Can be aggressive
Historically, the Pacers don’t make major mid-season trades, but that may change this season. They haven’t undergone a full-scale rebuild where they’ve bottomed out for a lottery pick in recent memory. Their highest draft pick in the past 20 years is the 10th overall pick in 2010, which they hit Paul George. They’ve managed to stay relevant with several All-Star players on team-friendly contracts that have kept them flexible all these years.
The nucleus led by Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turnerand Domantas Sabonis seems to have reached its peak a few years ago. If they had a Top 10 player on the roster, their current core would be one of the best supporting players around. Their slide to 17-31 explains why they made everyone on their list available for discussion. Brogdon is the only one of the group who is not eligible for trade this season due to the extension he signed.
Still, it’s unclear exactly which direction they’re headed and what exactly they’re looking for in exchange for their veterans. Do they want to convert these players into players of similar talent who fit better into the team so they can stay competitive? Or do they want to extract as much value as possible by focusing on the future?
The answer can be a bit of both. There is a path by which they can extract future first-round picks from a player while also getting a veteran who can now help another. Jake Fischer reported that the Pacers were seeking first-round compensation for Caris The Green. One such framework that might make sense is the expiring contract of Ricky Rubio and the Cavaliers’ lottery-protected 2022 first-round pick for LeVert.
Who the Pacers trade between Sabonis or Turner will likely depend on what they could get for them. Sabonis being a two-time All-Star with two years remaining on his contract should garner much stronger offers than Turner. Their preference might be to acquire a starting striker like Ben Simmons, Pascal SiakamWhere John Collins for Turner. While such players would complement Sabonis, Turner’s market could instead be first-round picks or recent lottery picks.
Removing just one of Sabonis, Turner or LeVert’s salaries for next season could put Indiana in a position to generate north of $20 million in cap space. If ceiling space is a priority, move away actors such as TJ McConnell, Torrey Craigand Justin’s Vacation would also help. The Pacers have three trade exceptions at $7.3m, $4m and $2.3m, but they are unlikely to be used as they are only $2.2m under luxury tax. A simpler move they can make to increase their flexibility this season is to trade by Jeremy Lamb expiring contract with a team with a big enough trade exception like Oklahoma City or Orlando.