Pacers

What’s Next for Indiana?

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As the clock hit double zeroes in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse last Wednesday night, the Indiana Pacers had beaten the Toronto Raptors 110-106.

Yet, the game itself was the last thing any Pacers fan was concerned about.

With 4:05 remaining in the second quarter, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry sailed a full-court pass towards forward Pascal Siakam, which sailed out of bounds over the baseline. Trailing Siakam on the fastbreak was Victor Oladipo, who fell awkwardly to the playing surface in what appeared to be a non-contact incident.

As the all-star guard remained on the floor, a desperate silence fell over the previously buzzing arena. Oladipo began to grimace as his teammates and the Pacers’ medical staff quickly came to his side. As he was wheeled off into the tunnel, he put both hands in the air as a gesture of gratitude to the fans in attendance. A tear streamed down the budding star’s face. Oladipo would miss the rest of the game with a “serious injury to his right knee,” per the Indiana Pacers’ official Twitter account.

Devastating News

The following afternoon, it was released that Victor Oladipo suffered a ruptured quadriceps tendon, an injury not too common amongst basketball players. The injury will keep him out for the rest of this season as well as the playoffs.

On Monday, January 28th, Oladipo underwent successful surgery to repair the injury. In a video, played in the arena prior to the Pacers’ Monday night matchup against the Golden State Warriors, Oladipo had a powerful message for his fans. “The surgery was amazing,” said the young guard. “I’ll be back better than ever.” Certainly, this is some good news coming out of a disenchanted week in Indiana sports.

The real question, however, is not if Oladipo will return. The real question is that of the state of the team without him. Many on social media are calling for a tank, while others think the best option for the team may be to simply stay the course. There is a third option: the trade market/free agency market this upcoming offseason. This option is the most intriguing, and there are various ways Kevin Pritchard and the Indiana Pacers can go about this.

Holiday Brothers Playing Together?

As news came out Monday morning that Anthony Davis had requested a trade from the Pelicans, there is another player on the New Orleans squad that would, at first, seem like a no brainer for Indiana. Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday –brother of Pacers guard Aaron Holiday— could be a target prior to the trade deadline. The 28-year-old veteran has recently expressed that “Anthony Davis” was “90% of the reason” he had stayed in New Orleans.

If the money is right, the Pacers could make a move on him, or possibly look to sign him in the offseason. Another target is Indiana-favorite Lance Stephenson. Although the team did not pick up his option for this season, they could bring Stephenson back as there is a sudden need at the shooting guard spot with Oladipo out. One possible trade that has been floated around is one that sends Kyle O’Quinn to the Lakers for Lance straight up. The two players make the exact same amount of money this season, and are both on one-year deals. If Los Angeles is willing to give him up, he could be an important addition to Indiana’s roster.

During the Pacers’ game against the Warriors on Monday, the need for another shooting guard became obvious. With Tyreke Evans out for the game with lower back soreness, Edmond Sumner stepped into the starting lineup. Though a G-League star and despite looking somewhat impressive in 28 minutes of play, he recorded two points, three rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Granted, it was against the best team in basketball, and was the young Xavier guard’s first career start. Nonetheless, some extra depth in a position of need can never hurt.

What’s Next?

With six of the Pacers’ current players entering free agency this offseason, the team will have to find the balance between addressing the current state of the team as well as preparing for the future, namely for when Oladipo returns next season. Thaddeus Young, Cory Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic, Kyle O’Quinn, Darren Collison and Tyreke Evans will all be free agents after this season. Many fans think the Pacers should make a trade for a high-level point guard and let Collison walk.

Fan favorites Young and Bogdanovic are the two players the team will most likely look to retain next season. O’Quinn, Joseph and Evans could all be very valuable trade pieces for the future or even for this season prior to the deadline. The vision created for the franchise by the moves they have made in the past few years fits the vision of a contender, and we should all look for Kevin Pritchard and the rest of the staff to continue this trajectory. How will they do it? Nobody knows quite yet, but they do have plenty of options. It will be incredibly interesting to see which direction they go within the next few weeks and beyond.

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