News recently surfaced that the Indiana Pacers are trending towards a full-scale rebuild. Some could argue it’s long overdue, as the franchise hasn’t had a top-nine pick in over 30 years. Building a team, that is also in a small market, without higher draft picks is very difficult to say the least. The fact that the Pacers have found consistent winning success without them is pretty impressive.
Recent years haven’t been friendly to them, though. The franchise has failed to make it beyond the first round of the playoffs for years and have found themselves stuck in the worst possible place: mediocrity.
While their 11-16 record doesn’t suggest that they are a good team, they do have a lot of quality players. The Pacers are unique in that they have a ton of contracts that are in between max deals and the NBA’s mid-level exception. There’s a multitude of talent found on the roster and the Sixers, along with other teams, will definitely be kicking the tires on the idea of a possible fire sale.
It’s unfortunate that Malcolm Brogdon, a player pegged by most to be a smart Sixers’ target, is untradable for the rest of this season. The earliest he can be dealt is in this coming offseason, which is quite far away. Due to these circumstances I won’t really touch on the idea of trading him, for now.
However, if you look beyond Brogdon, you’ll find plenty of quality players on fair contracts.
Starting with the top of their talent is their All-Star, Domantas Sabonis — who has developed into a modern version of his father, Arvydas. While he’s a gifted player, he’s likely best suited to being a full-time center. He can shoot the ball but it’s far from his best skill. His fit alongside Joel Embiid would be quite clunky and the opportunity cost of getting him is probably too much for the Sixers to take a flier on. There are plenty of playoff teams in need of an upgrade at center, such as Portland or Boston, which will likely drive up the asking price.
Indiana’s other big man, Myles Turner, would actually be a much better fit in Philly. He’s a mobile big and is averaging a very respectable percentage from three this season at 39.5 percent on 4.7 attempts per game. His shooting ability would make him a great fit alongside Ben Simmons, but I’ll circle back to that idea a bit later. Similarly to Sabonis, there will likely be many teams bidding for Turner, who has been labeled as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate early on. While the idea Embiid-Turner frontcourt is intriguing defensively, I can’t see the Sixers throwing assets to land him.
Indiana has an abundance of talented wing players with Caris LeVert, TJ Warren, Torrey Craig, and Justin Holiday — all of whom I assume will likely be available for the right price.
LeVert is interesting, as he’s a shot creator that is very fun to watch when he gets hot. His contract makes finding a deal for him very difficult, though, with a salary of $17.5 million. The only Sixers making that type of money would be the combination of Danny Green and Seth Curry, outside the Sixers’ “big three” of Embiid, Simmons, and Tobias Harris. LeVert would bring some desperately needed shot creation, but I can’t see the Sixers dealing two starters just to land him.
Trading Harris, who has struggled as of late, for a combination of LeVert and Warren could work. From a Sixers standpoint you’d be taking a flier on two guys who have been hampered with many injuries. You’d get a ton of salary cap relief as LeVert only has two years left on his contract, while Warren is on an expiring deal. From a Pacers standpoint it doesn’t make much sense, if they are really all-in on the idea of a full-scale rebuild. Flipping Harris’ deal would be very tricky to do and I can’t see a franchise that’s done so well in handing out fair contracts wilfully taking his deal.
The most realistic Sixers-Pacers deal candidates would likely be their role players with guys such as Craig or Holiday. Both are on deals worth less than $6 million per year, so salary matching wouldn’t be too difficult to do. Holiday is a decent enough defender and shooter to be worth the look. Craig, a personal favorite of mine, would be a great get from a defensive standpoint. Would he play with the current rotation? Probably not, as Georges Niang’s shooting has been so crucial to the Sixers and their success. However, having a defensive-minded forward with size on the bench would be a very welcomed sight, especially if they match up against one of the many larger forwards in the Eastern Conference.
The verdict: While there are some avenues to a Sixers-Pacers trade, it’s unlikely that one will go down, at least in a two-team deal. I do think there’s a ton of value of including the Pacers in a three-team format deal where some of their players like Sabonis and/or Turner could go to a third team.
Turner, outside of Karl Anthony-Towns, is arguably the best fitting center in the entire NBA to play alongside Ben Simmons. The defensive potential between the duo would be very fun to watch, as both are considered DPOY-caliber. Having a plethora of talent around to help execute what is deemed as the inevitable Simmons trade could prove to be very useful and crucial to a deal materializing.
That’s the real value in the Pacers tearing things down. Even though the Sixers may not value the Pacers’ bigs, there will certainly be other teams bidding for them. Having so much talent being available on the trade block could get things moving on the Ben Simmons trade front.