It’s not because they have an abundance of young assets to incite teams in trades; it’s because they have players with the necessary salaries to make trades for stars on big contracts work.
The contracts of James Johnson, Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters were heralded as overpays at the time, and they still are, but if the Heat were to land a guy like Chris Paul in a trade, they’ll need a couple of those players simply to match Paul’s $41.37 million per year salary.
Last year, Victor Oladipo was the only Indiana Pacer that made more than $13.8 million.
So when rumors of Indiana’s interest in Mike Conley and Jrue Holiday emerged at the trade deadline, it was nearly impossible to find a workable trade that matched salaries, didn’t force the trade partner to go over 15 players on their roster and had enough upside to make it worth them giving up their star players.
Now, that’s changed.
Domantas Sabonis’s recently reported extension of $74.9 million for four years is one of the many tradable contracts on Indiana’s roster.
Oladipo, Sabonis, Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon will each make between $18-22.25 million per year over the next four years. Doug McDermott, Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren will make between $7.33-11.75 million per year over the next two years.
That’s not only a good combination of young players with upside on team-friendly contracts and savy veterans, but the perfect salaries for a blockbuster trade that could yield a max-contract player.
Take a player like Blake Griffin for example. He’s set to make $110 million over the next three years. If the Pistons fail to reach the playoffs this season, and with Andre Drummond possibly coming off the books this summer, Detroit may be interested in a full rebuild by shopping Griffin.
If the Turner-Sabonis pairing doesn’t work this year, but the Pacers still feel they are a piece away from competing in the Eastern Conference, then a guy like Griffin might entice Kevin Pritchard.
Last year, that wouldn’t have been possible. This year, the Pacers have the salaries to get it done.
Griffin’s age, health and fit alongside the other starters concern me, so I’m not advocating for the Pacers to trade for him. I’m just using his salary as an example. The same could be said for Kevin Love, Bradley Beal or any other all star-caliber player that could be on the trade market and bump the Pacers to the next level.
This may not be necessary. Turner and Sabonis may coincide well enough to be a long-term frontcourt pair. Brogdon may make a jump to an all-star level. Once Oladipo returns, the Pacers may find that this roster is good enough as is to compete in the East.
But if the they need a star player to become a championship contender, for the first time in a long time, they have the contracts to make it happen.