The Indiana Pacers have an interesting decision coming up this season. T.J. Warren is entering the final year of his contract after missing basically the entire 2020-21 season with a foot injury. With his deal coming to an end, should the Pacers plan for life without him?
I love T.J. Warren and think he can be the best player on the team once he gets back to full health thanks to his ability to carry the offense. He was just hitting his stride in the bubble and carried that momentum into last season before an injury shut things down in a hurry. Now, the Pacers have to figure out the future with Warren, Brogdon, Sabonis, and Turner all set to make big money.
What should the Indiana Pacers do with T.J. Warren?
The Pacers have locked up Sabonis for three more seasons, finishing his deal at $21.3 million in 2023-24. Brogdon and Turner are both signed through the 2022-23 season at a high value, as is Caris LeVert. The four are combined to make roughly $79.3 million during the 2022-23 season before even accounting for an extension for T.J. Warren.
Warren, who is arguably the best offensive player on the team, deserves a big payday when he becomes available. The Pacers have to make a tough decision. Either they can pay him big money with his injury risk always being on the table or they can let him walk in order to keep the rest of the core together.
The biggest problem with the two-big lineup is that it essentially costs the Pacers $40 million at the center position in the starting lineup while neglecting other needs. Trading one of the centers now to open up space for a Warren extension and helping the rest of the roster right now should be considered.
Unfortunately, there has been no sign of the Pacers actively shopping either center in recent months, aside from broken down talks of sending Myles Turner to the Celtics for Gordon Hayward once again.
T.J. Warren is a vital piece for the Pacers moving forward. His absence last season was too much to overcome as the Pacers missed the playoffs and looked lost on defense far too often. If he does not return after this season, the Pacers will have to work very hard to replace his impact. Drafting a potential replacement in the 2021 NBA Draft has to be on their minds.