The Indiana Pacers have seen multiple players step up this season in the absence of franchise cornerstone Victor Oladipo, who is hoping to make a return to the hardwood in late January after sitting out for nearly a year due to a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee.
Domantas Sabonis is a double-double machine and an All-Star candidate, T.J. Warren is thriving as a starter playing on a winning club for the first time of his career (17.8 points per game), and second-year guard Aaron Holiday has displayed noticeable improvements (most notably as a 3-point marksman) to help make fans excited about his future in Indiana.
While some Pacers have thrived so far in 2019-20, others have struggled. TJ Leaf, the third-year man out of UCLA, has had a disappointing tenure as a pro thus far, and this year is no exception.
Heading into the 2017 NBA Draft, Leaf was believed to be a multi-faceted offensive threat who ran the floor well and was explosive heading to the rim. The big man was the beneficiary of Lonzo Ball’s gifted playmaking ability as a college athlete, averaging 16.3 points on 61.7 percent shooting during his lone season at UCLA.
Indiana drafted Leaf 18th overall in 2017 with the expectation that his scoring ability could translate to the next level, but that has not been the case. The once-touted prospect has career averages of 3.4 points and 2.0 rebounds in just 8.8 minutes per game of action, and it unfortunately seems as if his NBA career has reached a new low in 2019-20. Leaf is tallying a career low in minutes (8.4) and is shooting just 41.5 percent from the field in his limited minutes.
The Pacers clearly swung and missed on this pick, and Leaf might just need a fresh start elsewhere. He is a non-factor for this squad, so they should cut their losses and deal him prior to the Feb 6. trade deadline. While Leaf’s trade value is far from sky-high, the young man has yet to turn 23 years old and could be viewed as a player with untapped potential who could thrive in the right situation. Perhaps the Pacers could use Leaf to acquire a more established backup big to play behind Myles Turner.
One possible trade target for Indy is Sacramento Kings center Dewayne Dedmon, who recently demanded a trade due to lack of playing time. Dedmon, 31, is a seven-year veteran who has proven himself to be a productive rotational piece if given the opportunity. In 2018-19 as a member of the Atlanta Hawks, he averaged 10.8, points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 25.1 minutes per game — almost double the amount of playing time he is receiving in Sacramento (13.6 minutes per game).