When Larry Bird pulled the trigger on the trade with Phoenix to acquire Luis Scola, the Pacers officially entered “win now” mode. Giving up young talent in Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee as well as a 2014 first rounder was a risky gamble, and in the end, it didn’t pan out, Indiana again falling to the Miami Heat. With one season remaining on Scola’s contract at just under $5 million, the extension of Paul George, and the free agency of Lance Stephenson forthcoming, a very valid question of Scola’s future in Indiana remains.
The core of the Indiana Pacers is a very young group with veterans filling out the roster, including the likes of Luis Scola, David West, and Rasual Butler. Should they stay? For West and Butler, I think they absolutely should; West for his excellent production and Butler for his veteran presence on a cheap deal. But where does that leave Luis Scola? His play alone isn’t enough to validate his role on the team, but his contract sits at a level suggesting higher production. That predicament is the bind that Larry Bird and Kevin Pritchard find themselves in.
When it comes down to it, the NBA is a business. If loyalty isn’t winning and thus bringing in the money, ties are cut, and Luis Scola is no different. This is why I think the Pacers should shop him entering this offseason. His value is at a midpoint between his production and salary cap relief, and thus not an incredibly lucrative contract to take on. He isn’t an all star caliber player, but his contract isn’t so outrageously bad that it is coveted for cap relief in the 2015 offseason.
If the Pacers can manage to find a trade partner willing to part ways with a first round draft pick or a talented youngster or two that Larry Bird sees fit to play on this Pacers team, the deal should be made. With that being said, a deal should not be made for the sake of making a deal, and Larry Bird has shown that he will not make any trade unless he feels it will strengthen the team. If all the Pacers get as compensation for Scola leaving is his $5 million in cap space at the end of the 2014-15 season, nobody should be upset. Of the two outcomes, letting him walk in the summer of 2015 is the likeliest scenario.
Entering this offseason, I think the Pacers should listen to trade offers for Luis Scola, and if the right deal comes about, take it. If the right deal never comes about, the Pacers should stand pat, let his contract expire, and continue to build a young team using the cap space Luis Scola’s contract leaves unoccupied. Going into next season, don’t be surprised to see Luis Scola still in a Pacers jersey for one more year.