Pacers move forward after stepping sideways on deadline day
The Pacers made a ton of moves on Thursday to essentially stand pat for the remainder of the season.
The Pacers seemed to use every transactional mechanism possible before the NBA trade deadline, involving several players, draft picks and cash, but once the dust settled on all of the moving parts, the Pacers had swapped Buddy Hield (to Philly) for Doug McDermott a couple of second-round picks. Never has so many trade reports produced such a blah result.
Similar to the team’s result later that evening when they chased Steph Curry and the Warriors all night without ever getting within arms length to catch them. Curry was on one from the tip, making the first bucket of the game, a three-ball natch, and then making five more threes in the first quarter without a miss. A dead ball moment after that sixth three produced a rare buzz among the crowd that expressed pure amazement as if everyone turned to who they were sitting with and said, “This is unreal! What are we watching?”
The Pacers didn’t have the fight to return the favor. While Steph finished with 42 points, Pascal Siakam had a team-high 16 points for the Pacers. Tyrese Haliburton scored just 5 points and was out of sorts all night which was likely a combination of his hammy rehab and an emotional day with Hield headed to Philly.
But he had to know, right?
It is obvious that this trade was the Pacers doing the best they could to do right by Buddy, which Gregg Doyel confirmed this on Friday reporting that Hield wanted to be traded. Carlisle couldn’t speak about the new players prior to the team’s game against Golden State a few hours after the deadline, but he did heap praise on Buddy for the spirit he brought to the Fieldhouse and locker room every day. Hield’s expiring contract forced the move, although I’m not convinced the Pacers wouldn’t have minded letting the 3-ball legend finish out the season with the Pacers before moving on. As Woj reported, Hield denied a hefty extension from Pacers prior to the season which initially started the rumors of Hield being moved.
As the season progressed, Hield’s role off the bench likely forced a mutual, if not Hield preferred, parting of the ways. The Pacers gave him a parting gift by making sure he landed with a playoff team in Philly. For their effort, cobbled together several other parts to add McBuckets.
McDermott is a different type of player than Buddy and his size can create a different dynamic at both ends. He had lotsa success playing under Rick Carlisle in Dallas, even if his time in Indy saw fluctuating success not unlike Hield’s season to date, the threat to score and attract defensive attention should be valuable off the bench.
So, at best this was a sideways move considering the most recent role Hield was playing. The players talked about the energy Hield brought to the locker room and every day in the gym which will be missed. But, honestly, if several players can’t make up for that, then this team has deeper problems. Time to step up.
"Today was one of those decisions that feels like it wasn't helping the team now,” Chad Buchanan said regarding the move. “But we're trying to look long term, and I can't emphasize that enough with this group."
A big part of that big picture vision is opening up minutes for younger players. At first blush, it may seem like this deal is great for Bennedict Mathurin, except that Mathurin has been playing a hefty role already. To me, a guy like Ben Sheppard is the heir apparent to Buddy’s role which he’s earned while playing more and more minutes as the Pacers have been working through injuries.
Shep has shown strong defensive prowess while being streaky at best from behind the arc and straight up clanky at worst. He has a long ways to go to replicate what Hield brought offensively, but more consistent minutes should benefit Sheppard as he acclimates to the speed of the game and not rushing his shots as much.
Under the new CBA, this is the way teams have to focus on building their roster. The Pacers will likely be over the cap next year with Tyrese Haliburton’s extension kicking in and the extension Pascal Siakam expects to sign. The younger players on rookie deals will be more vital than ever to provide production without the big price tag. The Pacers were smart to lock up Andrew Nembhard for four years at a few bucks over $2 mil per year although it appears almost criminal at this point considering how valuable Nembhard is to the Pacers right now.
There is still work to do in the long-term, with a remaining quagmire on the roster is in the front court with Jalen Smith and Isaiah Jackson at the backup 4/5 slot along with Obi Toppin and Jarace Walker at the backup 4/3ish spot. The Pacers biggest deadline deal was brining in Pascal Siakam and how much cap he eats via an extension will be the next critical piece to the puzzle.
So while the Knicks, Celtics and Bucks made win-now moves before the deadline, the Pacers stayed in place, leaning on their move for Siakam to push them forward in the short term while continuing to focus on the long term.
The Pacers play the Knicks once again at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Former Pacer Bojan Bogdanovic will be in the lineup for the Knicks, but the hosts have a hefty injury report, with several front court players still out. Hopefully, Jalen Brunson won’t be crying tears of joy after this one.
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When: Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan
Odds: Pacers +3.5
Pacers: Tyrese Haliburton, Andrew Nembhard, Aaron Nesmith, Pascal Siakam, Myles Turner
Knicks: Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, Bojan Bogdanovic, Precious Achiuwa
Pacers: Tyrese Haliburton (hamstring) - questionable, Jalen Smith (back) - questionable
Knicks: Jalen Brunson (ankle) - questionable, Jericho Sims (illness) - questionable, OG Anunoby (elbow) - out, Isaiah Hartenstein (Achilles) - out), Julius Randle (shoulder) - out, Mitchell Robinson (ankle) - out
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