Opinion: With Myles Turner’s Extension, What Moves Should the Pacers Make Before the Trade Deadline?

What should the Pacers do before the trade deadline?

The Indiana Pacers have had one of the weirdest seasons in NBA history. The gambling aficionados in Vegas set the Pacers total wins at 23.5 to start the year, which would be the third lowest win total in franchise history. And after starting 1-4, the Pacers rattled off 9 wins in 11 games to get their record to 23-18 at the 41 game mark of the 82 game NBA season, just a half game back of their anticipated total wins. In the 42 game against the Knicks, Tyrese Haliburton got injured with a posterolateral corner (PCL) Sprain, and the team has lost seven games straight, including ten of their last eleven. The team has had some major ups and downs, but part of the team’s success is the return of center Myles Turner.

Turner is having a career season by many metrics this year. He has a career-high in points (17.1), a career-high in rebounds (7.8), a career-high in field goal percentage (55.6%) and shooting a career best percentage from the three point line (39.6%). These stats highlight what Myles has been saying for years, highlighted in this interview by James Boyd of IndyStar:

 “I’m trying really hard to make the role that I’m given here work and find a way to maximize it,” Turner said. “I’ve been trying to the past two, three seasons. But it’s clear to me that, just numbers-wise, I’m not valued as more than a rotational role player, and I hold myself in a higher regard than that.”

It also helps to have one of the best passing point guards in the league in Haliburton setting him up. With everything going well with Turner this year, the Pacers and Turner have agreed on a 2 year/ $60 Million extension that will keep him under contract through the 2025 season. This extension adds an additional $17.2 Million for the remainder of this season, which brings his total expected salary to $35.2 Million. Even with the extension, the Pacers still can move Turner, but it becomes more likely they don’t. The Pacers have $6.6 Million in cap space, and have about $33.2 Million under the Luxury tax line. The team has moves to make, and can easily make them. 

Goga Bitadze Finally Gets To a New Team

Ever since Goga Bitadze was drafted, it hasn’t made sense. He was the fourth center on a team featuring two of the top 25 Centers in the League, Turner and Domantas Sabonis. Now he is behind Turner, Jalen Smith, Daniel Theis, and Isaiah Jackson. He hasn’t wanted to go to the G-League and has refused every attempt of the Pacers to send him there. The only chance for him to get more playing time is to be traded. There are only two teams that make sense for Bitadze; the Thunder and the Knicks. The Thunder are actively shopping Darius Bazely who has the size and athleticism the Pacers are looking for on the wing, however he is more expensive in a trade than Cam Reddish probably has one more shot to play in the NBA until he is out of the league. I anticipate Bitadze to be Moved by Feb. 9, especially with Theis set to return any day. 

Daniel Theis Gets Re-Homed

I fully anticipate the Pacers to be looking to upgrade their roster, especially with how good Bennedict Mathurin, Turner, and Haliburton have been together on the court (+14.4 Net Rating) this season. O.G. Is an expensive wing, who fits the timeline of the team to compete in the coming next few seasons. With this major upgrade at the wing, this shores up the rotation and allows Turner to play next to a rebounding and defensive stretch 4. Theis gives the Raptors some added depth at a position of need, and is on a cheap contract for what he provides. They also get 3 first round picks, which paired with their own this year, could easily net them a top 12 pick in a stacked 2023 NBA Draft.

Pacers Make Sacrifices for the Future

With the Pacers losing 10 out of the last 11 games, and reeling in the Eastern Conference standings, it may be time to recoup some value for Buddy Hield and Daniel Theis. While I don’t believe Russel Westbrook would ever play in Indy, his contract is an expiring contract that opens up a ton of cap space in this upcoming off-season where you could get players like Jerami Grant, Josh Hart, and Lonnie Walker IV to come play in Indy, and make a run at the playoffs in 2023-24. I would hate to see Hield go, but if it netted the team two future first round picks, when the Lakers most likely won’t have LeBron James, this is a deal I can get behind. 

What Do I Think the Pacers Do?

If I am Kevin Pritchard, I am trying to get a disgruntled O.G, Anonuby from Toronto, and trying to see how cheap I can be to make the trade happen. The team is very unlikely to compete for a title run this year, but putting O.G. back home again in Indiana, using a top 10 Pick in this deep draft, and getting another year of two core pieces in Mathurin and Haliburton, will set the team up for a deep run in the next few years before Haliburton gets a maximum extension which would cost the team $194.3 Million over 5 years starting in the summer of 2025. The team is poised to make moves, I just hope Pritchard and Buchanan aren’t afraid to pull the trigger when offers come their way. 

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