INDIANAPOLIS – Is there a better reality series than the NBA?
Nope, and the Pacers got quite the taste of it on Wednesday.
With the James Harden saga reaching a breaking point in Houston, the Pacers got involved by trading Victor Oladipo to the Houston Rockets, and in return got wing Caris LeVert from Brooklyn, with four teams needed to pull off this blockbuster trade. The Cavs were also involved.
Shams Charnia of The Athletic first reported the head-turning moves.
The trade is a definite win for the Indiana Pacers, on many levels.
Kevin Pritchard has turned an expiring contract in Oladipo—who could have walked for nothing in return this offseason—into a blossoming young player in LeVert, who now aligns with the rest of the Pacers’ core contractually.
One could make the argument that LeVert (26 years old) is a better player than Oladipo (28 years old) right now.
LeVert is averaging 18.5 points per game for the Nets, while shooting 43.5 percent from the floor and 34.9 percent from 3. He’s averaging 6.0 assists per game and 4.3 rebounds, while committing 2.2 turnovers per game.
With the Pacers, LeVert (6-6, 205) gives Indiana a bigger guard next to Malcolm Brogdon, who should bring very similar offensive production as Oladipo, and even a little more ability to get others involved. LeVert can slot into the shooting guard spot and be a pretty interchangeable wing whenever T.J. Warren and/or Jeremy Lamb return from their respective injuries.
It should be noted that Oladipo is considered a better defender than LeVert.
Contractually, this is a major win for the Pacers.
Not only is LeVert two years younger than Oladipo, but he’s also under contract for two more seasons (through 2023, while making around $18 million annually).
LeVert’s injury history is not squeaky clean, but he doesn’t have the lingering knee questions of Oladipo, who has yet to play in a back-to-back in the last two years.
Oladipo did have a nice start to the 2020-21 season (averaging 20.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists on 42.1 percent shooting and 36.2 percent from 3). Still, major questions remained about Oladipo’s desire to be in Indiana past this season, as he is poised to hit free agency for the first time in his NBA career this summer.
Ironically, the Pacers actually drafted LeVert with the 20th overall pick in 2016, trading him on draft night for veteran Thaddeus Young.
LeVert, an Ohio native, returns to the Midwest, having played collegiately at the University of Michigan.
This deal brings the Pacers under the luxury tax. Reports have Indiana also receiving a future 2nd round pick as part of this four-team package.
Wednesday’s deal puts the Pacers’ new starting lineup (Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, T.J. Warren, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner) all under contract through 2022, with Warren the only one not under team security through 2023.
Oladipo did not play in Tuesday’s back-to-back against the Warriors, but was on the bench.
The Pacers next play on Thursday night in Portland.