For a long time, the Indiana Pacers have been known around the league as a franchise that won't tank and won't spend into luxury tax territory—a challenging spot for a team in one of the NBA's smaller markets.
The Pacers aren't a clear free-agent draw, haven't been bad enough to get top talent in the draft and won't attempt to outspend their opponents. The team is hamstrung without a clear superstar, able to advance to the playoffs in five of the last seven years but unable to get a single series win.
Meanwhile, the East has grown to be the more competitive of the NBA's two conferences, and the Pacers (10-16) have stagnated. Beset by injuries and flagging attendance, per a recent story from Shams Charania and Bob Kravitz of The Athletic, Indiana may be ready for a seismic shift.
In addition to the headline that the Pacers may be open to trading Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and Caris LeVert, the most noteworthy line is that team governor Herb Simon "has gotten onboard with the idea of a rebuild."
That's not to suggest the Pacers will follow the path of the Philadelphia 76ers under former executive Sam Hinkie or the current Oklahoma City Thunder with executive Sam Presti. Indiana won't look to bottom out for a virtual monopoly of draft picks. But further investigation has the Pacers open to moving out of three of their four highest-paid players, including both big men, if the return is sufficient.
Free Agency Is Dead, Trades Are Everything
It's essential to understand the market before getting into the speculative nature of where the Pacers may find trade partners. Very few teams will have cap room this offseason.
That list may include the Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs—that's it. And while it could grow if a star like Bradley Beal opts out of his contract with the Washington Wizards, he would have to pick from one of the aforementioned teams to get paid (only the Pistons are in his price range, and they're much further away from contention than Beal's current squad).
While other teams could get to cap space by trading players, that only emphasizes that the trade market is everything to the NBA. Free agency won't be as impactful this offseason, and only a shortlist of prospects in any draft become franchise players.
With that in mind, the Pacers are believed to be looking for a combination of veteran players on value contracts, pending free agents whose Bird Rights would give Indiana the advantage in re-signing, and prospects on economic multi-year deals (including recently drafted first-round picks).
Bigger Market for Myles Turner
While Sabonis is a two-time All-Star, Turner may draw the biggest interest from the Pacers. The 26-year-old center blocks 2.8 shots a game while shooting a career-best 39.5 percent from three-point range.
Sabonis is the better scorer, but Turner can fit into more teams as a low-usage contributor. He doesn't need the ball in his hands to contribute. At $18 million for this season and next (with up to $2 million in unlikely incentives each year), Turner is not an expensive option for a team looking to add rim protection with a floor-spacing big.
The Charlotte Hornets (14-12) could be a natural partner with veteran Mason Plumlee to Indiana to match salaries, along with at least one of the Hornets' young prospects like PJ Washington, James Bouknight, Kai Jones and JT Thor.