As the February 7 trade deadline approaches the Indiana Pacers are going to be one of 25 teams poking around the NBA landscape to see what trades they can make to improve their roster prior to the playoffs.
Fortunately for the Pacers they are in better position than most teams because of expirations, drafts and future cap space. Here’s a guide to everything Indiana should be looking at as the NBA enters the trade season.
Why make a trade in the first place:
The Pacers have an opportunity to trade one of multiple players in an effort to improve their roster. Right now the Pacers play a nine-man rotation, which is fine for the regular season, or even a 3-6 matchup in the first round of the playoffs. But head coach Nate McMillan will have to shrink that rotation down to seven or eight as Indiana makes it further into the playoffs.
A playoff rotation consists of players that a team would be comfortable with using in the last 6-8 minutes of games. But there’s also a sweet spot: a team with a potential nine man rotation could be worse off than a team with a seven-man rotation, depending on the teams top players.
The Pacers right now have probably six reliable rotation players -- let’s call them our “ride or die” group:
Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis and Cory Joseph.
Then Indiana has a group of players who are inconsistent but, at their best, could be in the playoff rotation. We’ll call them the “I wouldn’t bet on this working” group:
Darren Collison, Doug McDermott and Aaron Holiday.
Finally, the last remaining group of guys who would only see play minutes in garbage time. We’ll call them the “If you’re playing me, the score better not be within 20” group:
Tyreke Evans, Kyle O’Quinn and T.J. Leaf.
The goal of the Pacers is get seven or eight players into the “ride or die” group while trading as many of the guys in the next two groups as possible, save for Holiday.
He’s a rookie with potential and a team should never trade a player like that...EVER.
Contracts and cap space:
“I wouldn’t bet on this working”:
Darren Collison: $10 million in 2018, free agent in 2019
Doug McDermott: $7.33 million in 2018, $7.33 million 2019, $7.33 million in 2020
“If you’re playing me, the score better not be within 20”:
Tyreke Evans: $12.4 million in 2018, free agent in 2019
Kyle O’Quinn: $4.45 million in 2018, free agent in 2019
T.J. Leaf: $2.41 million in 2018, $2.81 million in 2019, $4.33 million (team option) in 2020
Pacers’ future cap situation:
-$60.2 million committed to eight players in 2019-2020
-$71.8 million in cap holds (Young, Evans, Bogdanovic, Collison, Joseph, O’Quinn)
Where to be looking to trade:
As I mentioned earlier there are around 25 teams still in the playoff race. The only teams that are for sure in the running to draft hot commodity Zion Williamson are the Hawks, Bulls, Knicks, Cavaliers and Suns.
However, there are a set of other teams just outside the playoff race that might be willing to sell at the deadline depending on what happens over the next few weeks: the Grizzlies, Mavericks, Wizards, Pistons, Timberwolves and maybe the Pelicans. (They would have to trade Davis and blow the whole thing up, which is unlikely).
Those are the teams the Pacers should be looking at to make trades with.
And yet there are set teams under this group that would make even more sense for the Pacers trade with. The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement has a rule within it that allows teams trading contracts between $6.5-19.6 million to be within $5 million of each other. For example, Tyreke Evans could be traded for a player making $7.4-17.4 million. This rule probably saves O’Quinn from being traded because he doesn’t have to be a salary filler in some trade packages.
A trade like this won’t work with the Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Wizards or Pistons who are above the luxury tax. So maybe O’Quinn isn’t saved.
But this trade would make sense for a tanking team that has a higher-salary player, because it allows them to save some money.
Indiana also has future cap space, which can be used as attachments in a trade where the team would trade for a really good player.
Say the Pacers somehow get the Wizards’ to trade Bradley Beal -- it’s valuable that they could take Ian Mahinmi contract in the future as well. Washington may want to offload his bad contract in any trade involving Beal
Should Indiana make a trade:
A resounding yes. The Pacers need at least seven reliable players to have any shot at making it through two rounds of the playoffs, something they currently don’t have. (Unless you trust Collison, which I don’t after last year’s playoffs.)
Collision can be relied on for some minutes, but playing him too much could severely damage the Pacers’ hopes of making a run for the Eastern Conference Finals.
Collison isn’t a reliable defender, which will be crucial in the playoffs for matching up against players like Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Ben Simmons and Eric Bledsoe.
The Pacers should probably be looking at another 2-guard type player like a Jeremy Lin or Tim Hardaway Jr., someone who can play better defense than Collision and can play off the ball on offense.
The one Indiana should look for isn’t some other-worldly player, but rather someone who could provide the boost that the team expected from Evans. It’s probably easier said than done but every year teams are able to find one or two guys who are wasting away on a bad team and transform them into reliable postseason players.
Check back next week for specific player trades.