Winners, losers from Pacers trade of Sabonis to Kings for Haliburton

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Clippers
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This trade was a record scratch around the NBA.

While everyone was trying to digest CJ McCollum getting sent to the Big Easy, news broke of this trade between the Pacers and Kings and everyone froze and went, “what?” Around the NBA, Haliburton was seen as the Kings’ most valuable player going forward, the draft pick they hit, and a better foundational piece than De'Aaron Fox (even if his peaks are not quite as high. But the Kings sent Haliburton out to bring back another big man in Domantas Sabonis. The NBA world struggled to get their heads around it.

Let’s break the trade down, winners and losers style. First, the trade itself.

The Pacers receive: Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy HieldTristan Thompson
The Kings receive: Domantas Sabonis, Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday, 2027 second-round pick

WINNER: INDIANA PACERS

Because they set a direction for the organization.

Indiana gave up the best player in this trade right now — usually a sign a team lost in the deal. Not here. In part because what the Pacers had now was not working (19-37 this season) and they needed to pick a direction.

They did exactly that by getting a highly coveted player in Haliburton who can play off the ball next to Malcolm Brogdon but is also a second-year guard who runs the pick-and-roll like a 12-year vet.

The roster falls into place. Myles Turner is their center now, and once he gets healthy he gives them a top-flight rim protector on defense who will get the more prominent role in the offense he seeks. Turner will run pick-and-rolls/pops with Haliburton and they will be surrounded by shooters: Brogdon, Hield, and Chris Duarte. (Don’t be shocked if the Pacers move one of those guards now at the deadline or this offseason.)

Once TJ Warren returns (there are questions about that but those for another time), this is a good roster: Brogdon and Haliburton in the backcourt, a few choices at the three, Warren at the four and Turner as the anchor. There’s depth. Coach Rick Carlisle has players to work with. This is not a team threatening the Bucks or Heat at the top of the East right now, but it’s a good team with a plan. That has value.

LOSER: SACRAMENTO KINGS

What is the long-term plan? What are they building?

I don’t enjoy the blood sport of thrashing Sacramento (as NBA Twitter clearly does), and one can argue the Kings did well in this trade: For one, they got the best player in the deal in Sabonis, who is a two-time All-Star averaging 18.9 points and 12.1 rebounds a game this season. I’d even say Sabonis is the best player the Kings have had since peak DeMarcus Cousins (no, he’s not better than Cousins). Plus, they kept their highly valued 2022 first-round pick (currently the sixth-best odds entering the lottery). Long-time Kings writer Sean Cunningham makes the King’s case.

However, with this deal the Kings choose De’Aaron Fox over Haliburton as the point guard of the future. That’s the big head-scratcher. Fox is the more dynamic athlete and scores more points per game — he can hit higher peaks for a moment — but he has taken a step back this season. Fox gets to the rim less often, takes fewer 3s, his shooting percentages are down across the board (26.4% from 3, and he was never strong there), and he isn’t striking fear into the hearts of defenses with his speed and aggressive style this season. Plus, he’s in the first year of a five-year max deal.

The Kings seem to be stockpiling big men with Sabonis, Harrison Barnes (who could be traded by Thursday), Chimezie Metu, Marvin Bagley, Richaun Holmes, Alex Len, and Damian Jones all around to play the four and five.

There are just questions of fit everywhere. Do Fox and Sabonis fit together in the half court? Fox is not a great pick-and-roll or dribble hand-off guy (that was Haliburton). Now the Kings have two good bigs in Sabonis and Richaun Holmes, neither of whom space the floor. Do Fox and Davion Mitchell work as the backcourt of the future?

Mostly, this appears to be the Kings adding talent to make a run at the play-in this season. They are three games back of the now-improved Pelicans for that No. 10 spot, and 7.5 games back of LeBron James and the Lakers for the No. 9 spot. Making the postseason this year seems a long shot at best.

Maybe I’m missing the long-term plan, but I just don’t see it.

WINNER: TYRESE HALIBURTON

Haliburton lands in an excellent spot for his development.

He and Brogdon make a fantastic backcourt pairing because both can create shots or play off the ball. That kind of versatility in the hands of coach Rick Carlisle will cause real problems for opponents. He’s going to love playing with Turner and Warren, should they ever get healthy (if you’re a good podiatrist, move to Indianapolis and team up with the Pacers, they could use you).

In a couple of years in the East, Haliburton could be an All-Star (where the guards this year include Darius Garland, a player on a similar trajectory). He will get showcased and get paid in a couple of years. This is a win for him.

TO BE DETERMINED: RICHAUN HOLMES

Richaun Holmes is a quality center, but not many fans notice because 1) He is just solid and does everything well but isn’t always spectacular; 2) He plays in Sacramento and nobody was watching. Holmes is averaging 11.8 points and 7.9 rebounds a game, is shooting 68.3% and plays good defense.

However, Sabonis is a better player, certainly a better scorer, and the two bigs occupy the same space on the court. The Kings will feature Sabonis in a push for the postseason, which could end up sidelining Holmes and his role.

Where Holmes fits on these Kings is a question… unless he’s traded. Teams have called and checked on his availability, both because he is solid and under contract for three seasons after this one at a very reasonable $36.1 million (the last year of that is a player option). If Holmes is traded, this could be a win for him. But for now, it looks like a problem.

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.

Draymond Green wants to play 4-5 more years, ideally with Warriors, not stressed about contract

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Jordan Poole got a contract extension from the Warriors this summer. So did Andrew Wiggins.

Draymond Green did not — and he punched Poole and was away from the team for a time.

