This is least likely because it’s built on a contingent of ‘if’ hurdles that the Nets and Heat simply don’t have. Plus, the Pacers are not really contenders right now. However, they could be closer than people realize dependent on one or both of these two things.
- Victor Oladipo, while in a contract year, returns to his 2017-18 self … if he stays.
This a longshot, because you could compellingly argue that we offer Oladipo too much credit for his one Most Improved Player season. It’s also entirely possible that he doesn’t begin opening night on Indiana’s roster. There have been trade talks surrounding him going to the Milwaukee Bucks, among other teams like the Heat and Nets. Still, this is primarily possible if Oladipo not only plays out his final year in Indiana, but returns to form, making them better than expected.
2. Malcolm Brogdon, TJ Warren, and Domatas Sabonis continue what they built on last season.
Whether or not they need to do this with Oladipo will not matter if that trade does happen. It would then be primarily on these three gentlemen to uplift new head coach Nate Bjorkgren to something the Pacers evidently wanted out of Nate McMillan. (We’ll see about that.)
But with or without Oladipo, the Pacers would need these three to lead Indiana into a position, similar to last season, where they could make a mid-season acquisition of Aldridge’s caliber. The team nearly landed Gordon Hayward, so they’re obviously trying to win now. They already tried to trade Myles Turner to the Boston Celtics this month, and since the Spurs don’t have a long-term center, why not two years of Turner? They extended Jakob Poeltl for three years and $27 million this off-season. Coincidentally, in the same off-season where Montrezl Harrell, Derrick Jones Jr, Mason Plumlee, Meyers Leonard, Serge Ibaka, Tristan Thompson, Jae Crowder, De’Anthony Melton, and others signed to make between $8-10 million annually.
Man, look … almost all them dudes gettin’ traded between now and whenever their contracts expire. You trade salaries as much as actual players in this league.
Poeltl will be moved at some point. In this deal in particular? You could attach draft compensation to Turner and Jeremy Lamb (who makes around $10 million these next two seasons and is still recovering from a torn ACL) to get it done. A Brogdon-Oladipo-Warren-Sabonis-Aldridge five suddenly becomes a threat to everyone in the Eastern Conference. Without Oladipo? Depends on Brogdon, Warren and Sabonis, who is coming off his first All-Star appearance. (Brogdon built an All-Star case in the first two months of last season as well.) But, again, if-if-if.