The Indiana Pacers won the Paul George trade. Yeah, I know, I’m crazy, right? Trust me, I’ve heard that a lot before, but the exact trade I predicted two weeks ago just happened, so at least hear me out.
George was going to leave next summer anyway and if that happened, Indiana would have gotten nothing in return. So the Pacers had to trade him now. His value on the market was severely diminished by the fact that he’s let everyone know he wants to play for Los Angeles Lakers next summer. Indiana wasn’t getting the kind of offer it wanted from the Boston Celtics, so it got the next best thing: two young players, one of whom is a beloved guy with local ties.
Oladipo is one of the most popular players to ever suit up for the Indiana Hoosiers, and now he’s come back to where he became a star. He has the personality to immediately become the face of the franchise. Plus, he and Myles Turner give the Pacers a young duo to build around.
Oladipo is still only 25 years old and averaged 15.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game in 2016-17. He also notched career-highs in field goal percentage (44.2) and 3-point percentage (.361), while posting career-bests in true shooting percentage (53.4) and turnover rate (9.2). While his PER dropped to 13.62, he also dealt with a back injury during the second half of the season.
The No. 2 pick from the 2013 NBA Draft has the ability to be an elite defender (2.3 defensive win shares) and being back where he’s comfortable should help him elevate his game. While he must continue to improve, a move away from Russell Westbrook’s shadow should also do him good.
Oladipo isn’t the only part of this deal Pacers fans should be excited about. They also picked up Sabonis, who started 66 games in 2016-17, but only averaged 20.1 minutes on the floor. The 6’11” and 240-pound power forward has a lot of nice tools and just turned 21. While his PER was just 6.93, he did a lot of good things on the floor as a rookie.
Coming out of college Sabonis was clearly a tough post player with a high basketball IQ, and was an outstanding passer. He was also a great rebounder at his position. The question with him has always been whether or not he could stretch the floor well enough to fit the modern game. He hit 32.1 percent of his 3-pointers as a rookie, so that’s clearly a work in progress.
Still, Sabonis should combine with Turner and new draftee T.J. Leaf to give the Pacers a nice, young frontcourt trio. That’s a group you can build around up front, while Oladipo gives them some flash and potential in the backcourt.
On Oklahoma City’s end, the Thunder just gave up two starters for a one-year rental of George, who is almost certainly headed to the Lakers next summer. If the Thunder are going all-in on next season, they’re doing so woefully undermanned. Westbrook, George and Steven Adams aren’t beating the Warriors. Or even the Rockets.
The Pacers were never going to get equal value for Paul George, but they were able to extract two young players with a ton of upside. Plus, they got the public relations win of bringing Oladipo back to his old stomping grounds. When you consider all the factors going in to the trade, the Pacers did as well as they could have expected to.
I love this deal for Indiana.