After listening to all the critics this summer, Kevin Pritchard must feel pretty good right now after trading for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo.
Damn it feels good to be Kevin Pritchard.
A real president of basketball operations plays his cards right
A real president of basketball operations never runs his mouth
‘Cause real president of basketball operations don’t start fights
With the way Domatas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo are playing right now, why wouldn’t he? Kevin Pritchard took a situation with virtually no ways of winning and right now is at least breaking even.
Hardly anyone liked the Paul George trade when it happened. The lack of picks felt as if the Indiana Pacers got fleeced. Oladipo’s so-so season with the Oklahoma City Thunder muted most of the optimism from his Orlando Magic years. Sabonis’s situation in his rookie season was far from optimal, but there were issues with him that made you wonder if it was more than just playing with Russell Westbrook.
Oladipo’s 23.8 points a game and Sabonis’ 13.1 points and 11.1 rebounds healed the wounded ego of the Pacers and I imagine Pritchard has a smug grin on his face right now.
But let’s pump the break on seriously saying the Indiana Pacers won that trade.
As the Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps wrote, this doesn’t change that Indiana likely didn’t accept the best deal possible at the time.
That doesn’t mean the Pacers won the George trade, or that early opinions about the trade were wrong. What it does mean is that Indiana is going to have a more fun season than many expected, and that’s a good thing.
I would only say the most hyperbolic responses to the trade were wrong. The Pacers didn’t give away Paul George as much as they possessed near-zero leverage in trade talks as their only threat to other teams was holding on to PG. Maybe Indiana would have won a waiting game, but the situation in Indiana was toxic at that point.
Pritchard chose to pick two players he believed in over the “mystery box” route of grabbing draft picks, and Gary Harris. That deal that Pacers backed out of very well may have been better, but depending on how both Harris and Donovan Mitchell (who the Nuggets took with that pick) shake out, we’ll have to wait to know.
That route would have provided Indiana more flexibility, but arguably more risk as you might end up with a Wade Baldwin IV rather than a Caris LeVert. And of course, you never know if you found a Draymond Green until they become a Draymond Green. Indiana’s recent history with mid-round picks produced George and Myles Turner, for example, but taking picks over players is always a gamble, even if a smart one.
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And taking Oladipo and Sabonis was a gamble in itself. Pritchard bought time if he traded for draft picks as they wouldn’t need to play well for at least a season or two. But in picking up Oladipo, Pritchard needed immediate results from the former Hoosier regardless of the team’s overall success. Sabonis playing well so quickly is just a bonus for Indiana, as are the wins.
Either way, time will tell us who exactly won the trade and it’s way too early to say anything other than there were potentially better trades out there.
Pritchard is the only one who needs to worry if he won the trade or not — his job depends on it. Pacers fans should just enjoy this. This could have been a hopeless season, but instead, there is optimism around the team. This team doesn’t need to win this season, but when they do, we should enjoy it. Indiana’s goal is to have a core built around Turner going forward and it just happens to be off to a fast start. Who cares who ‘won’ the trade. These Pacers are fun.
It’s way too early to ask how good this team is or isn’t, we’re only eight games in. But right now Pritchard’s gamble on Oladipo and Sabonis is calling the term #Pritchslap back into service.
Sometimes in poker, you don’t make the smartest, most mathematically solid move, but you end up winning the hand because the right cards showed up. That doesn’t mean you played it well, or even that you played it wrong, but sometimes things just work out in your favor.
Whether Pritchard played his cards right won’t be known for years, but right now, he should be feeling really damn smug.