In desperate need of direction, the Indiana Pacers needed to maximize their return on a Domantas Sabonis trade ahead of the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline. Indiana didn’t just make a good deal. They hit a towering, 500-foot grand slam.
Previous reports indicated that the Washington Wizards were hot on Sabonis’ trail. Instead, the Sacramento Kings followed through on their desire to acquire another All-Star. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Kings are sending young point guard Tyrese Haliburton, sharpshooter Buddy Hield, and veteran forward Tristan Thompson to the Pacers in exchange for Sabonis, wings Justin Holiday and Jeremy Lamb, and a 2023 second-round pick.
In acquiring Haliburton, the Pacers have a future star who should form a tremendous backcourt duo with Malcolm Brogdon. Indiana also committed to floor-spacing by adding Hield and now boasts a diverse roster full of shooting and creation.
The Pacers hoped to get strong future value for Sabonis. They’ve done that and far more, setting themselves up for contention in the years to come.
Tyrese Haliburton is a star in the making and fits well with Malcolm Brogdon
For those who haven’t watched the Kings this season, Tyrese Haliburton has rapidly become one of the most promising guards in the NBA.
After falling to Sacramento with the No. 12 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Haliburton flashed his upside as a two-way playmaking guard, earning All-Rookie First Team honors in the process. He’s taken a big step forward in his development this season.
Haliburton is averaging 14.3 points, 7.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.7 steals while shooting 41.3% from beyond the arc on 4.9 attempts per game. The surface numbers don’t do him justice, though. Haliburton has excelled with De’Aaron Fox in and out of the rotation.
In 12 games without Fox on the floor, Haliburton is averaging 19.2 points, 10.0 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.9 steals, per StatMuse. He shot over 45% from the field and nearly 40% from deep in those contests. Indeed, Haliburton’s progression made it seem like the Kings should trade Fox and build around their budding youngster.
Instead, Sacramento stuck with Fox. The Kings’ loss is the Pacers’ gain at the NBA trade deadline.
Haliburton is the ideal backcourt piece next to Malcolm Brogdon. He can create off the dribble and make plays getting into the lane, finding lob threats or kick-outs. The Iowa State product has also shown an ability to create separation on the perimeter and carve out space to get his jumper off.
The 21-year-old’s on-ball talents mesh well with Brogdon, who excels as an off-ball cutter while also possessing dynamic slashing ability. Although Brogdon’s shooting numbers are down, he should benefit from a Pacers team that suddenly has way more spacing. On that note …
The Pacers suddenly have ample shooting
Before they traded Domantas Sabonis, the Pacers’ offense mostly revolved around slowing the tempo and pounding the rock.
Sabonis has value as a big who can play on the perimeter and create for himself and teammates off the dribble. He could score on short rolls and has developed into one of the better low-post players in the game. But Indiana often methodically ran the half-court offense through him, which didn’t work because of its lack of shooting.
Caris LeVert previously had the highest usage rate on the team before the Pacers traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Yet LeVert’s inefficiencies from beyond the arc contributed further to poor spacing, and his drive-heavy style further clogged the lane.
The Pacers no longer have that problem.
Haliburton shoots triples well on good volume. Hield is one of the premier marksmen in the NBA. Opponents will have to think twice going under on screens for Haliburton while not committing much help defense his way because of Hield stretching the floor.
What makes this all even more salient is Myles Turner. Although Indiana might have traded Turner before this deal went down, his potential as a floor-spacing, rim-rolling big makes him an ideal fit for this new roster construction, especially as a pick-and-roll partner with Haliburton.
The Pacers now project as a pace-and-space kind of team. They have a style that works for them now and in the future. Not to mention, the team still has plenty of future assets.
A bright future in Indiana
If the Pacers lacked a clear vision before, they certainly have it now.
Indiana has plenty of young talent. Haliburton joins promising wing Chris Duarte as part of the Pacers’ up-and-coming group. Duane Washington Jr. has flashed in the next two weeks and figures to see increased minutes as a result of Sabonis’ departure. Isaiah Jackson averaged 18.0 points, over seven rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in three games before suffering an ankle injury on Feb. 2.
Oh, and the Pacers have valuable draft capital. Indiana has its pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, which is projected in the top five. It also got a protected first-round choice from the Cavaliers in the LeVert trade to go along with a second-round pick via the Houston Rockets, which should put Indiana on the clock at the top of the second round.
Sure, the Pacers traded an All-Star talent in Domantas Sabonis. As of now, however, they look like the clear winners of the NBA trade deadline.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.