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Pacers, Kings Trade Analysis: All-In for the Play-In in Sacramento

Bad Men, Bad Takes – Season 1

Overnight, the Indiana Pacers continued the process of re-tooling their roster, executing a trade with the Sacramento Kings involving six players and a draft pick. On paper, the Kings receive arguably the best player in the deal, however many writers, particularly those who are close to the Kings organisation, are questioning the deal given the strong recent play of some of the key players they shipped to Indianapolis.

Let’s take a look at the trade itself, as well as what it means for both teams moving forward.


Pacers acquire: Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Tristan Thompson.

Kings acquire: Domantas Sabonis, Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday, 2023 second-round pick.

For The Kings:

Rumours had abounded that Sacramento were looking to shake up their roster heading into the deadline for many months, and this is the deal they’ve pulled the trigger on.

On the surface, the Kings were stuck in a bit of a rock and a hard place. A location where acquiring elite level talent via free agency is more or less not an option, the Kings were always going to have to pull the pin on a deal or rely on the draft if they wanted to improve their roster. While their draft record over the past decade leaves much to be desired, recent picks Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell look to have the ability to develop into above average players in the league. With established star De’Aron Fox playing the point, however, their appeared to be a bit of a log jam at the guard slot.

They franchise looked to acquire Ben Simmons via trade, but when any potential deal with the Sixers hit a brick wall, they changed tack and looked to acquire another quality player with size, who can score and create for others. Enter Domantas Sabonis.

Domantis Sabonis has improved every season, and will be tasked with pairing with Fox in Sacramento to win games. Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Sabonis is hands down the best player in this deal. He’s a scoring and rebounding machine who has shown consistent improvement through the early stages of his career. While he’s yet to prove his stats can translate to wins for his team, another change of scenery and pairing him with Fox and Harrison Barnes may be a recipe for some success for both him and the Kings. He does have his limitations of defence however, and this is an area the Kings need help in as they rank 29th in defensive rating. Nonetheless, Sabonis gives the Kings a viable option down low to score when the shot clock is winding down and gives Fox a great pick and roll, and pick and pop, partner.

The other parts of this deal for the Kings are Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday and a 2023 second-round pick. Lamb is a nice rotation piece if utilised properly and can be of some use as a floor spacer while Sabonis and Fox run their pick and roll game going forward, but he has his limitations otherwise on both ends of the floor. Holiday, like Lamb, can contribute in patches if put in positions to succeed. This IS, however, the Kings, and anyone who has faith the franchise can get a rise out of those two players is….optimistic to say the least.

To finish the deal, the Kings scooped up a future second-round pick. While nothing to write home about, any asset you can acquire in a deal where you also collect the best player is a win.

Jeremy Lamb (pictured) and Justin Holiday can contribute if utilised correctly in Sacramento. Credit: NBC Sports

Overall, I don’t mind this trade from a Kings point of view because they needed to shake things up. They bring in a guy in Sabonis who has three years and around $57m left on his contract including this season to pair with an fringe All-Star in Fox, and I feel like the fit with these two is better due to their positions not overlapping too much.

The small asterisk on this deal is the price they paid as I, and many Kings fans, would’ve liked to see Fox shipped out in a deal of this nature rather than Tyrese Haliburton given his recent play.

For The Pacers:

Things haven’t worked this season under Rick Carlisle this season.

I was high on his appointment, seeing a version of the team where Sabonis becomes a poor man’s Jokic and dominates with his triple-threat and playmaking ability from the high post, but it just hasn’t happened. With the franchise sending out Caris LeVert to the Cavaliers only hours before this deal, it’s clear they are ready to tear it down and rebuild.

The key piece Indiana acquires in return for an out-going All-Star in Sabonis is undoubtedly guard Tyrese Haliburton. Full disclosure, I was very high on Haliburton coming out of college and entering the 2020 draft, and he showed his defensive potential in his rookie campaign but struggled for consistency on the offensive end. This season, and particularly in the last two months, he’s been elite for the Kings and could shape as a steal if his form continues going forward.

Tyrese Haliburton is the key piece the Pacers acquire in this deal, and given his recent play, could be a steal. Credit: USA Today FTW

Since December 17th, Haliburton has played and started in 24 games for Sacramento, averaging 17.3 points, 9.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals and has shot 43.9% from three on over five attempts per contest. Put simply, he’s been on a tear, especially for a guy who still has two seasons remaining on his rookie deal once this season wraps up. His potential looms as nearly limitless and with his defensive tools, he could be a genuine two-way player, and a very good one, for a decade or more to come.

The peripheral pieces to this deal for the Pacers also hold value. Buddy Hield is a great three point shooter despite his percentages taking a small dip this season, and he’s been able to contribute close to 15 pint per contest for the Kings despite a cut in his minutes compared to last season. He’s owed $22m this season, but that decreases to $20m next season, then $18m in 2023-2024. Those numbers, provided his impact on the floor continues, will not be hard to shift in the future to a contending team who wants a reliable veteran wing to spread the floor if Indiana are willing to take on some expiring contracts in exchange for draft capital.

Things haven’t gone according to plan for Rick Carlisle in Indiana, but the veteran Coach will get a chance to rebuild the team with new pieces going forward. Credit: MARCA

The last piece of this deal, Tristan Thompson, has bounced around in recent seasons due to indifferent play, but holds value as a veteran locker room presence IF he buys in. If he doesn’t, he’s in the final year of a $9m contract and represents no lost value if the team elects not to re-sign him.

Overall, it’s hard not to like this deal from the Pacers. Sure, they lose an established All-Star in Sabonis, but acquiring Haliburton in return great compensation considering they can still move Hield if they really want to bottom out with Tyrese at the helm.

I expect further moves before the deadline or in the off-season to continue to tear down this roster, but having a young guy who delivers and is still on a rookie scale deal for years to come is a great building block to give Carlisle as the team looks to the future.

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