How’s this for symmetry: when the calendar passed from Saturday to Sunday, we were officially on the backside of 2017. And when we passed from Sunday to Monday, we were officially on the downhill slope of our summer break. Weird!

We’ve been busy with several family events: gatherings, trips to the lake, visitors from Boston.

But I did want to check in quickly to share some words in which I try to figure out what the hell my man Kevin Pritchard is thinking.

In case you missed it, in a shocking deal last week, the Pacers traded Paul George to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Now Pritchard and the Pacers were kind of up against it, as George had said a couple weeks back that his goal was to sign with the Lakers next summer when he becomes a free agent. And, just before the trade, he further added that even if the Pacers sent him to another team this summer, he would still be most likely to head to LA after he plays out his contract. So the Pacers weren’t holding many good cards.[1]

Even when you consider that, this was a terrible trade.

First off, Pritchard didn’t get a single draft pick back in the deal. The way you rebuild in the NBA is collecting as many draft picks as you can. You can hoard them and draft a ton of players over a couple drafts, you can use them as chips in trades for other players, to jump from weak draft years to deep ones, or as several teams did in this year’s draft, you can take a couple low picks and turn them into a much higher single pick. But the Pacers, faced with a total rebuild, improved their ability to draft players zero percent when they moved one of the 10 best players in the league.[2]

You can only trust rumors so much, but there is a persistent rumor that Atlanta was offering four draft picks for George. None of them were potential lottery picks. But they were still four assets that can be used on or before draft night to augment what should be high picks for the Pacers anyway.

Shaking my damn head.

And then there is the return. Oladipo is a nice player. He was overrated when drafted #2 four years ago. He’s a good guy. He went to IU. But he’s making TWENTY ONE MILLION FREAKING DOLLARS PER YEAR. FOR FOUR MORE YEARS. He made $3 million more than Paul George did this year. And will make $2 million more than George will next season. And he’s not even 3/4 the player George is. Adding a guy who is guaranteed $84 million over the next four years and is a sixth-man talent is just dumb.

There’s been talk they went after Oladipo because of his off-the-court character and IU connection to be the new face of the organization. Again, they way overpaid if that is what they were looking for. Besides, Myles Turner is/should be the face of the organization. He’s the guy who is poised to be the Pacers’ next elite player, someone who lands on All-NBA teams, goes to All-Star games, and has his name amongst the game’s statistical leaders. Oladipo checks none of those boxes.

Banging my damn head.

Domantas Sabonis is an innocent bystander in all of this. Regardless of who they traded with, the Pacers were likely to get someone similar to Sabonis in the deal. He’s a young big guy with potential to be a role player. He also did little to impress during his rookie year. He doesn’t move the needle.

But the assessment of the personnel of the trade is all about Oladipo. Pritchard needed to do better there.

It’s hard to say anything about the trade is worse than the return in talent, but the timing of it is actually far worse. It feels like Pritchard panicked. There was no need to make the trade at the exact start of the NBA free agency period. You wait and see where all the big free agents go, what other trades are made, and let the market develop. Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta, Houston, Denver, and of course the Lakers were all at least testing the waters on PG. Now that Gordon Hayward has signed with the Celtics, maybe Utah jumps in. You hold on as long as possible for the simple fact perhaps LA freaks out that PG signs with the Celtics or Cavs, plays there for a year, and then thinks, “Wow, this is great! I’m signing here for two years and I’ll worry about LA later.” That was the only leverage Pritchard had: getting LA to think the smart move was to offer players and/or picks now rather than just sitting back for 12 months and signing George then.

I will say this: none of us know for sure exactly what offers Pritchard entertained. Perhaps after PG’s public assessment of love for LA, no one was offering anything decent. Maybe Atlanta’s offer really was for four second round picks. Or LA was offering three guys from the end of their bench. Or Boston wasn’t really offering their #1 pick back in May, or a choice of two of their current starters. I will give him like 8% slack because of the overall difficulty of the situation and not knowing what his conversations with others were.

Still, terrible deal for the Pacers. Even if Oladipo and Sabonis were all he could get back in terms of current NBA talent, he has to get at least one draft pick back. And he needs to not bring over a player making $84 million. And he has to wait until the last possible moment, not jump at the first opportunity.

The Thunder are taking a huge gamble that PG and Russell Westbrook can coexist. I don’t think they entertain huge hopes that they can re-sign PG, but this may be more an incentive to get Russ to re-sign. Oh, and they shed a terrible contract in the process. In every single way, they killed it in this trade.

Oh well. I watch like five Pacers games a year anyway. My winters are spent watching KU and Big East and really any college ball before I watch the NBA. But I’d really be pissed if I spent my winter watching them and hoping they could climb back into the league’s elite. And it really sucks that it was a former Jayhawk who pulled the trigger on the deal.

  1. Well, other than one of the 10 best players in the NBA.  ↩
  2. OK, that’s not totally true. They’re going to be much worse next year, so they will draft higher than any recent year. Except the Eastern Conference is barren right now and they might still sneak into the playoffs and be stuck outside the lottery.  ↩