The Indiana Pacers tried trading for the No. 2 pick from the Los Angeles Lakers for Paul George. Considering they got Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, it is a good thing they did.
On one of Adrian Wojnarowski’s recent podcasts, he confirmed that the Indiana Pacers pushed to get Brandon Ingram or the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Paul George. Instead, Indiana ended up moving their former franchise player for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
And it’s a good thing the Lakers said no.
The Lakers assumed they had a real shot at Paul George in free agency this summer, and understandably so after his camp had leaked that he wasn’t guaranteed to re-sign with anyone but the Lakers if he was traded.
Woj, who was talking with Ryen Russillo on the podcast, discussed how either option (Brandon Ingram or the No. 2 pick) would have gotten the deal done on Indiana’s side. He also said that Kevin Pritchard wasn’t going to avoid a trade with the Lakers out of spite, but also the Pacers weren’t going to bite on anything but one of those options.
But again, it’s a good thing that things worked out the way they did. Oladipo, in particular, was the right player for the Pacers.
There’s a world of possibilities of what Indiana would have done with any draft picks, but it’s hard to know for sure if things would have worked out any better. The result we have now with hindsight is likely better than whoever they got on draft night.
Lonzo Ball is going to be a great NBA player, but he wasn’t coming to Indiana. Lavar Ball took a page out of Jack Elway and Archie Manning’s playbook and determined where his son was going to play. So Lonzo was never really a possibility.
It then comes down to whether you see Jayson Tatum or Brandon Ingram as a better option than Oladipo and Sabonis.
To start, let’s just look at Oladipo by himself.
Obviously, right now Victor is better than both players, but it’s a little hard to know which of the three (four if you pretend Lonzo was an option) will end up with the best NBA career. The talent is there for any of them to claim that 20 years from now, but if you had to pick which one was best for the Pacers right now, it would be Oladipo.
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And there’s a real chance he is the best of the bunch.
A talented rookie would be great for Indiana’s future, but at 25, Oladipo is only entering his prime. His leadership and playmaking are invaluable for what the Pacers are right now as a team. And with Indiana’s anti-tanking policies, a more proven and ready player makes the most sense.
Throw in Sabonis on top of Oladipo, and it creates a scenario where you’ll need one of the other options the Pacers might have had would need to approach an MVP level. And Oladipo may be able to do that himself.
It wasn’t clear on listening to the podcast if the offer would have included any of the Lakers later picks that were once rumored. But once you start down that path, you’re in a multiverse of possibilities.
The appeal of the No. 2 pick is strong or Brandon Ingram is obvious but seeing how Oladipo brought back the emotion to the Pacers and their fan base, it’s hard to see how any other player could have done that.
Lonzo Ball would have been fun, but it wasn’t likely. Jayson Tatum and Brandon Ingram or even with what we know now, Donovan Mitchell, are all intriguing. But could they even be the leader and force of personality that Oladipo is? That’s hard to know.
And again, we’re really looking over what Domantas is, which now, is at worst a solid backup center. He has the potential of being much more than that, though.
Hindsight is 20/20 and I certainly wouldn’t have said Indiana was better off with Oladipo than the No. 2 pick when the trade happened, but with the way things worked out, the Pacers should be confident they made the right move in trading the two of them.