All this has led to speculation about the future of Green in Golden State. He has a $27.6 million player option for next season, but he could become a free agent this summer. With the Warriors’ payroll through the roof — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on max extensions, Poole and Wiggins just got paid, and contract extensions for Jonathan Kuminga and the rest of the young players are coming — there are questions about how long Green will be in the Bay Area.

In an open and honest interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape, Green talked about everything from his relationship with Poole after the punch to his future. Here are a few highlights:

“I want to play another four or five more years. That would be enough for me.”

“You can look around the NBA right now. There are five guys that’s been on a team for 11 years-plus. We have three of them [along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson]. It’s a very rare thing. There’s 470, 480 players in the NBA? There are five guys that’s been with his team for 11 years plus. That’s amazing. So, you don’t just give that away. So, absolutely I’d be interested in that.”

On rumors he wants to play with LeBron James and the Lakers: “I never said that. People can say what they want. I’m also not really one to react much to what one may say. I react to things when I want to react to it. I don’t react to things just because somebody said it.”

Is he worried about his next contract: “No, not at all. I have a great agent [Rich Paul]. The best agent in the business. That’s why you align yourself with an incredible agent, because they handle the business. I play basketball. That’s what I want.”

I don’t doubt there is mutual interest in Green staying with the Warriors, the question is at what price. It’s not a max. As for the threat of him bolting, Green is still an elite defender and secondary playmaker, but it’s fair to wonder what the free agent market would look like for him. Green is not the scoring threat he once was, and his unique skill set is not a plug-and-play fit with every roster and system (does he really fit on the Lakers, for example).

The conventional wisdom around the league right now is that Green will opt into the final year of his contract with the Warriors — especially if they make another deep playoff run — because that level of money is not out there for him. That said, it only takes one owner to fall in love with the idea and send his GM out to get the deal done. The market may be there for him after all, or he may be open to the security of three or four years with another team but at a lower per-year dollar amount.

Green also talks about his relationship with Poole in the Q&A and makes it sound professional and business-like. Which is all it has to be, but it’s not the “playing with joy” model the Warriors are built upon.

 

Lakers reportedly leaning toward packaging Beverley, Nunn in trade

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While the Lakers have looked better of late winning 6-of-8 with a top-10 offense and defense in the league in that stretch, plus Anthony Davis continues to play at an All-NBA level at center.

That run — which still has Los Angeles sitting 13th in the West — came against a soft part of the schedule (three wins against the Spurs, for example), and is about to get tested with a few weeks of tougher games, starting with the suddenly healthy Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. While the Lakers have been better, nobody is watching them and thinking “contender.” Are they even a playoff team?

Which is why the Lakers are still in the market for trades. But Jovan Buha reports at The Athletic the Lakers realize moving Russell Westbrook and his $47 million may not happen, so they are focused more on a smaller deal moving Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn (with maybe a pick) to bring back quality role players to round out the roster).

The Lakers are leaning toward [a Nunn/Beverley trade] at this point, the team sources said. That would entail making a smaller move to marginally upgrade the roster while retaining the possibility of following up with a larger Westbrook deal later in the season…

Beverley ($13 million) and Nunn ($5.3 million) are both underperforming relative to their contracts. With the Lakers’ needs for additional size on the wing and a better complimentary big next to Anthony Davis, along with the roster’s glut of small guards, Beverley and/or Nunn are expendable. Packaged together, the Lakers could acquire a player or players in the $20 million range.

Trading Nunn and Beverley lines up with a couple of good options from the Lakers’ perspective. For example, the salaries work to get Bojan Bogdanovic out of Detroit, or it matches up with a deal for Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson out of San Antonio. However, neither the Pistons nor Spurs care much about adding veteran guards on expiring contracts in Nunn and Beverley, so it’s going to require the Lakers throwing in one of their first-round picks unprotected (2027 or 2029) and maybe a second-rounder to get it done. (With how well the Pacers are playing, it’s not a sure thing that a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade is still available.) The Spurs trade may be more appealing to the Lakers because Richardson and Poeltl are expiring contracts, so it doesn’t change the Lakers’ plans to use cap space to chase bigger names this offseason (Bogdanovic was recently given a two-year, $39.1 million extension).

These may not be the “move us into contender range” blockbuster Rob Pelinka and the front office hoped was out there, but either of those trades would make the Lakers better. It could move them into playoff-team status, and considering LeBron James turns 38 at the end of the month they can’t waste a year and retool next offseason.

The Lakers have made a number of miscalculations over the years, but they are all-in with this group now and have to find a way to maximize it, even if the cost is a little painful.

Khris Middleton reportedly set to return to Bucks Friday vs. Lakers

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The Milwaukee Bucks are about to get better. Likely a lot better.

Which should worry the rest of the league because the Bucks have looked like one of the two best teams in the Association this season: A 15-5 record with the best defense in the NBA and an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Now they are about to get Khris Middleton back.

Middleton — the Bucks Olympian and All-Star forward — is set to make his season debut Friday night against the Lakers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN. Middleton had been recovering from wrist surgery.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds and assists per game last season. More importantly in Milwaukee, Middleton is the hub of the Bucks’ halfcourt offense — he is the ball handler in the pick-and-roll at the end of games, asked to create for himself and others in the clutch (with Antetokounmpo working off the ball and sometimes setting picks). Without him so far this season, the Bucks’ halfcourt offense has struggled, ranked 21st in the NBA this season in points per possession (via Cleaning the Glass). Overall the Bucks have a middle-of-the-pack offense because of it.

That is about to change.

While Mike Budenholzer will ease him back into the rotation as he gets his wind back, having Middleton back makes the Bucks much more dangerous. Which is bad news for the rest of the NBA.