So, Indiana getting him was certainly a big deal.

The power forward’s production dropped in his first year with the Pacers during the 2011-12 lockout season, but he did play the full 66-game slate with averages of 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds. His numbers did go up in the postseason, where he averaged 15.3 points and 8.0 rebounds. In the playoffs, provided some much-needed veteran toughness to a squad that was led by a young, up-and-coming star in Paul George. Indiana had a grueling six-game second round series with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat, which gave birth to one of the better rivalries in that decade.

The following season, West’s regular season numbers jumped to 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds. The Pacers won 49 games and finished as the fourth seed in the East. They ended up going to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they took the defending NBA champion Miami Heat to the brink. West was once again a key force in that series as his toughness and physicality inside the paint helped make the Pacers-Heat matchup must-watch basketball. In that grueling series, West averaged 16.6 points and 8.9 rebounds. Unfortunately, Indiana came up short and bowed down to Miami’s Big Three in Game 7.

West wound up playing two more seasons in Indy, but his production and fell gradually. Those PG-led Pacers didn’t win a championship, but that team was fun to watch due to their physicality and chemistry on the floor.

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