Over the last week or so I’ve covered some various Pacers trade scenarios. Most recently I wrote something on slightly unrealistic trade scenarios that were still conceivable. But today, with the NBA trade deadline just two weeks away, I’ll present three trade options that are realistic and will help the Pacers either immediately or in the very near future. Obviously a lot can change between now and March 15, but the Pacers have a few needs that they can address via trades, thanks to their abundance of cap space. The position Indiana can most easily address with the following trades is post depth. While a wing scorer and a point guard upgrade would be nice, circumstances dictate that adding a quality big will be easiest, and if done properly, such a trade will improve this team dramatically both in the short term and next season.
Strengths: Great size, strength. Good vision for a big man. Unselfish with a high basketball IQ. A solid, surprisingly confident perimeter shooter out to 15+ feet. An elite-level rebounder and above average post defender. Intense with a killer instinct.
Weaknesses: Generally lacks athleticism. Injury-prone. A plodder who relies on his size and timing to disrupt shots, but can be dominated by great ball handlers when playing out of position at power forward. Has probably already peaked, and will likely never regain form from 3-4 years ago. In line to be overpaid this summer?
* The Pacers do this trade to help lock themselves into the #3 seed in the East, which they currently tenuously own. With a couple brutal losses to Orlando and Miami already, the post depth, offensive acumen and toughness Kaman provides would go a long way. Kaman is a legitimate NBA-sized center with a great skill set. He’s just past his prime, and probably shouldn’t be starting or playing more than 25 or so mpg for the rest of his career, but he’d be a perfect compliment to Roy Hibbert off of the Pacers’ bench, especially in those games that Jeff Foster is inactive or limited. Indiana can absorb all of the $9 million (or so) left on the prorated version of Kaman’s contract without giving up any current assets. This makes Indiana immediately better, and doesn’t even mortgage much of the future. Obviously they’ll have to risk only having Kaman for a few months before he hits the free agent market, at which point Indiana would likely extend him no more than a mid-level exception offer, but that’s a risk they’d be willing to take to put themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals conversation right away.
* New Orleans initially wanted a first round pick and/or young players for Kaman, but that’s obviously not happening. Most recent talks had the Hornets actually buying Kaman out, and then Miami making a run at him with a minimum offer. Frankly, that seems like cheating. I can’t imagine a situation where a talented 7-footer with an All-Star appearance on his resume gets to just take money from a league-owned team and sign with the league’s best team (that happens to have a hole at center), and get away with it. Indiana has expressed interest, has the money for a salary dump, and will probably be willing to part with multiple second-round picks (or perhaps even a highly-protected future first, especially if Kaman agrees to extend). That seems on par with just about any other feasible offer the Hornets will get for Kaman. In this scenario they’d get to look impartial, trading their asset to an out of Conference team that is not one of the league’s best. If they plan on getting anything out of him before he walks this summer, this trade accomplishes that, and lowers the team’s payroll immediately, which should look attractive to the Mike Dunleavy-headed ownership group.
Chances of Actually Happening: 45%
Talks stalled with Kaman after the Hornets realized they weren’t getting top dollar for him early in the season, and effectively took him off the market. Though things have changed, there are a lot of injuries and a significant lack of able-bodied post players in New Orleans. Fielding a competitive team now may be just as important to a potential ownership group than is saving money, so New Orleans may not be willing to trade Kaman after all. It’s up in the air at this point. Then there’s always the possibility a contender offers an unprotected first, an offer Indiana should not attempt to match.
Strengths: One of league’s best shot blockers. Still highly athletic. Relentless rebounder with a nose for loose balls. Fan favorite who can provide instant energy off of the bench. Low tread on his tires for a player his age.
Weaknesses: Very limited offensively. Seems to have suffered a noticeable athleticism drop-off this year, though the energy is still there. Quirky, unusual personality which, while endearing to fans in Denver, may not be a good fit in Indianapolis.
* The Pacers need post help. Andersen is available. This trade makes perfect sense. Losing Jones will diminish the Pacers’ wing depth, and that’s a problem, but they could add someone else via another trade or through free agency and keep a three-man wing rotation of Paul George, George Hill and Danny Granger in the mean time. Another option, which may even be more attractive to Denver, would be to send a future second rounder for Andersen, but that scenario adds all of Andersen’s contract to the Pacers’ payroll, and for his production this year, “The Birdman” is admittedly overpaid.
* Jones’s former team is stacked in terms of reliable bigs, and is trying to lock up another 3/4 hybrid in Wilson Chandler. Between Al Harrington, Nene (when healthy), Timofey Mozgov, Kenneth Faried and Kosta Koufos, Andersen has found minutes hard to come by lately. He has two DNP-CDs and a 9 minute outing over his last three games. Couple that with Denver’s announcement that they’re interested in trading Andersen, and the $6-8 million it will save the Nuggets over the next 2.5 years (pending Dahntay Jones’s player option), and it looks like Andersen will be out the door by March 15.
Chances of Actually Happening: 50%
The question is, would Denver rather salary dump him or take back a player in Jones who they’re familiar with, and who enjoyed his best season as a Nuggets’ starter? If they want to salary dump Andersen in order to free up money to extend Wilson Chandler long term, Indiana may pass, as the remaining years on Andersen’s contract are unattractive.
Strengths: Outstanding rebounder per minute (averaging 11.5 rebounds per 36 as a starting center for his career). Can play multiple front court positions. Athletic with a high ceiling.
Weaknesses: Mental lapses. Highly inconsistent, especially on defense. Is not a leader, and seems to be destined to be a backup for his career. Undersized.
* Indiana gets some upside, and an immediate boost to its bench’s post depth, for the cost of a second round pick. Hickson could either be a rental, or he could realistically sign for his one-year $3+ million qualifier next season (or a long-term offer close to that). There’s literally no risk associated with making this trade. Indiana has the money to acquire Hickson for nothing. Even if he does have a negative attitude (which he’s never really demonstrated, but there’s got to be something wrong with him given the number of coaches he’s pissed off) he doesn’t have the clout to pull anyone else down with him, and David West and Jeff Foster will be a positive influence. Hickson, though inconsistent and disappointing is still very young, and is immediately (and in the long run) better than any second round pick the Pacers will land any time soon.
* Sacramento looks at this deal and says: “Someone wants to give us something for J.J. Hickson? Sweet!” Hickson has almost completely fallen out of the rotation in Sac-town, and since he lost his starting job there has lost intrigue league-wide. People close to him probably know he’s frustrating and a huge disappointment, and in a loaded 2012 draft, it’s a possibility (albeit a slight one) that a useful player falls to them with Indiana’s pick, or they could wait and see if the Pacers are worse, resulting in a higher 2013 second rounder. Again, unlikely. But still, at this point anything is probably gravy for Hickson, who will almost certainly be walking at year’s end.
Chances of Actually Happening: 55%
The only reason this isn’t a homerun in the 75% likelihood range is that I’m the only one who’s talking about it. We know Kaman was at one point available and linked to the Pacers. We know Andersen is still available. We know nothing about Hickson, other than he’s completely dropped off of the map.
OMG, What do she have on? SHE RATCHET! Follow Lucas Klipsch on Twitter @LukeNukem317