The Pacers officially announced their trade with the Cavaliers that sent Caris LeVert to Cleveland, well, he was already in Cleveland but you get the gist, along with a late second round pick for Ricky Rubio, the Cavs first round pick and Houston’s second round pick to use this summer along with a 2027 second round pick.
The Cavs bolster their playing rotation with eyes on getting healthy for a playoff run when LeVert could be quite valuable fortifying their offensive punch off the bench. The Pacers get Rubio and more importantly, his just shy of $18 million expiring contract, but don’t expect to see Rubio at the Fieldhouse. A season-ending injury has the veteran point guard rehabbing in Spain.
Alas, the Pacers are finally looking ahead and not trying to patch together a fringe playoff team which is what you are doing when you deal LeVert for cap space and draft picks. They are officially headed down a new path, as Rick Carlisle referenced before the game on Sunday evening.
This is why I like this deal for the Pacers. They have started breaking things up and focusing on a future with some quality young role players already developing. This is a plan they have been in position to follow since having veteran players on good contracts like Thad Young, Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic but then they played too well and the idea of flipping them to other playoff teams was not the direction the franchise wanted to take. But now, the playoffs are nowhere in sight, despite the play-in option so focusing on the future is the way to go.
That seems to be the general consensus among national outlets grading the trade. It is always easy to tell which of those sources are actually paying even a little attention to the Pacers and were tabbed to write instant analysis when the deal was made. The worst grade I saw was a C+ from Zach Harper on The Athletic. Harper’s content has entertained me for years, but as a follower of his content, I know he’s not spending much time checking out the Pacers which was obvious when he closed his analysis by wondering if the Pacers can manage to work their way into the Play-in tournament. Yeah, that’s not part of the plan here.
Among the positive reviews, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton gave the Pacers an A for the deal.
As is, Indiana has created enough cap space to potentially be a player in free agency this summer. With LeVert on the books, the Pacers projected right around the salary-cap line. Now, they should have somewhere in the neighborhood of $18 million to spend. That could allow them to bid on restricted free agents who don’t draw interest from the handful of other teams with cap space or use it to take back a contract with draft picks from a team trying to shed salary.
From a value standpoint, Indiana certainly came out ahead in the Oladipo-LeVert swap. When the Rockets traded Oladipo again to the Miami Heat at last year’s trade deadline, they netted only expiring contracts and a swap option between the Heat’s first-round pick and one from the Brooklyn Nets. With Miami currently ahead of Brooklyn in the standings, that swap would be worthless if the season ended today.
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