Biggest need Pacers will have to address at 2023 NBA trade deadline

The Indiana Pacers were expected to play the first half of the season with their current roster and trade their veterans before the Feb. 9 trade deadline. The prediction was that they would draft for French big man Victor Wembanyama, but they have silenced the doubters and are poised to contend for a playoff spot.

Tyrese Haliburton continues to improve in his third season and looks like a suspension for his first All-Star appearance. Despite the leg injury he picked up last week, Haliburton is the main reason behind Indiana’s rise this season. Bennedict Mathurin, Myles Turner and Buddy Hield were also fantastic and it doesn’t look like Turner and Hield will be moved until the close. That seemed like an obvious move a few months ago, but the tide has turned.

Indiana Pacers trade date: A 4 to complement Myles Turner

Turner has long been in trade rumors, but he’s having the best season of his career off the picture with Domantas Sabonis and could now be a long-term play for this Pacers franchise. Indiana would love to work out an extension, although nothing has come to fruition yet. Given that the Pacers want to keep Turner, they reportedly want to improve Jalen Smith in 4th place alongside Turner.

One name that has popped up recently is Atlanta Hawks power forward John Collins, who, like Turner, has also been in trade rumors for some time. It seems Collins will finally be rescheduled before that deadline, so Indiana might be in a position to strike.

He would be a great addition for Collins as he is an athletic forward who would form a dynamic grouping with Haliburton, Turner and the Pacers’ other core players. Collins can play over the edge and would be the recipient of Haliburton’s scintillating pass. And while Collins has struggled with his shooting this season (23.0%), he is at nearly 36% from deep for his career and even shot around 40% in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

Still only 25 years old, Collins is entering his prime over the next few years. He’s in the second season of a five-year, $125 million deal, so he’d be under team control for a long time. because Indiana is a small market town that doesn’t attract much interest in free agencies. They need to focus on strengthening their list through deals like this. The price might not even be that high at this point.

Collins would be a more exciting addition and proven perk, but Obi Toppin is another option and opportunity. When Toppin came into the league he had huge potential but he was on coach Tom Thibodeau’s bench and played behind star Julius Randle. Thibodeau is not known to use the youngsters in his roster, so Toppin hasn’t had many opportunities to prove himself on the NBA stage.

Playing on Toppin’s advantage is a viable decision, but it’s up to the Pacers’ front office how they prioritize building this team around Haliburton, Mathurin and maybe Turner. There’s no pressure to strike a deal for the Pacers, but it will be intriguing if they continue to add significant parts rather than try to sell and play for the draft.