Indiana Pacers Greatest Point Guards: Another week is in the books, which means it’s time to examine the historic point guard play of another NBA franchise. Whereas there were clear-cut #1 choices in Milwaukee and Detroit, the situation with the Indiana Pacers is a little different.
There isn’t much debate about who the top point guard is, though a number of names could all be mentioned. The candidate I believe to have made the biggest impact on the Pacers would be Mark Jackson, who played for the team from 1995-2000. He almost helped bring a title home.
Jackson had the biggest impact on winning during his time as a Pacer, split between two tenures. The 2000 Indy team is the only one to make the NBA Finals, as the franchise’s three titles (in five appearances) were during their ABA days.
Pacers Greatest Point Guards: Mark Jackson Was a Consistent Floor General
When the Pacers acquired Mark Jackson from the Clippers on June 30, 1994, they knew they were getting a hard-nosed player that simply knew how to find open teammates. Starting at the point guard position, Jackson helped guide the Pacers to playoff appearances in both 1994-95 and 1995-96. He was part of the team that lost to MJ’s Bulls in the conference finals.
But, he would be traded to Denver in the offseason. Clearly, the franchise missed him, so they traded for him at the deadline in 1997, bringing him back to Indiana. He averaged nine points and eight assists per game in the prior two seasons. And before they got him from Denver, he had been dominating, averaging 10 points, five rebounds and 12 assists per contest through 52 contests.
Indy would miss the playoffs in 1996-97, before coming back and qualifying in each of the next three years. And of course, Jackson was the floor general of those teams. The team peaked during his final season there, making it to the NBA Finals. The problem was, the Lakers were just too dominant and they could not overcome them. Jackson averaged eight points and eight assists over 23 starts during their impressive run.
Jackson, along with Reggie Miller and Jalen Rose could just not get them over the hump, losing an exciting series four games to two. His time with the Pacers was then up.
Over parts of six seasons, Jackson averaged eight points (46% FG), four rebounds, 1.4 steals, and a franchise-best 8.0 assists per game. He appeared in 405 contests for Indy, so he racked up over 3,200 assists during his time there.
Pacers Greatest Point Guards: Remember Ricky Sobers?
After a couple of years in Phoenix to start his career, Ricky Sobers was traded to the Pacers in exchange for Don Buse in the summer of 1977. And as soon as he got to Indiana, he was playing fantastic basketball.
Ricky Sobers played in 160 out of 164 regular season games with Indy, averaging 18 points and seven assists per contest. He did this while shooting 46% from the floor and averaging better than two steals per game. Unfortunately, the team wasn’t good enough for postseason play in either year.
But Sobers was an absolute force to be reckoned with on the court. The Pacers would lose Sobers as a result of signing Mickey Johnson via free agency, as dictated by the rules in the NBA in the 1970’s. Johnson would only last one season with the Pacers, proving that perhaps it wasn’t a great decision.
If Ricky had logged a few more seasons in Indy, he could have challenged Jackson for that top spot.
Pacers Greatest Point Guards: Other Notable Pacers Point Guards
There are some other point guards that had notable careers in Indiana. One of the most familiar names would be Jamaal Tinsley. After playing in 152 out of 164 games over his first two seasons, Tinsley would log fewer than 53 games played in four out of the next five years.
Tinsley was as tough a defensive guard as there was in the NBA during his career, and was a terrific passer. But, he just could not stay healthy. He was in the NBA for 13 years, seven of which were in Indy. He averaged 10 points, three rebounds, seven assists and nearly two steals per game. Health was the biggest contributing factor in his demise.
Pooh Richardson is another name that just didn’t spend enough time in Indiana to be considered. From 1994-1994, he played in 111 games for Indy. He averaged similar numbers to Tinsley, with roughly 10 points, three rebounds and seven assists per game. He was a great floor general, and was plagued by injury during the 1993-94 season, which led to them moving on from Pooh.
Pacers Greatest Point Guards: Honorable Mentions
Vern Fleming’s first 11 seasons were spent with the Pacers. And in those years, he was extremely consistent. His numbers weren’t flashy, but from 1984-1985, he was there when they needed him. His final five seasons with the franchise were spent primarily as a backup. But there were good moments.
Jeff Teague spent just one season in Indy, averaging nearly 15 points and seven assists per game. One of the best versions of Teague came out during his lone season as a Pacer.
Michael Davis and Johnny Williams were both effective, each averaging over six assists per game during multiple seasons with Indiana.
A Hot Take to Leave You With
When all is said and done, I believe Malcolm Brogdon will be the best point guard in Pacers history. He’s putting up incredible numbers in his second year with the organization, and is just getting started.
Mark Jackson will shift back into the #2 spot. Statistically speaking, Brogdon is already up there with any other Pacers guard through history.