Pacers Pascal Siakam, Obi Toppin on what’s next with free agency looming (2024)

Dustin DopirakIndianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS -- Pascal Siakam and Obi Toppin both spoke at length about what this season meant to them and how much they enjoyed joining the Pacers for a surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals, which ended Monday night with a 105-102 loss to the Celtics that completed a four-game sweep.

However, each are coming to the ends of their contracts and there are money matters to attend to. Neither was willing to discuss after the game whether they intend to or expect to re-sign with the Pacers when the league calendar flips at the end of June and their deals officially expire.

Re-signing Siakam would appear to be the Pacers' most important summer priority. He was acquired in mid-January from the Raptors for veteran guard Bruce Brown, forward Jordan Nwora and three first-round picks -- two in 2024 and one in 2026, so the Pacers have already given up potentially important future assets in hopes of keeping him in the fold.

Siakam certainly brought a return on investment this season. In 41 regular season games with the Pacers, he led the team with 21.3 points per game on 54.9% shooting including 38.6% 3-point shooting as well as 7.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He was also the team's leading scorer in the playoffs with 21.6 points per game on 54.1% shooting to go with 7.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

Siakam, a native of Cameroon, gave emotional answers in his post-game press conference about how well he was treated by the Pacers and how important that was after he was dealt from Toronto, the only franchise he had played for in his first seven-plus professional seasons. He spent time in the G-League as a rookie, won NBA's Most Improved Player

"The support from the first day has been incredible," Siakam said. "I couldn't really ask for anything better in terms of support from the first day I got here. I could literally name everyone. ... Just so much love and support. Coming from where I came from, I've sacrificed so much in a place. After you have that kind of break up, it's hard. It's tough. Then when you come into here, I think without that support, I don't know how I would do it. I'm so grateful and happy I came to a place where I felt so supported and you feel like you're needed and you matter. As a player, that's all you can ask for. I'm blessed to be able to be here and have the season we had."

Still, the Pacers and Siakam have to reach an agreement and keeping him will cost them a lot of money. Siakam is a two-time All-NBA pick and the contract that is expiring is a four-year deal worth $136.9 million. The Pacers inherit his Larry Bird rights and can offer him a five-year deal worth up to 30% of the salary cap, which could run around $42.3 million per year. The Pacers are already paying All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton 30% of the salary cap thanks to the max contract extension he signed last season and the All-NBA honor he earned last week that maximizes the deal.

"Obviously I'm not going to talk about all that," Siakam said. "All I can say is that it's been a blessing. I'm really appreciative of everything. From where I come from, it means a lot."

Toppin was acquired by the Pacers from the Knicks in a trade on July 1, costing the Pacers two second-round picks. They were in desperate need of a power forward at the time and he took on the starting role until about Christmas when he was moved to the bench as the Pacers focused more on defense.

But Toppin's skill as a rim-runner and finisher in transition was critical in turning the Pacers into the NBA's top-scoring team and it's second-most efficient offense. He averaged a career-high 10.3 points per game on 57.3% shooting, making 70.6% of his two-point shots and 40.3% of his 3s for a remarkable .661 effective field goal percentage. In the playoffs he scored the second-most points of any bench player in the league behind only teammate T.J. McConnell, finishing with 185, 10.9 per game.

Toppin is coming to the end of his rookie-scale contract, a four-year deal worth $22 million, and is a restricted free agent. The Pacers, who can match any contract he receives, have to decide where he fits, especially if they sign Siakam and have to pay him and Haliburton max deals, and center Myles Turner nearly $20 million. And obviously, Toppin could have a chance to see what he could get from another team.

"Not at all," Toppin said when asked if he thought about that. "I've just been focusing on these games. Now that it's over, we're just gonna be chilling, right?"

Veteran wing Doug McDermott and forward James Johnson Jr. are also free agents. The 32-year-old McDermott was acquired from the Spurs in a three-way trade at the deadline. Johnson spent last season with the Pacers and spent the first two months of the season out of basketball before signing with the Pacers in December. The Pacers have on multiple occasions looked to bring back Johnson because of his leadership.

Pacers Pascal Siakam, Obi Toppin on what’s next with free agency looming (2024)
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