The Indiana Pacers were expected to play out the first half of the season with their current roster and trade their veterans before the Feb. 9 trade deadline. The prediction was for them to compete in the draft lottery for French big man Victor Wembanyama, but they have silenced the doubters and are in position to compete for a playoff spot.
Tyrese Haliburton continues to improve in his third season and looks like a lock for his first All-Star appearance. Despite the leg injury he sustained this past week, Haliburton is the primary reason for the ascension of Indiana this season. Bennedict Mathurin, Myles Turner, and Buddy Hield have been fantastic as well, and it does not seem that Turner and Hield will be moved by the trade deadline. That seemed like an obvious move a couple of months back, but the tables have turned.
Indiana Pacers trade deadline need: A 4 to complement Myles Turner
Turner has been in trade rumors for a long time, but he is having the best season of his career with Domantas Sabonis out of the picture and could now be a long-term piece for this Pacers franchise. Indiana would like to work out an extension, though nothing has come to fruition yet. Still, given the Pacers would like to keep Turner, they reportedly would like to upgrade on Jalen Smith at the 4-spot next to Turner.
One name that has come up of late is Atlanta Hawks power forward John Collins, who, like Turner, has also been in trade rumors for a while now. It seems like Collins will finally get moved ahead of this deadline, so Indiana could be in position to strike.
For Collins, he would be a tremendous addition because he is an athletic forward who would form a dynamic grouping with Haliburton, Turner, and the Pacers’ other core players. Collins can play above the rim and would be the recipient of Haliburton’s dazzling passing. And while Collins has struggled with his shooting this season (23.0%), he is at nearly 36% from deep for his career and even shot around 40% over 2019-20 and 2020-21.
Collins is still just 25 years old and entering his prime in the next couple of years. He is in the second season of a five-year, $125 million deal, so he would be under team control for a long time. Because Indiana is a small-market city that does not attract a ton of interest in free agency, they must focus on bolstering their roster through trades like this. The price might not even be that high at this point.
Collins would be a splashier addition and a more proven asset, but Obi Toppin is another option and a buy-low opportunity. When Toppin entered the league, he had immense potential, but he has been stuck on the bench of coach Tom Thibodeau playing behind star Julius Randle. Thibodeau is not known to utilize the youngsters on his roster, so Toppin has not had ample opportunities of proving himself on the NBA stage.
Banking on the upside of Toppin is a viable decision, but it is up to the Pacers’ front office on their priorities of building this team around Haliburton, Mathurin, and perhaps Turner. There’s no pressure of executing a deal for the Pacers, but it will be intriguing if they continue adding substantial pieces rather than looking to sell and play for the draft.