The NBA trade deadline is approaching on Thursday. Will the Indiana Pacers make another big move like last season when they acquired Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield for Domantas Sabonis?
“If you’re asking me if I anticipate anything happening,” Rick Carlisle said before the game against Cleveland on Sunday, “I always say it’s very doubtful.”
Carlisle’s doubtful assessment lines up with how Kevin Pritchard talked about the deadline during Myles Turner’s extension press conference when he indicated that the Pacers would be opportunistic but cautious in chasing deals and said that he’s not a big deadline guy typically despite the multiple moves made in February last year.
“This is a dynamic business and the possibility of being traded is part of it but the human element is always there,” Carlisle said of his general feelings about the deadline. “There’s always going to be some sensitivity and to just ignore it and just say, ‘Hey, it’s part of the business,’ it’s not that simple. But as a coaching staff, as a support staff, other guys in the locker room, we’ve got to help our guys get through this week.”
It’s clear that the Pacers need to and probably would like to make at least some minor changes to the roster. They currently have seven guys out of their 15 standard NBA deals that share the same position–at least in terms of what spot they play best. Healthy centers on the roster include Myles Turner, Isaiah Jackson, Jalen Smith, Goga Bitadze, Daniel Theis, James Johnson, and Terry Taylor. You could argue with me on the last couple but Carlisle even brought up Taylor as a guy that plays the five for the team pre-game and even just five centers on an NBA roster these days is too many.
“What’s good about it?” Carlisle joked when Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files asked how he approaches the “good problem” of having so many options at the backup five spot before agreeing that it means they have a lot of talent at the position. “It’s a lot of communication with the players and with management,” he continued before giving the standard coach speak of all the guys have to be ready on any given night, yada yada yada.
The “with management” portion of the statement gives some hope that the Pacers don’t intend to play Theis in the rotation past the deadline and that perhaps this is just to showcase that Theis is healthy and available to playoff teams that may be short on rotational big men with playoff experience. He’s done some positive things and sets screens well but watch Isaiah Jackson sky through the air once and it’s puzzling why a young rebuilding team would want to play Theis over him at all.
“It’ll all be worked out in time,” Carlisle said of the backup bigs.
Meanwhile Chris Duarte has also joined fellow 2021 draftee Isaiah Jackson as a DNP-CD in a recent game this week. While Duarte has struggled to find any kind of rhythm with the team this season, it’s less than ideal to now have both of your first-round picks from the previous season completely out of the rotation while having the 6th-worst record in the league.
Beyond center, the Pacers have a logjam of players at the 2 (but can play some 3) spot as well: Aaron Nesmith has really come along this season, Andrew Nembhard gets most of his minutes on the wing, Bennedict Mathurin has been a promising rookie that draws fouls at a superstar rate and then of course you also have veteran flamethrower Buddy Hield, who leads the league in 3-point makes, leading the group. And then there’s the aforementioned Duarte. The Pacers have made due with their crowded rotation by playing four-guard lineups for most of the game but that’s less than ideal as well and a big part of why they’ve struggled as a rebounding team. They’re just small.
Based on Pritchard’s comments, it seems most likely that besides a chance at a minor move like moving Bitadze or getting lucky with finding a taker on Theis that the Pacers wait until the summer to try and reconfigure the roster to something that is more balanced. But even while they are trying to continue to push towards the play-in, they have to do it with guys like Duarte and Jackson at least getting some playing time. Even with the imbalanced nature of the roster, the Pacers do like and enjoy this group of players and the chemistry they have, and I don’t think they have any problem with keeping the group together through this season and seeing where the chips fall.
The biggest question for the team has already been answered in Turner’s extension and it feels unlikely that the decide to ship away Hield at this point.
“It’s a week that there’s tons and tons of speculation and in the end, there’s very little movement in most cases,” Carlisle said.
If you’re looking for an exciting Pacers trade deadline, you might have to resort to choosing your own adventure.
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