The Pacers and Raptors reached a deal Jan. 17th, as Indiana sent Bruce Brown, Jordan Nwora, and three first-round picks to Toronto in exchange for two-time All-Star forward Pascal Siakam.
Two of those picks are for the 2024 draft, and the third is for 2026. A third team was in the deal, as the New Orleans Pelicans sent Kira Lewis and a second-round pick to Indiana.
Cobb: A great step for Indiana
While it may seem like a lot to give up for one player, this trade was one of the best deals the Pacers could make. The front office and fans alike were searching for a second star to pair with their breakout superstar, Tyrese Haliburton and they found him without giving up any of their young core players.
My initial reaction to the news was that three picks are way too much. Then I realized Indiana is notoriously poor in the NBA draft. With the exception of Turner (2015), Benedict Mathurin, and Nembhard (2022), the Pacers have had 13 draft picks since 2011 who are either role players on different teams now, in the G-League, or out of the NBA.
Additionally, those first-round picks are likely to be late first round, in the mid to high 20s. While of course talent can come from any pick in the draft, again I must add the Pacers front office is subpar in this field.
However, in the past few seasons, President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard has made numerous moves to build this current roster, starting with the Domantas Sabonis-Haliburton trade in early 2022. It was in the team's best interest to shop these picks and in return, Indiana added a star veteran and former NBA champion. This deal brings Indiana from fringe playoff contention to a serious danger in the Eastern Conference.
The two-time All-NBA selection fills a key role Indiana has been missing, a two-way forward who can defend on the wing and add to an already historic offense. So far this season, he is averaging 22.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game.
Siakam is in the final year of his $38 million deal, but it is likely he will be extended this summer, as his camp has expressed his desire to play with Haliburton, Turner, and the Pacers.
"I'm excited that Pascal is getting a first-class opportunity with the Pacers, being paired with Tyrese [Haliburton] and Myles [Turner] and being coached by a great coach in Rick Carlisle," Siakam's agent Todd Ramasar told Andscape. "His future looks bright there."
Although the Blue and Gold lost a key player in the rotation (Brown), this acquisition added depth to an already deep roster, and on top of that, the Pacers didn’t even have to give up their young guys.
Pascal Siakam was the perfect pickup for this young but really talented Pacers squad. This team has all the tools to make a legit run in the playoffs this postseason.
Carter: It might be too much
As my colleague Derran referenced, the Pacers track record of drafting with later first round picks has not been something to cheer about. Goga Bitaze, TJ Leaf, Aaron Holiday… must I say more? So, I am not upset that the team’s front office traded the picks for an all-star caliber player.
I even have questions about Jarace Walker – the Pacers’ eighth overall pick in the 2023 NBA draft –who has only seen action 14 times in an Indiana jersey.
However, was Siakam worth all of that? I agree that the 6-9 forward has looked great on offense and has other qualities which could come in handy. With the way Tyrese Halburton plays, the former Raptor could become an important piece for the Pacers. I also think this trade proves that Kevin Prichard is in a win now type of mind, which is something I’ve wanted to see for a good amount of time.
Yet those three picks could have been used for a better trade.
I’m not that upset they dealt Brown – even though I thought he was a nice player – and I’m fine with Nwora, a back-in-the-rotation guy, being moved. However, what happens if another team decides that they're willing to give up a top eight pick or an even better player? Those three picks would have come in the clutch, but now they sit in Toronto’s pockets.
Yet the scariest part of this trade has nothing to do with the trade itself. Siakam is set to be a free agent this summer. Though ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that Indiana’s new forward has interest in remaining with Haliburton and the Pacers, what if that changes?
If the trade goes well, I think it’s a win. You gave up one decent player, some picks, and an end of the bench type of player. However, if the trade does not work, you gave up a good player, a player that didn’t really matter, and three first round picks that could have been used in a better trade.
So while Siakam could be a great addition to the roster for the rest of this season, I’m not getting too excited beyond that. I’m just hoping that those three picks don’t become a thorn in Indiana’s side.