The Pacers offseason plans are far from solid at this point. There remain major variables with outstanding questions that need answers before Kevin Pritchard and the rest of the front office can actually do the heavy lifting to reshape the Pacers roster.
The two biggest variables are where the Pacers land in the draft following the NBA draft lottery and whether or not they will have Cleveland’s mid-first round pick or have to roll the option over to next season.
The latter question will be answered on Friday night when the Cavs host the Hawks for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Hawks vs. Cavaliers on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. ET
The Cavs (Pacers) hope to get a boost with Jarrett Allen giving it a go after missing the last 18 games of the regular season plus the play-in against Brooklyn. This seems to be an indication that the Cavs really want to win, which they should, but which would also be huge for the Pacers.
Caris LeVert was traded for that conditional first round pick with the idea that Caris would solidify the Cavs playing rotation and further cement their playoff team, which at the time of the deal appeared a lock for the playoffs. Injuries altered the Cavs course over the final two months of the season, but to be fair they have been pretty healthy over the least few weeks of the season. LeVert did miss some time, but has been inconsistent and certainly not the key cog to push their playoff hopes forward. Meanwhile, other teams in the East have surged, primarily Boston, Brooklyn and Atlanta to make things tough on the Cavs.
That’s why teams lottery protect picks and what makes the deal between the two teams quite fair. If LeVert delivers as expected, the Cavs are happy to deal their top pick, but if not then...we are on the cusp of finding out.
One could argue that pushing the pick back to next year may not be a big problem. Maybe a better mid-level pick is available in 2023. The problem is, this Cavs team jumped the line early in the season with their great play and the sudden impact of rookie Evan Mobley. But now Mobley is a known quantity and the Cavs will have to play at a high level to make the playoffs next year, healthy or not.
Well, the Hawks had a subpar year and will likely be more of a playoff threat next season than they were this year. The Nets had all kinds of chaos and will likely not be a play-in team with Kyrie and Ben Simmons available all year next season. The Celtics started out slow and closed strong, pushing the Cavs into the play-in level. So, yeah, there’s not much room in the East to move up next year for the Cavs (spoiler alert: or the Pacers).
But that’s where the deal that seemed so sweet for the Pacers initially becomes fair. If Caris LeVert can deliver consistent production, then the Cavs will be fine. But if not, then he wasn’t worth the first-round pick.
But there is still a chance for the Cavs to come up big at home and wouldn’t it be sweet to see Caris, after all he’s been through over the past two season, lead the way with a monster game against the Hawks to deliver a playoff spot for the Cavs? Yes, yes it would.
Caris LeVert is one of the easiest guys in the NBA to root for...now more than ever!
Share your thoughts on the game and the Pacers offseason options in the comments.