Siakam In India: Pacers Up the Stakes, But There Are Risks

The Toronto Raptors made their second major trade of the season, sending two-time All-Star Pascal Siakam to the Indiana Pacers as part of a three-way trade that also included the New Orleans Pelicans. The Raptors received forwards Bruce Brown and Jordan Nwora, guard Kairu Lewis, two 2024 first-round picks and a 2026 first-round pick, while New Orleans received cash consideration from the Pacers. Indiana will also receive a future second-round pick.

Rising Momentum

Tyrese Haliburton’s rising momentum this season has masked the fact that the Pacers don’t have as young a team as they might seem. After him, the next three important players this season are Buddy Hield (31), Myles Turner (28 in March) and TJ McConnell (31). With Bennedict Mathurin benched early in the season, the youngest of Indiana’s starting five besides Haliburton is Obi Toppin, who turns 25 in March.

Next All-Stars

This indicates that the Pacers are not betting on the team’s long-term development. Maturin and Jaras Walker, who has played 127 minutes this season, have yet to show that they could be Indiana’s next All-Stars to follow Haliburton’s lead. Siakam, 29, is undoubtedly the best player Tyrese will play with since being traded to the Pacers in 2022. Pascal should strengthen Indiana’s offense. The Pacers’ offensive efficiency is over 90% with Haliburton on the floor and 56% without him.

The Pacers, in turn, could surround Siakam with a roster of good players. Perhaps even the best since Kawhi Leonard left Toronto and Pascal became the team’s best scorer. This season the situation has changed to some extent. Siakam became less involved in creating attacks, thanks to the emergence of Scottie Barnes as the team’s best scorer. His 25% offensive usage this season is Pascal’s lowest since he was a role player on the Raptors, whom Leonard led to a championship.

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Stable Performance

Siakam’s performance doesn’t improve significantly, but it doesn’t get any worse either. He’s hitting 32% of his 3-point attempts this season, just below his career mark of 33%. Indiana’s fellow forwards Toppin (5.1 attempts per 36 minutes) and Jalen Smith (4.7) are shooting over 40% from beyond the arc, well above their career averages (Smith’s 32% and 34.5%). at Toppin). One interesting speculation is whether the Pacers will put the ball in Siakam’s hands from time to time, and whether Haliburton will be as effective empty-handed in that case. Indiana’s pick-and-rolls are almost always through the point guards, and to be more precise, Tyrese has the ball 70% of the time.

Strong Point for the Pacers

Regardless, Siakam will strengthen the Pacers lineup. It satisfies positional needs. He has the athleticism to play on both ends of the floor. At the same time, Pascal will add creativity to the team’s offensive game, and will also help Indiana improve slightly on defense. However, the main question for this deal is whether Siakam can improve the Pacers enough to justify investing in important assets. We are talking about three draft picks, which is a rarity for Indiana. The previously risk-averse Pacers have traded a first-round draft pick only once in the last decade.

New Contract

Indiana will need to sign Siakam to a new contract this summer to make the deal worth the investment. Since he was traded, Pascal is no longer eligible for the supermax, but even a normal max contract (proposed $260 million over five years, subject to the NBA’s maximum 10% salary cap increase) looks too expensive for a player who turns 10 in April. 30 years. It would be difficult for the Pacers to acquire Siakam in free agency. At the same time, Indiana now risks overpaying Pascal to justify giving up several first-round draft picks.

No Good Game Without Maturin or Walker

The Pacers could potentially face the luxury tax next season if Haliburton makes the All-NBA team (he must play at least 65 games) and increases his salary with a contract extension to 30% of the cap. This trade could set a relatively low ceiling on how many options Indiana will have on the market going forward and what it can offer Haliburton. To truly contend for a championship, the Pacers will almost certainly need Maturin or Walker to maximize their development. And in the latter scenario, a fully realized version of Walker’s game could be very similar to who Siakam is now, possibly calling into question the wisdom of this deal.

However, Indiana got what it wanted. This team looks better today than it did yesterday. The cap space the Pacers are sacrificing by betting on Siakam probably couldn’t have been better spent considering how weak next summer’s projected free agent market will be. Plus, they may not have much to lose in the draft, since the 2024 recruits aren’t valued too highly just yet. There is a risk in this deal that will limit Indiana’s future efforts to bolster its starting five, but it could be a risk worth taking.