The Indiana Pacers have held trade talks with the Houston Rockets about potentially moving the No. 13 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft, according to J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star.
Michael reports that Indiana is open to trading the pick if they can acquire a proven player who is under contract for at least two more seasons. That could make the Rockets a fit, since they can offer a quality veteran guard in Eric Gordon — who is signed through at least 2022-23 and happens to be an Indiana native, to boot. In theory, Houston might also include one of its two later draft picks (No. 23, No. 24), which would allow Indiana to still emerge with a first-round talent, if desired.
In his story, Michael writes:
If the Pacers keep the 13th pick, it has to be a player who coach Rick Carlisle believes he can play right away. Carlisle, who left Dallas to rejoin the Pacers after signing a four-year deal for $29 million, will have more input than previous coaches.
If the player at No. 13 isn’t deemed playable for the Pacers, it will make more sense to deal him for one who can contribute.
The Pacers have talked with the Houston Rockets, a league source told IndyStar, about flipping their pick and getting such a player. They’re not looking for a one-and-done expiring contract. They want a player under contract for at least two years.
Gordon would appear to be the most logical fit from a contractual perspective. Houston’s only other players with contracts of at least two more seasons are DJ Augustin, who likely isn’t valuable enough for Indiana to move the No. 13 overall pick; John Wall, whose massive deal is likely too large to trade; and members of Houston’s “young core” like Christian Wood, Jae’Sean Tate, Kevin Porter Jr., and KJ Martin.
To this point, general manager Rafael Stone has not shown a willingness to trade any of those players. As a result, Gordon’s mid-tier contract at $18.2 million for next season looks to be the most realistic fit. The Pacers would have to send out close to that amount in salary for a trade to work, but including veteran guard Jeremy Lamb — who is on an expiring $10.5-million deal in 2021-22 — would get them in the ballpark.
No trade is likely to be consummated until closer to the July 29 draft. Understandably, the Pacers will want to canvass the league for all trade possibilities and complete more evaluations of draft prospects before determining whether a deal with Houston is their preferred path.
Now 32 years old, Gordon averaged 17.8 points and 2.6 assists in 29.2 minutes per game with the Rockets last season, including a career-high clip of 57.3% from inside the 3-point arc. At his age, he’s unlikely to be a long-term fit with Houston’s rebuilding plan, which is why he could make more sense for a regular playoff contender like the Pacers.
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