Hey, remember when Larry Bird got himself run out of town in Indianapolis thanks largely to a slew of terrible win-now moves he made during offseasons and at the trade deadlines that did nothing to turn the Pacers into a contender and instead just condemned them to Mediocrity Hell until Paul George forced their hand?
Well, you see, Kemba Walker‘s on the trading block, and Pacers fans, looking at their seventh-place team, are starting to make noise on Twitter, and…
Stop. Seriously. Just stop.
This team was supposed to win 30 games this year while Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis meshed with their teammates. Oladipo was supposed to be the dollar store Paul George at shooting guard, Sabonis came in after a disastrous start to his career in Oklahoma City, where he did almost nothing on last year’s 47-35 Russell Westbrook-Plays-Big-O squad…
Except Oladipo’s an All-Star and Sabonis is finally showing that he got some basketball talent in the DNA from dear old dad Arvydas.
Which has people thinking the team is one piece away from somehow being able to hang with Toronto or Boston.
For starters, let’s just rule out Kemba Walker as a viable point guard of the future. He can’t shoot (41.2 percent from the field and 35 percent from three in his career), he can’t play a lick of defense, and he doesn’t get to the free throw line enough for the volume of field goals he attempts.
That’s not to say he sucks (a 20.3 PER, just for starters, plus a .152 WS/48 on a horrid team, all that speaks to a quality player), only that he’s not the point guard Indiana needs to run their offense when they have Darren Collison making the offense flow without injecting himself into it, and Collison has better shooting numbers and a better fit in terms of helping the team win.
The Pacers are also getting Glenn Robinson III back before too long, and this will allow Bojan Bogdanovic to move back to the bench, where he’s always put up better numbers throughout his career; against other teams’ reserves, he’s been more in his element and able to impose his will alongside his own team’s bench.
No matter who Indiana moves, they’d have to integrate a new player in the stretch drive, and there’s just nobody on the team with the exception of the 30-year-old Collison or 29-year-old Thaddeus Young who isn’t better served as a watch-and-develop guy rather than a trade for assets guy.
That’s not counting Lance Stephenson, of course, but that’s a story for another day if you want to argue about the value of intangibles and what Lance brings to the Pacers’ locker room. He’d otherwise, in pure statistical terms, be a guy you could trade for a second-round pick and a bag of popcorn and win the trade.
The point here is that just because the Pacers are winning basketball games ahead of schedule does not mean they should be treated like a contender. They’re not one, and no amount of win-now moves are going to get them any further than, at best, the second round of the playoffs if they get a fortunate draw in round one.
So the team should wait until the offseason, watch and see how Robinson comes back from injury and how the young guys continue to develop, then consider packaging Collison or Young if it means continuing to improve a young core that could be the team of the future in Indianapolis.
Anything other than this is either Twitter agitating, fans thinking the real NBA works like Association Mode in 2K, or just people who forgot why Bird got sent packing.
In the meantime, let’s just celebrate the fleecing of Oklahoma City, as Oladipo is an All-Star and PG13 is not. And let’s enjoy the rest of the season without getting too up in arms about instant gratification.