One of the greatest players in the Portland Trail Blazers franchise history demanded a trade this summer in Damian Lillard. A beloved star player, drafted and developed by a small market team, forces his hand at a trade. Pacers fans, stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Paul George spent the first 7 years of his NBA career with the Indiana Pacers, leading them to the Eastern Conference Finals in back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014. Fast forward to 2017 and the 27-year-old forced his way to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a trade that would send Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo to the Circle City. Both guys were quickly embraced by Pacers fans as they became All-NBA players. Injuries would shorten Oladipo’s time in Indy but Sabonis enjoyed a great stretch of basketball wearing the Blue and Gold jersey. After averaging a double-double for a few seasons with the struggling Pacers, Sabonis was traded at the 2022 deadline to the Kings for young point guard Tyrese Haliburton (and three-point specialist Buddy Hield). Now as we look a year and a half later, who won the trade?
Both players found themselves on the NBA All-Star team during their first full campaign with their new teams. The 23-year-old Haliburton averaged nearly 21 points and over 10 assists per game, providing hope for the franchise as a building block and earning a 5-year, $260-million max extension this offseason. Sabonis, who averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds this year in Sacramento, earned a 4-year extension on his current deal, worth a total of $217 million over the course of his new deal. Sacramento improved mightily after acquiring Sabonis, finishing 3rd in the Western Conference and ending a 17-year playoff drought while the Pacers finished a few spots out of the playoffs. So this means that Sacramento won the deal right?
On Friday’s edition of the Fan Midday Show with Jimmy Cook and James Boyd, two NBA reporters joined the program. First it was Brenden Nunes, a beat reporter for the Sacramento Kings, and then Mat Issa who writes for SB Nation for the entire NBA. Both guests are not affiliated with the Pacers and had interesting thoughts on the Haliburton-Sabonis trade debate from an out-of-state perspective. First, from the Sacramento side of things, they not only got a big man that became an instant star for them, but the departure of Haliburton also opened up a path for DeAaron Fox to shine as he took a monumental step forward and helped lead the team to the playoffs.
“I think that spacing was so essential to unlocking DeAaron…while I do think he got better, I think its a lot of what he already was, just with more ideal circumstances around him.” – Nunes
Boyd even went as far to say that he turned into Michael Jordan more times than not late in games last season, as Fox led the NBA in clutch points. Boyd agreed further with Nunes, mentioning that there were plenty of glimpses for Fox previously, but once Haliburton left it really gave the young star a chance to shine. So when considering the Haliburton-Sabonis trade, it’s not just about the players that switched teams.
Then when you look at the Pacers’ side of the deal, you will see a team that got incredible production out of Domantas Sabonis playing alongside Myles Turner, but it simply wouldn’t translate into wins. Indy knew it needed to do something different, which made acquiring a young point guard with limitless potential such a perfect move for the franchise. Now a year later, Haliburton is paid and the team has continued to build around him this offseason with a new-look roster that Cook and Boyd believe to be playoff ready, especially with the 23-year-old at the helm.
Mat Issa touted Haliburton on the show, saying that “He has pieces of all of the great offensive guards. He moves around like he is Steph Curry… he has James Harden Setback… He runs the floor in transition like he’s magic Johnson… he’s selfless like Steve Nash, like Mark Price, like Chris Paul, like all the great floor generals.”
Calling him the ‘Midwest Magic Johnson,’ Issa believes that his ceiling is sky-high. Everybody knew that the Kings would get more of a return in the short term, and that the Pacers traded for the then-21-year-old to look ahead to the future. Haliburton not only mightily improved his game last year, but also helped Myles Turner and Buddy Hield to career years, with the former setting career highs in points, rebounds and field goal percentage while the ladder set the franchise record for three-pointers made.
Both sides extended their guy. Both sides increased their win totals. Both sides had key pieces find big improvements. One side stopped a long playoff drought and the other side feels like it has built a playoff contender for the next handful of years. For maybe the first time in the history of sports talk radio, the four people involved in this topic all agree on the same thing- and one guest said it best.
“As boring as it may be I think this is a win-win” – Brenden Nunes
There you have it. To listen to Jimmy Cook and James Boyd’s Pacers talk with Brenden Nunes and Mat Issa, download the podcast containing the conversations below! You can always listen to the Fan Midday Show from 12pm-3pm on 93.5/107.5 The Fan, but you can watch and interact with the show by going to the 107.5 The Fan YouTube Channel, as well as on Twitter @1075thefan.
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