On the moves the Indiana Pacers made and the moves they didn’t at the trade deadline

The Indiana Pacers worked around the edges of their roster at the trade deadline as they acquired Jordan Nwora, George Hill, Serge Ibaka, and three second-round picks from the Milwaukee Bucks as part of what became a 4-team deal in the Suns blockbuster acquisition of Kevin Durant as Jae Crowder was sent to the Bucks. In order to make the trade work, the sent out the draft rights of Juan Pablo Vaulet and waived Terry Taylor, James Johnson, and Goga Bitadze.

Tony East of SI.com reported that the draft picks obtained in the deal were the following:

  • More favorable of Milwaukee 2023 2nd and less favorable of Cleveland or Golden State 2023 2nd
  • 2024 Milwaukee 2nd – unprotected
  • 2025 Indiana 2nd – unprotected (this pick was originally sent to the Bucks when the Pacers completed the sign-and-trade for Malcolm Brogdon)

Kevin Pritchard said prior to tonight’s game against the Phoenix Suns that this opportunities to get in on these trades come from their front office team (Chad Buchanan, Ted Wu, Kelly Krauskopf) working the phones to find out what deals are going on.

“From a capology standpoint, you can be a little more creative if you know what’s out there,” Pritchard said.

Shams Charania has already reported that Serge Ibaka will be waived, Scott Agness reports that George Hill will remain on the roster at least for now, and there are reports that the Pacers would like to bring James Johnson back once they waive Ibaka and Johnson clears waivers.

“He had a great impact,” Rick Carlisle said of Johnson, “and who knows maybe there will be a way to get him back.”

This is Serge Ibaka’s Pacers legacy.

In terms of the effects on this year’s team, it’s minimal. None of the players the Pacers waived were playing with any consistency. Goga was buried under a mountain of centers in the final year of his rookie deal with the team having no incentive to play him over others with longer contracts. Taylor’s best position also is at the five where he can utilize his impressive offensive rebounding skills to the fullest and spend less time on the perimeter. He started a few games to begin the season but rarely did much with those minutes playing as a forward. Johnson has been the sage veteran locker room presence, the Splinter of this young ninja turtle roster, but outside of a few games, he was just a break-in-case-of-extreme-emergency player in terms of on-court usage.

As for the players coming in, Hill, if he sticks through the season, is a veteran presence that has been on numerous contending playoff teams including the last great Pacers teams from nearly a decade ago but his play has been steadily declining over the last few seasons. He’s shooting just 31% from three with the Bucks. He’s a nice emergency point guard if they go through a stretch with no Haliburton and McConnell again but he’s mostly another veteran that can teach the young guys how a contending team works and behaves, and the level of commitment it takes to succeed in the NBA. Maybe if we’re lucky we’ll get the IMCU commercials back and we can start gifting backpacks to kids for made free throws again or if we’re really lucky, Hill will go blonde again and give him his powers back.

Pritchard said they gave Hill the option to be a veteran leader in this locker room or for him to get waived to go to a contending team.

“We really wanted to respect his wishes,” Pritchard said. “… he immediately said, ‘I want to come back and be a part of this.’ … He’s got some valuable insights into the game and I think he takes a lot of pride in what he did here. It was a cool conversation.”

Nwora is the intriguing acquisition beyond the picks here. As a 24-year-old 6’8” forward, he fills a spot in the roster that only Oshae Brissett currently fits as a larger wing/forward type player. Nwora is a capable 3-point shooter who makes 41.9% of his non-corner 3-pointers this season but he’s really struggled shooting anything inside the arc as his overall field-goal percentage is less than 40%. He’s worth a flier to see if he can grow his game with how short the Pacers have been on forwards for years now.

“Nwora’s a guy that we’ve had interest in over the last couple years,” Carlisle said. “We’ve at times been somewhat close to acquiring him but could never quite get there.” Carlisle also noted that he can play the 3/4 positions and has played very well against the Pacers in the past.

Juan Pablo Vaulet, if you’re curious, was a 2015 draft pick by the Charlotte Hornets. His draft rights were originally acquired by the Pacers when they traded away Edmond Sumner to the Brooklyn Nets to clear roster space after his achilles injury. He’s 26 years old and unlikely to ever come to the NBA. He averages 8.7 points for a team in Spain this season.

If I were grading the Pacers on their deadline, it’s a B-. There’s nothing exciting here but with the Pacers place in the standings, it’s not the time to throw all of your chips in for a final piece and while it would have been nice to find a taker for Daniel Theis, they didn’t have a ton of veterans that they really needed to sell off at the moment either. Now if Theis remains in the rotation, that’s a whole different issue to discuss.

Kevin Pritchard said that the Pacers were aggressive in trying to acquire a couple of players to add to their “young nucleus” and they made offers on those players. Their backup plan if that didn’t work was to use their cap space to gather assets like they did. Pritchard declined to give the names of the players they were targeting for obvious reasons but reports have given us a hint at least one of those players: OG Anunoby.

They offered the Toronto Raptors three first-round picks and the Rockets 2023 second-round pick for OG Anunoby according to Zach Lowe on The Lowe Post. Lowe said that the Raptors were looking for draft capital plus at least one good player and the Pacers couldn’t offer anything of interest to Toronto in terms of players. Many teams were said to have put in offers for the wing.

Pritchard said the Pacers identified players that fit their core with talent and character a few weeks before the deadline. They made “big offers, but it takes two to tango and sometimes you can get them and sometimes you can’t.”

It’s not clear what specific picks the Pacers offered so it’s hard to evaluate the offer fully. But with three picks in the first round this year, it’s good to see they were trying to use assets to acquire big talent that fits the team’s timeline. Anunoby would be a perfect fit for the roster but it’s also a risky move because he’ll be able to reach free agent with a huge payday and a ton of suitors waiting for him after next season. Who knows maybe the Pacers will end up making a run at him then?

They were also reportedly one of the teams that was talking to the New York Knicks about Obi Toppin but the price was significant. It’s unclear if that was the other potential big target or not but he feels like a fantastic fit as a transition and lob threat with Haliburton but it’s hard to know what price the Knicks were seeking for their sparingly used forward. They had rumored interest in Matisse Thybulle who ended up with the Blazers in a 3-team trade that saw Jalen McDaniels end up with the Sixers. McDaniels would have been a very interesting player for the Pacers but he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer likely to command a large contract. And these players were shuffled around for second-round picks which the Pacers acquired three of today, making it more likely that they are able to make a similar move sometime in the future.

Wish the Pacers made a bigger offer? Make it happen here 👆

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