Pacers Path Pt.II Sabonis Exchange

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Updated: December 9, 2021
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 {Before analyzing the trade option, please check out Part I of the Pacers rebuilding and the ideology behind the process Part I.}

With most of the contending franchises already having their draft capital owed elsewhere, the trade options are quite limited for the Indiana Pacers despite having several win-now pieces that teams would love to adopt. So as much as the Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, and Heat, would like to add a stretch big to the roster, they simply do not have the draft capital to execute a mutually beneficial exchange.

Another obstacle for finding viable trades for the Pacers is several of the playoff teams that do still have draft picks to sell already have their frontcourt solidified from the acquisition they made in the offseason. For instance, the Suns last season may have been a prime candidate to acquire a big with their lack of depth behind Ayton at the center position. However, in the offseason, they signed McGee, who on limited minutes has played well for them and is on the vet minimum. To trade for Sabonis or Turner would cost a portion of their depth that would not be worth the upgrade at the backup 5. The Utah Jazz also has draft capital to spend on the trade market but most likely would use it on wing depth rather than a big since they already have a pair of 7-footers in Gobert and Whiteside.

This leaves the pool of possible trade partners for Indiana shallow, which also limits their leverage when it comes to mapping out trade options and what they may get in exchange. Most people have directed their focus to possible Miles Turner trades, however, it appears that front offices and fans have very different perspectives on Turner’s overall impact and value. On paper, he looks like a perfect fit for any roster, with shot-blocking rim protection and the ability to hit spot-up 3’s. However, he has been on the trade block consistently for 2 seasons and was even offered to Boston in a sign and trade for Gordan Hayward with no 1st round picks attached and the Celtics turned down the deal. In order to match salaries and attach the necessary draft picks for it to be worthwhile to begin a Pacer’s rebuild, Turner doesn’t seem to have that type of cache when it comes to the perception of the decisions makers around the league.

For that reason, these 3 trades will focus on 6’11” power forward Domantas Sabonis. His above-average skills as a passer out of the post in combination with his high motor rolling to the rim make him a dynamic weapon on the offensive end that may be unleashed in a system with more spacing. If only trading for what we have seen from him in Indiana, he probably isn’t worth the cost of what the Pacers will be asking for to acquire him. However, if one believes he could become even more impactful in a better situation, then maybe the B+ player and low-grade All-Star could push one of these teams over the edge and increase their title odds to get to the Finals this season. With his value, he is one of the more favorable contracts in the league, is still only 25 years old, and has been relatively healthy for a big.

Trade 1

Memphis

As much as the basketball world wants Jaron Jackson Jr. to impose his will inside the paint, it seems he prefers to make his impact more from the perimeter as a stretch big. Steven Adams has been what many expected him to be this year, a washed young 7-footer who simply isn’t who he was back in his OKC days. The exchange assumes that Indiana sees Adams purely as the matching contract and most likely will be used as a backup big moving forward even if Turner is moved.

Four 1st rounders is a steep price, even though these would be presumably late picks as Memphis plans to be in the postseason for the foreseeable future, it does limit their ability to make moves in the trade market. However, the West does appear to be more wide open than it has ever been, and Memphis has put L’s on many of the best teams in the league this season. Ja, JJJ, and Desmond Bane look like a nice trio of a young core, and with Sabonis on the books for 2 more years after this and only 25, he might be the ideal fit next to JJJ. Ja thrives in the pick-n-roll and with Sabonis constantly rolling to the basket he will average an easy 20 points while Jackson Jr. can continue to play as a stretch big. If the Pacers see Steven Adams as a decent backup big, maybe the exchange can be done with only 3 picks, but in my opinion, taking on the contract of Adams is the cost of the 4th pick that is included.

Trade 2

Chicago

There have been questions around the league with the Bulls seriously exceeding expectations of most analysts if they should make a move to arm themselves for this upcoming playoff push. With most of their picks sent out from the Vucevic trade, their one big piece they have that has value on the trade market is injured sophomore Patrick Williams. Many are quite high on the 4th pick of last year’s draft, and he has often gotten the Kawhi comp, hence his value. However, he is out this season and they have played quite well without him. They also have had success with Vucevic out of the lineup and going small. With this small-ball lineup and Sabonis at the 5, it would add an additional element of passing out of the post but also a dominating vertical floor spacer at the rim for lobs. This would allow them to have Vucevic coming off the bench and lead their second unit where his defensive liabilities would be less of an issue.

Trade 3

Golden State

The primary name that comes up in all the trades this season is the Warriors with their picks and young assets. With a player of Sabonis’ talents, it’s impossible that Golden State would include Wisemen + Kuminga in a trade from what has been said by ownership. In fact, it is unlikely they would be willing to move Wisemen with how good Ayton and young Evan Mobley have looked considering Wisemen has all the tools and size to be in that tier of big men. But there will be those in the front office who emphasize the Steph Curry window. With the team having the best record in the league, an upgrade at the one soft spot in the lineup has to be considered. The weak link is well documented and is in the front court with Kevon Looney who isn’t covered on the offensive end unless he is 11 inches from the basket and is one of the worst finishing starting bigs in the NBA. In contrast, Sabonis is a thirsty scorer, a better passer, and a decent 3-point shooter for his position. Wisemen plus picks is a hefty price for Sabonis, however, it would not be a trade they would make based on Sabonis’ impact thus far in his career as a Pacer. The trade would be made based on what they think he would be inside the Warriors system and the extreme spacing opportunities Steph Curry creates.

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