The Indiana Pacers are 13-11 and hold the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, with their most recent two losses coming to the dreadful 4-20 Washington Wizards in a game that perfectly displayed the annoying inconsistencies the Pacers have experienced all season and to the top-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves in an iffy effort without Tyrese Haliburton.
Against Washington, easily the worse of the two losses, despite leading 37-30 at the end of the first quarter and having momentum, Indiana allowed a 39-point second quarter from Jordan Poole and company as the Pacers scored only 18 points.
Following this dreadful half, the Pacers looked completely out of sync the rest of the game, as they let the Wizards increase the lead to as much as 24 before settling for a 14-point defeat with the final score being 123-137, ending their six-game losing streak and handing Indiana their second loss in a row.
Surprisingly, Isaiah Jackson was one of the bright spots of the night, as his 20 points and 13 rebounds on 10/13 shooting led the way for Indiana in a game where most players could not find the bottom of the net.
In fact, outside of Jackson and any players to play garbage time, only Obi Toppin shot above 50% from the field as seven other Pacers shot badly from the field, including Tyrese Haliburton, who otherwise had a solid performance putting up 19 points and dishing out 11 assists.
However, the same could not be said for Buddy Hield and Bruce Brown. In a combined 50 minutes, neither of the two were able to make their needed shots, as Brown shot 2/7 from the field and Hield shot an atrocious 4/14 from the field, including 3/11 from beyond the arc to continue his cold streak in what has been an uncharacteristically inconsistent season for the veteran.
Hield's recent slump, which continued against Minnesota, was the subject of even more unrest from Pacers fans who questioned why Rick Carlisle kept him in during garbage time instead of Bennedict Mathurin, who played rather well against the Wizards, all things considered.
Indeed, Buddy Hield's struggles have been the topic of much frustration from Pacers fans. In a contract year and awaiting either an extension or a trade, Hield has by far had his most streaky season to date, averaging 13 points on 44% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc in some wildly deceiving numbers.
Recently, Hield has been on one of the worst cold streaks of his career, averaging 11.7 points and shooting an abysmal 39% from the field and 29% from downtown, extremely low numbers for even a regular shooter, let alone a usually knockdown one like himself.
Along with Hield's struggles, new addition Bruce Brown has also done little to help the Pacers fortunes as of late. Aside from his 30-point explosion vs Miami with Tyrese Haliburton out, Brown has been pretty rough to watch these past few games, with his shooting splits being worse than Hield's which has once again ignited talks of his contract being an overpay.
Usually, this wouldn't be much to discuss. Players have their struggles all the time, and it is a given that they won't play well all the time. However, these recent struggles, combined with the Pacers' newfound attitude of winning sooner rather than later and getting some talent around Tyrese Haliburton, could lead to some shifts happening soon.
As we all know, Haliburton has recently been very vocal about his desire to have other teams' stars come to Indiana to play with him, as was reported during the In-Season Tournament and the hype of Haliburton mania around the league.
This is being brought up because yesterday was December 15, 2023. Around the league, December 15 is seen as the unofficial start of trade season. While players can be traded all season until the deadline in February, December 15 is typically when most offseason signings become trade-eligible, as is the case this year with players such as Bruce Brown.
While trades don't usually start occurring seriously around the league until February, it is still important to know that Indiana, as well as the other 29 teams, now have the ability to trade basically every player on their team.
This is important for the Pacers, as the front office has recently made some comments that indicate that they will be active in trade season, which has unofficially started recently. The two most prominent names put in these trades for the Pacers are OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors.
Indeed, as soon as trade season hit and with emotions running high after an awful loss to one of the worst teams in the league, Pacers fans came out and demanded that some changes be made to this team soon. Most notably, the call to pair Haliburton with a second star has been made.
While Myles Turner and Bennedict Mathurin are decent enough scorers, they are not truly second options, and Pacers fans have seemed to catch on to that. Of course, with their recent awful performances in mind, fans have been quick to call for Brown and Hield to be traded, despite Brown only having played 23 games in a Pacers uniform.
Indeed, as the trade deadline nears and Buddy Hield's contract expiration also nears, Indiana will be keen on exploring more trade options around the league that will most likely include Toronto but not stop at that.
Plenty more players around the league have been linked to Indiana, with Mikal Bridges, Lauri Markkannen, and, surprisingly, Draymond Green being put in packages for Indiana to receive.
While a trade for Green, who is currently serving an indefinite suspension for another on-court incident, is not likely at all, Indiana could very much be looking to move some pieces around before the deadline arrives on February 8.
Historically a rather quiet team trade-wise, especially in the last few years outside of the Haliburton/Sabonis deal, the Pacers could be looking to make that extra step and, uncharacteristically for the franchise and front office, make that one big move to put them over the hump from a tough first-round out to a legimaite playoff threat and maybe even contender if things go well.