February 26, 2024

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Winners and losers from the Pascal Siakam trade to the Pacers

Winners and losers from the Pascal Siakam trade to the Pacers

We have our first major signing of the deadline season – Pascal Siakam is a member of the Indiana Pacers.

Indiana had been linked to Siakam for a while and was the most aggressive suitor, but things came down to price. Toronto wanted to get a sum like they got from the Knicks for OG Anunoby — Siakam is a two-time All-NBA player after all — but other teams saw a guy promising free agency testing and a potential rental they wouldn't pay a premium for. Both sides have found a compromise, so let's separate the winners and losers from this deal.

First, here's how the trade shakes out:

Indiana Pacers receive Pascal Siakam, future second-round pick
Toronto Raptors receive Bruce Brown, Jordan Nwora, Kyra Lewis Jr., three first-round picks (2024 Pacers; 2024 worst Houston, Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City or Utah; 2026 Pacers, top four protected)
New Orleans Pelicans receive Monetary Considerations (from Indiana)

Winner: Pascal Siakam

Despite all the talk about fitness and chasing another ring, Pascal Siakam wanted to be somewhere where he would get his paycheck next summer. Enter Indiana, a team with a lot of cap space that knows it has to look to acquire and keep its stars and market — there's no way the Pacers can give up their top three without a wink and a nod that Siakam will re-sign with them this summer.

Money aside, Siakam is entering a tailor-made basketball environment. A player who many casual fans don't realize how good he is because the Raptors rarely appear on American television is about to blow some minds. His game is a perfect fit for Indiana.

Siakam is a force in transition and now plays alongside the best transition guard in the game in Tyrese Haliburton (once he gets healthy). Haliburton will find him on the run, or as a trailer when other guys on the break run to the arc and spread the floor, creating a lane for Siakam to attack.

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People can dwell on the fact that Siakam is not a great outside shooter. That's right, it's not. However, he is elite and pressures teams at the rim, and he will go to a Pacers team that has a lot of shooting and well-balanced spacing – he will have lanes to attack. Siakam will thrive in Indiana.

He will get his reward.

Winner: Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers are becoming a very tough team in the playoffs. The move doesn't move them into contention with Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia in the East, but none of those contending teams would want to see Indiana in the first round.

However, that's not why the Pacers won this deal, there's a more important reason:

Indiana finally took a big swing.

The Pacers are historically a team that played it safe, hitting an iron off the tee to ensure it landed safely in the fairway on a par 5. They pulled the big club with this trade and let it rip. That comes with risk, but with a talent like Haliburton already on the roster, that's the kind of risk they need to take – and they've done so without giving up on their young stars like Benedict Mathurin or Jarras Walker.

More than just scoring, Siakam is helping the Pacers' shaky defense, which has been better lately (15th in the league over the last seven games). Siakam is a long, 6'8″ defender who isn't elite in that regard but is an upgrade to the Pacers' starting rotation. (If Walker can develop a jump shot and become a regular part of the rotation, the defense could be good.)

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Siakam also helps in non-Haliburton minutes — Indiana has a -2.9 net rating in minutes when its star guard is on the bench. Siakam could take over the offense some of those minutes and keep them afloat.

Loser: Any other team eyeing Siakam this summer

For teams with cap space this summer, Pascal Siakam has been a prime target. Not anymore. While things could go sideways and Siakam decides to test the free-agent market anyway, there's no chance this trade will go through without a lightning strike agreeing to a new contract for him this summer.

Philadelphia is often mentioned because they have maximum space, though I'm not sure the fit would be that great. It has long been known that Atlanta is interested in him and may have pursued him. Detroit wants to win some games and Siakam could have helped. Teams can now write Siakam off the summer free agent boards.

Winner: New Orleans Pelicans

The Kira Lewis deal has been expected for a while because it would subject the Pelicans to the luxury tax for this season. It's not exciting, but in that sense it's a win for New Orleans. This is not a team worth paying tax for. New Orleans was a bit lucky, being in the right place at the right time to get this combination, but it worked out for them.

Winner: Toronto Raptors

This was a somewhat tepid win — Toronto didn't get a draft pick or marquee player — but it was still a win.

Mostly, this is a win because they didn't let what Siakam did happen to Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry before him — Siakam didn't walk out the door for nothing.

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It's also a win in the big picture because the Raptors chose and committed to the direction of the franchise, rebuilding around Scottie Barnes, something they had to do.

This isn't as exciting a return for Toronto as it sounds in the press release: Yes, it's three first-round picks, but none of them will be in the lottery. However, with Siakam's expiring contract and the risk of a potential escape from any team that trades for him (including the Pacers, even if everyone's intentions are good right now), this was as good an offer as they were going to get. The market was higher on Anunoby than on Siakam.

Don't be surprised if the Raptors flip Bruce Brown at the deadline in another trade (they could move him again at the deadline, but the CBA prevents them from pooling his salary again in another trade, which should be straightforward).

Big picture, pair these three choices with get RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley in OG Anunoby trade to Knicks, and there is the basis for rebuilding (or retooling, or whatever other technical term the Raptors want to revolve around). It's a win.