The Indiana Pacers are reportedly ready to embrace a rebuild. After years of fighting valiantly to remain a mid-seed in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers seem prepared to go down a road they’ve tried to not travel, although it does not appear that they tear it all down and start from scratch. Some key pieces will remain — Malcolm Brogdon, TJ Warren, and one of the bigs seems like the minimum that will be around past early February — but a shake up is in order and Caris LeVert and one of Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner are apparently gettable.
On top of those big names, the Pacers have some interesting role players who can help contending teams, like Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday, and Torrey Craig. If Indiana is indeed open for business in the next two months, there are plenty of front offices that should be working the phones to see who is gettable and for what price.
Here, we’ll look at five teams that should be getting in touch with Indiana to see what the asking prices are on those top three guys and whether they can position themselves to reap the rewards of the Pacers looking to shuffle the deck.
Boston Celtics: The Celtics don’t have any longterm answers in the frontcourt right now, and while Turner has been connected to Boston in rumors in the past, I would be first trying to see what Sabonis would cost if I were Brad Stevens. This is a Boston team that could use some better scoring balance, and Sabonis’ ability to take some of the scoring stress off of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown would be intriguing to me if he could be had without needing to give up Brown. Turner also makes plenty of sense as a defensive anchor and floor-spacing big — he’d surely coming at a lower asking price, too — but Sabonis would be a home run addition for the Celtics.
Charlotte Hornets: Another team that’s been linked to Turner for some time is Charlotte, who likewise still don’t have a lot of clarity about their center rotation. They’d presumptively need to part with PJ Washington to land Turner, but for a team desperate for a defensive identity, adding a player with the pedigree of Turner on that end would be a huge addition. They’d have to believe he’s the long-term center to pair with LaMelo Ball, but if they do, it’s the deal that makes as much sense as any.
Memphis Grizzlies: Memphis spent this offseason positioning itself for the future, and I think they should be trying to figure out if they, too, can get in the Turner/Sabonis sweepstakes. Sabonis would give them the frontcourt scorer they lack currently, given Jaren Jackson Jr. takes half of his attempts from three and Steven Adams isn’t exactly a focal point. That would alleviate pressure from Ja Morant come playoff time, and with the floor spacers they have, that’s a duo that could wreak havoc on offense. Turner has a similar profile to Jackson, but as the Cavs have shown, having two bigs capable of rim protection and switching on defense while spacing the floor on offense is valuable. For a Grizzlies team that took a patient approach this summer, I’d like to see them reward another strong start from their young team by pushing some chips in.
Portland Trail Blazers: Everyone’s favorite fake trade partners would indeed make sense to go after either of the Indiana bigs, and Sabonis, given the family ties to Portland and playing his college ball at Gonzaga, will be a popular rumor. However, Turner makes more sense in terms of what Portland desperately needs. Like Charlotte, Portland is a squad that is crying out for a defensive anchor. Whether the Blazers have the players and assets to make that move remains to be seen — and, if we want to get real weird, there’s a world where you could get the Pacers involved in a three-team deal involving Ben Simmons also going to Portland — but this will be a popular combination until the deadline.
Cleveland Cavaliers: I’ll be honest, I don’t know what Caris LeVert’s value is on the market right now. His production so far this season in a bit of a muddied role in Indiana hasn’t been great, but there’s a buy low argument to be made if you’re a team like the Cavs. Adding a secondary ball-handler next to Darius Garland and some more potential perimeter scoring pop would, in theory, bring more balance to their big-heavy attack. Making money work could be a trick, as they would either need to do a Ricky Rubio and picks deal or package Cedi Osman and Collin Sexton, which might feel like a steep price for LeVert. If not LeVert, Lamb or one of the other veteran wings would also be a good add for a Cavs team on the rise but in need of bolstering perimeter and wing depth if they’re serious about a playoff push this year.