Small-market teams like Indiana are generally not going to lure top NBA free agents and have to build a contender either through the draft or via trade. The Pacers have acquired an All-Star using that latter method when they traded for Tyrese Haliburton, and on Wednesday they acquired another when they got Pascal Siakam from Toronto. Haliburton has been out since Jan. 8 due to a hamstring injury but might return Thursday at Sacramento. Siakam is not likely to be cleared in time to join his new teammate. The Kings are -7.5 on the SportsLine consensus.
The 23-year-old Haliburton, who has taken a leap from All-Star to MVP candidate this season, was originally not even supposed to be re-evaluated for two weeks after suffering a left hamstring strain in that Jan. 8 game against Boston. But he's been upgraded to questionable to face his former Kings team. In February 2022, the Pacers got Haliburton, Buddy Hield and throw-in Tristan Thompson from Sacramento for All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis, a couple of throw-ins and a 2023 second-round pick.
While it's fun to think of that Kings backcourt with Haliburton and All-Star De'Aaron Fox playing together, you can't really have two ball-dominant guards, so it made sense for Sacramento to make the move. There's a reason Haliburton didn't start to truly shine until he got away from Fox and was handed the keys to the Indiana offense. The deal has worked out just fine for Sacramento, as Sabonis has become a true force. It's a rare win-win trade.
Indiana is 3-4 without Haliburton (23.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and NBA-leading 12.5 assists per game) this season and averaging 115.6 points in those games, a number skewed by a 144-point outlier on Dec. 2 in Miami, compared to averaging a league-high 125.6 PPG overall.
The Pacers enter on a two-game skid and have averaged just 107 points in those outings. Do note that Indiana plays again Friday in Portland, so it's not clear if that might affect Haliburton's return. It's hard to imagine the team allows him to play both ends of a back-to-back right after he returns from his injury. Bennedict Mathurin (ankle), Aaron Nesmith (tibia) and Obi Toppin (calf) are also questionable for Indiana on Thursday.
Friday is likely when Siakam will make his debut, as the trade has to be finalized with physicals and Siakam had to travel from Toronto to meet the team. The Pacers didn't hurt their current roster much by giving up solid guard Bruce Brown (12.1 PPG 4.7 PPG). The real cost was three first-round picks.
The key to "winning" the trade is re-signing Siakam because he's set for free agency, but the club has a ton of salary-cap space to do it and Siakam talked to Haliburton about playing with Indiana prior to the deal. In fact, ESPN reported that the Raptors wanted to get something done because they feared Siakam simply could have signed with Indiana this summer. That's why the Raptors got less for Siakam in the immediate term than they did when they sent OG Anunoby to the Knicks a few weeks ago and got two starters in RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley.
The Kings, who were also after Siakam, are probably itching to take the court and forget about their third straight loss Tuesday and perhaps the most unlikely defeat in franchise history, a 119-117 setback in Phoenix. There's no shame in losing to the Suns, but Sacramento led by 22 points with 8:22 remaining and still held a 113-96 lead with about five minutes to go before Phoenix closed on a 23-4 run.
Sabonis recorded his 11th triple-double of the season with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in the loss and has five triple-doubles in nine January games. He's +140 for another tonight. Sabonis has 23 straight double-doubles, the fourth-longest streak in franchise history, and is -750 for another.
The Kings aren't listing anyone on the injury report. They split the 2022-23 season series with Indiana, both winning at home.
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