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Pritchard: Pacers maintain flexibility at trade deadline

With a team wanting to finish what they’ve started, the Pacers president stood pat tat the trade deadline.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Indiana Pacers Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

Before his time with the Indiana Pacers organization, Kevin Pritchard spent four years as the General Manager of the Portland Trailblazers. He was quick to develop a reputation for making trades – whether it be mid-season or during the NBA Draft. In each of his four seasons in Portland, Pritchard tweaked the roster at least once before the trade deadline.

Shortly after Larry Bird handed down the keys and full control of the roster, Pritchard made his first trade as the Pacers President during the draft – sending $1M cash to New Orleans for Xavier guard Edmond Sumner. Just days later, Pritchard received what was termed a “gut punch” and was forced to make the biggest trade of his career. In what I prefer to call the Victor Oladipo trade, the Indiana Pacers sent Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

”My history is to make a lot of change,” Pritchard said on Sunday night. “Quick change. Not be scared of turning over the roster quickly.”

Contrary to his words, and for the first time in his career, Pritchard kept the roster in tact at this year’s trade deadline. Yet, the Pacers President told us about another first for him as well.

”I had six players come up to me - and this has never happened to me as an executive - and say, ‘Keep this team together.’ They feel like they are overachieving and have a chip on shoulder and have opportunity to try and get into the playoffs,” Pritchard said.

How can you make a change when almost half of the roster is walking into your office telling you not to?

For what it’s worth, Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic were the only two players identified of the six who reached out to Pritchard. Interestingly enough, Collison was a trade target for the Denver Nuggets, however the Nuggets were “rebuffed” by the Pacers according to Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.

Although the Pacers were reportedly against dealing their starting point guard, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the Pacers were seeking a first round pick packaged with a less-than-ideal contract in exchange for Al Jefferson.

Wojnarowski also reported that the Pacers were discussing a deal for Kenneth Faried. It’s important to note that Jefferson was not mentioned here, but I would not be surprised if his name was discussed. Furthermore, Sam Amick reported that the Brooklyn Nets and Pacers discussed swapping DeMarre Carroll for Al Jefferson.

However, Pritchard was quick to dismiss the idea of trading Jefferson on Sunday night.

”Al meant more to us than he did to any other team. He’s like our most important player,” Pritchard explain while momentarily forgetting about that guy named Oladipo, or even most of the Pacers roster. “He’s not playing much, but the influence he has on our team is gripping. He really has the team’s ear. Didn’t want to take a player like that off our team.”

Whether or not the Pacers actively shopped Jefferson is unknown, but the Pacers have maintained financial flexibility and the team’s chemistry by not making any deals. Still, the Pacers will have one change coming soon despite the lack of action at the trade deadline. Glenn Robinson III will return after the All Star Break, which is sort of like an acquisition in itself. The 24-year-old and soon to be free agent will provide much needed wing depth and could shore up the Pacers rotation before the playoffs.

”He’s going to get after it the next two weeks,” Pritchard said. “Two practices after All Star Break, and that’s really when we’ll be evaluating (his progress).”

Should the Pacers choose to re-sign GRIII, the Pacers will have the financial flexibility to do so. In fact, the Pacers have one of the best offseason situations in the league. While currently holding $5.8M in cap space, the Pacers could have up to $59.1M to spend this summer according to Basketball Insiders.

”We want to be flexible going forward,” Pritchard said. “We have a lot of cap space. We have $5.8 million in cap space. That becomes very valuable during the draft.”

Pritchard may not have made a move this time around, but he made it clear that he will be aggressive during the draft and free agency – especially with owner Herb Simon giving him the green light to spend money.

Standing at 32-25, the Indiana Pacers will head to Brooklyn on Wednesday to play their final game before the All Star Break. Although a hopeful playoff run lies ahead, a high performing team, young and talented core, new state of the art practice facility, and an aggressive President of Basketball Operations should provide for an entertaining offseason.