Thoughts on the Pacers trading Malcolm Brogdon to the Celtics

After a quiet initial start to free agency, the Pacers have made their first big move: trading away Malcolm Brogdon for Aaron Nesmith, Daniel Theis, a first-round pick and a collection of players on minimum contracts according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Everyone knew the Pacers had been shopping Brogdon and trying to find a deal for the guard for months as he simply no longer made sense with their future plans to build around the young point prince Tyrese Haliburton. They end up with their third 1st-round pick in 2023 (their own and the Cavaliers’ lottery-protected selections being the others) and a young wing in Nesmith who was a first-round pick in 2020.

It’s questionable whether Theis or any of the minimum deal players (Nik Stauskas, Malik Fitts, and Juwan Morgan) will end up on the final roster but anything is possible once the dust settles from this first domino of off-season moves. It’s not an overwhelming return for a fringe All-Star level player at his best but Brogdon’s lack of consistent health really dampened his potential market.

For the Celtics, this was a no-brainer. It’s little risk for them as they gave up nothing of value to their playoff rotations and added what could be a missing piece in their hopes to get a championship. The question—as it always is with Brogdon—is whether he will be able to be on the court when you need him most. His shot didn’t live up to his reputation with the Pacers shooting in the low 30% range in two of three seasons but he should be doing much less in terms of primary creation and working off ball may enable him to get closer to those 50/40/90 levels that made him so enticing as a free agent from the Bucks.

“These guys are proven winners at a championship level,” Brogdon told Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “I’m hoping to be one of the pieces that can help them get over that hump and win a championship.”

For the Pacers, this removes the biggest hurdle to giving Haliburton the cleanest runway to really allow him to be the guy for this team moving forward. Too often at the end of last season when they did play together, Haliburton would defer to Brogdon and allow him to run the show. The results weren’t pretty through about 200 minutes over 8 games as the Pacers net rating was -16.3 when they shared the floor. The Pacers net rating with Haliburton but without the veteran point guard was still negative but a much more respectable -2.2 especially on a team that wasn’t winning much to end the year.

It’s good to see the Pacers fully embracing the rebuild by accumulating picks and trading Brogdon now to really lean into the development of their new star. It’s not something that they’ve ever done as a franchise so it’s brand new territory for many fans of the team. We’ll have to see if Hield, Turner, and McConnell end up in similar deals.

The Indianapolis community is where this loss will be felt most. Brogdon has done terrific work off the court both locally and around the world with his clean water initiatives.

The Pacers backcourt was and remains crowded with Buddy Hield, Chris Duarte, and first-round pick Bennedict Mathurin all looking for lots of playing time at the two or as an undersized three. TJ McConnell is set to return at backup point and the Pacers just drafted Andrew Nembhard with the 31st pick. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Pacers continued to look to move another veteran to further clear time for young guys to play.

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report said that the Pacers really wanted to get forward Grant Williams from the Celtics but were unable to get him. Williams would have been a fantastic get. If only the Pacers could have been interested in Williams more in the 2019 draft when they drafted a third center in Goga Bitadze over both him and Brandon Clarke.

Nesmith becomes the third 2020 first-rounder to be traded to the Pacers alongside Haliburton and Jalen Smith (who remains a free agent). He showed flashes over his first two years in Boston but only shot 27% on his 3-pointers this past season in limited minutes. Perhaps he can have a similar turnaround to Smith with his shot with consistent playing time but as mentioned before the guard wing spot is a bit crowded at the moment.

The Pacers also added $4 million in additional cap space in the deal and may have added a trade exception as well depending on how the final details play out. Kevin Pritchard and company could use that space to take on a bad contract in exchange for more picks or use it to add a free agent or a player in a trade without needing to send salary back to the other team.

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