The Indiana Pacers are moving toward a substantial rebuild and are expected to open trade discussions involving veterans Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and Caris LeVert, according to Shams Charania and Bob Kravitz of The Athletic. The plan for now is reportedly to emphasize playing time for youngsters like Chris Duarte and Isaiah Jackson. The Pacers (10-16) currently sit in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, but full-scale rebuilds in Indiana are incredibly rare overall. They have missed the playoffs just eight times in the past three decades. The small-market Pacers have always prioritized competitiveness even in leaner times, but now, it seems as though the organization is moving toward the rebuild it sorely needs.
The combination of Turner and Sabonis has been an odd fit ever since the 2017 Paul George trade forced the two of them together. Both, in a perfect world, are true centers that would play without other big men on the floor. Both have been forced to adjust to the presence of the other, but if the Pacers trade one, both should benefit from their new roles.
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Which one the Pacers would prefer to trade, though, is a fascinating question. Sabonis is the more accomplished player on paper. He’s a two-time All-Star, but he’s also a harder player to fit onto most teams because of his weaknesses defensively. Turner hasn’t posted the same individual numbers as Sabonis, but he is among the NBA‘s best rim protectors and he’s among the better shooting big men in basketball. That makes him a comfortable fit on virtually any team in need of a center. Indiana’s two-center lineup had the meager success that it had largely because of his versatility.
LeVert, like Sabonis, is a bit of a strange fit on most contenders because he’s a high-usage scorer who doesn’t consistently make 3-pointers. There is going to be plenty of interest, but it might have to be concentrated within a few teams that have rosters specifically suited to work for him. Any team acquiring him will also likely need to do extensive medical research before making a trade considering his injury history.
What makes the Pacers an especially compelling deadline seller is their depth. This is a team that truly has something for everybody. Justin Holiday and Torrey Craig can give contenders 3-and-D wings. T.J. McConnell is going to miss significant time with wrist surgery — and possibly for the rest of the season — but he’d be an interesting acquisition for a team willing to stash him until next season. While Charania and Kravitz report that T.J. Warren would prefer to stay in Indiana, he would be an interesting home run swing for a desperate team that is comfortable taking a big risk on his health.
The Pacers have been stuck in non-contending purgatory ever since they traded George. While they’ve built some interesting rosters, they’ve never had the right combination of talent and health to win at the highest levels. Now they finally appear willing to admit that and start again, and it should give plenty of win-now teams opportunities to improve between now and February.