The Indiana Pacers secured the fourth-seed in the Eastern Conference (45-28), only to be swept by the 5th-seeded Miami Heat in the first round of the 2020 NBA playoffs. The disappointing turnout led to the dismissal of former head coach Nate McMillan, effectively ending his four-year stint with the team.
While the young Pacers team did look like they overachieved this year, it’s quite clear that they were at a disadvantage ever since the season resumed. Their blossoming star Domantas Sabonis left the bubble in July after hurting his foot. He was later diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and was ruled out of the postseason.
Pacers’ two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo was still visibly shaking off the cobwebs after returning from a serious quadriceps tendon injury. As phenomenal as TJ Warren was inside the bubble, his struggles come playoff time proves that he is still better suited as a second or third option on offense.
While the Pacers do not necessarily need to clean house next season, it seems they need to shake things up to continue their progress.
A lot of NBA teams have had their eye on Oladipo ever since he turned down that 4-year, $80 million extension from Indiana before the season. The emergence of Sabonis also made Myles Turner expendable, and he’s been involved in trade rumors since the deadline.
If the Pacers play their cards rights, they can get another superstar-caliber player who suits them better and can team-up with Sabonis in the long run.
Here are the four best options for Indy.
Possibly parting ways with Turner hurts Indiana’s interior defense, and JoJo could help in that regard. While Sabonis is indeed already capable, playing him at the power forward spot is still the best play for the Pacers.
Embiid, of course, is a huge offensive upgrade over Turner who is limited on that end of the floor.
Having defenses zero in on Embiid would allow better looks for Sabonis, while also helping the Lithuanian-American big to avoid some unnecessary punishment at the 5 position. The Lakers currently employ this tactic wonderfully, having Anthony Davis always paired up with either JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard.
A straight-up Turner-Embiid swap certainly won’t be enough for the 76ers, though, and the Pacers will need to sweeten the pot with an assortment of players and picks.
The Washington Wizards’ spitfire guard has been on top of the wish list of every team looking get a top-notch scorer. The Pacers might have to give up a major haul for his services, but it will definitely improve their chances of moving forward.
Getting a guy like Beal gives them a supreme scorer guaranteed to produce over 20 markers each night. The Pacers badly needed some scoring during their playoff defeat versus the Heat. He nailed 45.5 percent of his field goals this season and 35.3 percent of his triples. A Beal-Sabonis tandem in the pick-and-roll certainly elicits some excitement in Indianapolis.
Beal’s marksmanship, of course, won’t come cheap. The Wizards might even seek both Oladipo and Turner in return.
If Philly won’t give up Embiid, the Pacers could also use an upgrade in the playmaking department by going for Simmons. As good as Malcolm Brogdon has been for Indy this season, he’s not a natural facilitator who can run a championship-caliber offense.
Despite his range limitations, the Aussie point-forward has already proven himself in that regard. His defensive prowess will also fit nicely alongside the Pacers’ gritty crew.
The Sixers will likely be intrigued for a package involving Oladipo, and Indiana should definitely entertain this possibility.
This might be a peculiar choice given many consider Love to be already over the hill. The 31-year-old 5-time All-Star, however, seems like he still has a lot left in tank based on his performance this season.
In 56 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the one-time NBA champ put up 17.6 points on 45 percent FG shooting and 37.4 percent from three, along with 9.8 boards and 3.2 assists.
Judging by that in-game meltdown he had back in January, Love still has that desire to compete at a high level. He’ll get that opportunity with the Pacers. His championship pedigree and veteran wisdom will certainly be a blessing for the promising, but youthful Pacers ensemble.
Indiana loves to stretch the floor, and Love will definitely help them in that regard. His rebounding prowess will also come in handy if the Pacers will use Turner in a possible trade.
A Sabonis-Love frontline, however, doesn’t really seem like a formidable defensive unit, so they’ll have to make adjustments on that end.