The Indiana Pacers and the Brooklyn Nets already have been friendly with one another in the last year in terms of making trades, with Indiana having sent Brooklyn its first-round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft for power forward Thaddeus Young.
Now, with the 2016-17 trade deadline coming Thursday, the two teams might be in talks about another, bigger trade.
Longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey tweeted early Monday that the Pacers are looking to acquire center Brook Lopez from the Nets. The tweet seems to suggest the Boston Celtics and the New Orleans Pelicans could be in play for Lopez, though Vecsey presumably sent the tweet before New Orleans made out like bandits in acquiring DeMarcus Cousins from Sacramento.
Vecsey speculates whether Brooklyn would accept Indiana's 2017 first-round pick, center Al Jefferson, and guard Rodney Stuckey in exchange for Lopez, a ninth-year center, and one-time NBA All-Star, or look for a more enticing offer.
This rumor certainly comes as a mild surprise, but it also is true the Pacers would like to add some size up front to help fix the team's rebounding issues -- Indiana ranks 27th in the NBA with 41.2 rebounds per game and 29th with just 8.4 offensive boards per contest -- and to add some physicality down low to aid second-year center Myles Turner, who has demonstrated great potential as an all-range big man and shot blocker but still is growing into his body and can't yet dominate the paint from a physical standpoint.
Further, this development comes on the heels of heightened speculation about Paul George's future. The Pacers' franchise player went on ESPN radio in advance of his fourth NBA All-Star Game, and when asked about potentially signing a designated player exception contract extension with Indiana, George explained that while he wants to bring an elusive NBA championship to the franchise, the ability to contend for a championship is his priority. It's uncertain whether Indiana offers him a strong chance at a title long-term, though it is certain the Pacers don't, unless they make significant personnel upgrades soon.
With all this in mind, is Brook Lopez a good fit for Indiana at this time, and would Vecsey's suggested price be a good deal for the Pacers?
Lopez is averaging 20.8 points per game (25.3 per 36 minutes), though for the league's worst team, but it still stands to reason he could give the Pacers an effective scoring punch beneath the basket. However, his averages of 5.2 total rebounds per game and 6.3 per 36 minutes seem quite low for a higher-end center. Those numbers suggest Lopez wouldn't be the cure-all for Indiana's inadequate rebounding prowess.
In addition, when thinking of what type of player would most likely convince Paul George to stay in Indiana and give the Pacers a legitimate shot at contending for a championship, the first thought seemingly has to be a guard who can shoot lights-out from 3-point range, including, or maybe especially, off the dribble. Looking at the contenders, Cleveland has Kyrie Irving; Golden State has Steph Curry and Klay Thompson; San Antonio has Danny Green; Houston has James Harden and Eric Gordon; Boston has Isaiah Thomas; Washington has Bradley Beal. The Pacers definitely do not have a guard on the same level as any of those players in terms of shooting the 3-pointer, and if the landscape of the NBA tells us anything, the 3-pointer is the new key to a title. When Paul George tells the media that this basketball season hasn't been fun, it's not too outlandish to speculate that he's looking around the league at teams that score so effortlessly, with multiple stars who can knock down big shots. Adding a traditional center doesn't add that dimension to the Pacers and thus likely doesn't advance the purpose of creating a capable championship contender that George wants.
Having established all that, including a 2017 first-rounder, as Vecsey suggests would tilt the trade slightly too much in Brooklyn's favor, and would definitely disincentivize the Pacers from making a move. Losing Jefferson and Stuckey wouldn't be a big deal, but a center who appears to have topped out and doesn't add the missing title ingredient to Indiana doesn't seem worth sacrificing a first round selection in what is projected to be an especially deep draft.
It's unclear how much truth there is to Vecsey's tweet, but based on what he listed as a potential deal, the Pacers probably should pass.