Indy Goes Shopping: Two Trades The Pacers Should Ponder
Two years ago, the Indiana Pacers were a handful of possessions away from a surprise upset of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Fast forward to the present, and despite some roster changes to the 2017-18 squad, they find themselves in the pretty much the same position: fifth seed in the Eastern Conference for the third year running, and on track for their third first-round exit in as many seasons.
We certainly can’t forget the ruptured quad tendon injury to Victor Oladipo that forced him out of the second half of last season and first half of the 2019-20 schedule. That has been a key factor in their inability to climb the rankings and make a serious run toward title contention. But now that he is healthy and back on the floor, it seems the time has come to make some decisions about the makeup of the roster.
Well, that sounds easy enough - but their payroll presents some problems for the next three to four seasons. Malcolm Brogdon is in the first year of an $85,000,000 deal, Myles Turner is in the first year of a $72,000,000 deal, and Domantas Sabonis begins his $77,000,000 contract next season. Meanwhile Oladipo, the franchise guy, will enter the final year of his current deal next season; if he can stay healthy and put up numbers similar to his pre-injury form, Vic will rightly be asking for a max deal entering the 2021-22 season.
As you can see, there isn’t much wiggle room to sign free agents - especially the calibre of players coming in the 2021 free agent class. With that being said, a couple of smart trades could loosen strain on the books rather significantly, so let’s dive into some of Indy's options.
The Pacers have a great young core, but they are missing a second superstar. Domantas Sabonis has proven himself to be a very solid second-option, but he isn’t a match winner like Bradley Beal. The recently extended Wizards guard could be 'that guy' for the Pacers, and form a great one-two backcourt punch with Oladipo. A bona fide scorer, averaging 30.5 points per game this season, a trade for Beal puts Indiana into that top echelon of Eastern Conference title threats. They’re going to have to give up a lot to get him, but a Big Three of Beal, Oladipo, and Sabonis makes it tough to beat Indiana four times in a seven-game series, that’s for sure.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the Chicago Bulls and focus on their young stretch four in Lauri Markkanen. The 22-year-old has spoken about his unhappiness with the Chicago front office and his lack of development under head coach Jim Boylen according to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times. Perfect timing for Indiana: they can upgrade from Myles Turner on the offensive end with a stretch four that can get hot from beyond the arc while picking up a valuable play-making guard in Tomas Satoransky. Given that Aaron Holiday isn’t quite the calibre of player Satoransky is, Indiana will give up a second round pick in 2021. The deal saves the Pacers about $5 million too, and every dollar counts with their current payroll.