As the NBA's trade deadline on February 20 fast approaches, hearing and reading about various trade rumors from around the league should, as always, be expected. The Indiana Pacers - currently alone atop the league's leader board - are, of course, not exempt from the typical trade chatter and rumblings. Larry Bird, the Pacers' President of Basketball Operations, routinely makes it quite clear that he will listen to and/or look at any deals he believes will make this team better as they head into the unofficial second half of the season. As such, it should come as no surprise that Jared Zwerling, an NBA analyst for Bleacher Report, is reporting that the Pacers may still be open to deals that can help fortify their second unit:
Also hearing, which is scary, the Pacers want to make another move to bolster their bench by acquiring a scorer.— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) February 6, 2014
As can be seen above, Zwerling does not actually specify which players the Pacers may be targeting in the coming days. However, earlier this season, Larry Bird sat down for a Q&A with Pacers.com's Mark Monteith in which he alluded to the fact that he would likely not be seeking out any blockbuster deals:
Q: I was going to ask if your roster is set.
A: It's never set. If you can do something that makes them better, you do it. Yesterday we went over every team and picked out some targets. We don't know what teams are going to do with a lot of their players. I'm not into making big trades, especially with our core group, but if we can pick up a player who can help us, we will do that.
When questioned about what type of player the Pacers might be targeting, Bird later responded simply, "I don't know."
In response to this ambiguity, it seems like as good of an opportunity as any to dust off ESPN's trusty Trade Machine and play general manager for a day. As Zwerling tweeted, the Pacers are rumored to be interested in adding a "bench scorer." Of course, when examining the other 29 teams, guys that can put up points off the bench are easy to find. The hard part is finding deals that make sense for the Pacers functionally and financially. Undoubtedly, the Pacers do not want to acquire any contracts that could at all hinder their ability to resign Lance Stephenson this summer. Another problem, if you can call it that, for the Pacers heading into the deadline is their reluctance to disrupt their core. This is a challenge because it is difficult to gauge rival teams' potential interest in some of the Pacers' players that rarely see playing time. Keeping all of these factors in mind, here are some possible trade partners:
Milwaukee Bucks: Pacers acquire Gary Neal (2yrs, $3.25M) in exchange for Chris Copeland (2yrs, $3M).
Since both players are signed to almost identical contracts, the money is obviously a wash here. Grabbing Neal from Milwaukee gives the Pacers an asset that could possibly kill two birds with one stone. 1) The former Spur would likely actually see some minutes off the bench - something Copeland has been unable to do since arriving in Indiana. 2) He could reduce the number of minutes Lance Stephenson is expected to play with the bench each game. Thus far with the Bucks this season, Neal is averaging around 20mpg off the bench while scoring approximately 10ppg. Although he has the ability to penetrate the lane and finish at the rim with a floater, he is probably most well-known for his long range shooting ability. Wearing a Spurs' uniform, Neal proved his ability to make big shots in the postseason when he drained 6-of-10 threes against the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals. Shooting 38.4% from three this season with the Bucks, Neal is more accurate from behind the arc than every player in the Pacers' starting line-up.
Given some of the rumors of dysfunction emanating out of Milwaukee, the Bucks may actually sign on to this deal. In fact, following rumors of discord between Neal and Sanders, Marc Stein tweeted:
Buzzy item out of Reno: Bucks, I'm told, will do everything they can to find new home for guard Gary Neal via trade before Feb. 20 deadline— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 7, 2014
Not to mention, with only Caron Butler under contract, acquiring Copeland could give the Bucks more depth and versatility at the SF position.
Sacramento Kings: Pacers acquire Jimmer Fredette (1 year, $2.4M) in exchange for Chris Copeland (2 years, $3M).
As was relayed here on Indy Cornrows, Bird has long been intrigued by the prospect of bringing the former BYU standout to Indiana. In fact, heading into last year's draft, ESPN's Marc Stein reported that the Kings had been involved in trade talks with the Pacers about acquiring Fredette. Jimmer (averaging 5.7ppg on 47.5% shooting) would give the bench another ball handler, and, most importantly, another shooter that could stretch the opponent's defense. Swapping Copeland for Fredette - who also comes packaged with an expiring contract - could also give the Pacers some financial flexibility heading into the offseason.
With Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, Ben McLemore, and Ray McCallum all already under contract, the Kings are guard heavy. Acquiring Copeland from Indiana, not unlike the scenario involving Milwaukee, would give the Kings an additional low priced option at the small forward position behind Rudy Gay. Copeland's defensive struggles would likely not be as much of a detractor for the Kings (ranked 28th in opponent points allowed) as it has been for the Pacers (ranked 1st in opponent points allowed).
New Orleans Pelicans: Pacers acquire Anthony Morrow (2 years, $1.02M), Jason Smith (1 year, $2.5M) in exchange for Chris Copeland (2 years, $3M), Orlando Johnson (2 years, $788,000).
Admittedly, this scenario probably belongs in some sort of "honorable mention" category, since it is a bit of a stretch. Given the reports coming out of New Orleans, it seems far more likely that the Pelicans would be looking to deal Austin Rivers at the deadline than Anthony Morrow. Even so, in right around 15mpg, Morrow is averaging 6ppg on 45% shooting. With Tyreke Evans out due to a rib injury, Morrow has answered the call of late recording two double-figure games against the Atlanta Hawks and San Antonio Spurs. From the Pelicans' perspective, adding Copeland to fill-in for Ryan Anderson (out indefinitely) would be a decent pick-up. The other moving parts are basically there, in essence, to make the salaries match (hence the reason this should have been filed under honorable mention).
From the looks of the trade machine, it is not going to be easy for the Pacers to add a "bench scorer" without sacrificing Danny Granger (something they most likely are not going to do) or their financial flexibility. Another recurring problem is that most low-priced scoring threats also come packaged with sub-par defensive ratings.
Feel free to offer your thoughts on the above trade possibilities, as well as, add a few scenarios of your own in the comments section.