Grade the Trade: Bill Simmons pitches wild Pacers deal for Suns star

Bill Simmons, The Ringer. Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair
Bill Simmons, The Ringer. Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair /
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Indiana Pacers
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images /

Would the Pacers accept this trade?

There are two major questions that the Pacers would need to answer before deciding on this trade pitch. The first one is the most obvious: does this deal make the Pacers a better team? Ayton makes more money than Turner, specifically with the cache of a “max player,” and it seems like a year ago Indiana was willing to choose Ayton over Turner.

Is Ayton really a better player than Turner? Both players averaged 18 points per game last season, being set up by elite point guards. Ayton averaged more rebounds and is one of the league’s better glass cleaners. Turner, on the other hand, spaced the court in a way Ayton does not, shooting 37.3 percent from deep and hitting 93 triples to Ayton’s seven.

Defensively, Ayton has size and strength that allows him to check all manner of bigs, and he’s fairly nimble on his feet. Turner plays a more vertical defensive game, ranking among the league leaders with 2.3 blocks per game vs Ayton’s 0.8. Neither is a particularly good passer.

Advanced stats peel back yet another layer. Despite Ayton playing on a winning team that secured the fourth seed in the West, his impact metrics were all well behind Turner’s. Turner had a Box Plus-Minus of 2.1 to Ayton’s 0.9, an EPM of 1.9 to Ayton’s 0.4, and his true-shooting number was well above Ayton’s on account of his shooting.

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You can make a case for Ayton and Turner having a similar impact overall, but much of the data suggests that Turner is a better player. Even if you place them evenly, Turner is less expensive, and his floor-spacing is crucial to the Pacers’ offensive scheme and to his pairing with their new additions of Bruce Brown and Obi Toppin. That’s before you factor in TJ McConnell being in the deal as well.

It’s not crazy for Simmons and others to think Ayton is a better player than Turner, but it’s not cut and dry. And we haven’t yet answered our second question: should the Pacers be looking for win-now moves to take an even bigger step forward?

The answer is no! They just locked up Tyrese Haliburton to a long-term extension after only his third season in the league. Turner is under contract. They have key players in Bennedict Mathurin and Jarace Walker who are essentially NBA infants. This team has a runway, and it needs time to come together. There is no rush.

In the end, this deal isn’t crazy, but it doesn’t make sense for the Pacers either. No thanks, Bill Simmons – head back to the trade machine!

The @8pts9secs Grade? D