The Indiana Pacers weren’t a part of the NBA Draft lottery but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have a rooting interest. The results went about as well as it possibly could have for the team.
There were many winners in the lotto on Wednesday. The New Orleans Pelicans being the literal winners with the Zion Williamson sweepstakes. The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers both jumped up into the top-4 selections. There were also some losers. The team with the least amount of wins last season in the Knicks will pick 3rd. The Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers had the second-worst records in the NBA this season but will be picking 5th and 6th. The Chicago Bulls dropped all the way to 7th.
For a team that did not participate in all the festivities, the Pacers, whose first-round pick was already settled at 18th after they won tiebreaker with two other teams, “won” as much as they could possibly hope for in an event in which they weren’t actually involved.
First, Williamson, the consensus number one pick, will be going to a Western Conference team. The Pelicans seem to be the most fortunate with the timing of their lottery wins as they get a new franchise player as Anthony Davis wants to leave.
The Bulls and the Cavaliers both slipping down saw two of the Pacers Central divisional foes to lose their shot at Zion. Dropping much lower than expected limits their options even further. Chicago’s John Paxson listed things in the Bulls favor that sounds a lot like the Pacers list. Not a good night for the Bulls.
With the second pick going to the Grizzlies, this could push more speculation into one particular player that could be targeted this offseason. Indiana is faced with quite a predicament with their roster with so many free agents. After last night, maybe one of their question marks has been answered. A Mike Conley trade could be more likely to happen. Ja Morant from Murray State is already being reported as the likely pick for the Grizzlies and they may want to hand the keys to the offense to the rookie right away to let him grow with as much experience as possible. It’s no secret Memphis has been open to dealing Conley recently.
Conley, who will be 32 years old next season, is under contract for the next two years at a hefty price of $67 million combined but is coming off of one the best performances in his career. Conley, who averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game, grew up in Indiana and the Pacers sure do love their natives. His ability to score with the ball in his hands and run the offense would improve the Pacers tremendously. With Indiana not the most attractive destination in free agency, trading for someone like Conley could be their best bet to make a bold move this offseason.
A trade wouldn’t be without its risks since Memphis isn’t just giving him away. Could something like the 18th pick, Domantas Sabonis or Aaron Holiday, and salary filler be enough for them to bite? It’s unclear but the Pacers should look into how interested the Grizzlies would be in a potential deal. There were rumors that the Pacers made an offer at the deadline but talks didn’t get far.