Indiana Pacers team president Larry Bird didn’t have a first-round draft selection in Thursday night’s draft, but it didn’t necessarily prevent him from improving the roster of his team.
The Indiana Pacers are a more improved team than what they were 72 hours ago — and you can thank Larry Bird and his ability to turn his team’s rags into riches. He may have, in fact, gotten away with two counts of highway robbery on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, respectively.
Shortly after he had fired then-head coach Frank Vogel coming off of a game-seven loss against the 2nd-seed Toronto Raptors in the first round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs, I had challenged Bird’s thought process.
But after Thursday, Bird may have put any former criticisms against him to rest by making two absolutely brilliant trades — not once, but twice.
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported that there was a three-team trade taking place between the Pacers, the Atlanta Hawks and the Utah Jazz.
At first glance, the Pacers look like the clear winners of the trade. They get an aggressive point guard who isn’t afraid to attack the basket — Teague ranked as one of the best point guards in the league last season at attacking the rim.
Trading George Hill to the Jazz is more of a relief to the Pacers than it is a burden. While Hill may have the nod over Teague in terms of defense, Teague has proven to be the better scorer who can create offense not only for himself, but his surrounding players.
The best part about the trade? Teague could very well be the best point guard that the Pacers have had in years — something that is sure to put a smile on Paul George‘s face.
But that’s not the only move the savvy Bird made. Just a few hours before the start of the draft Thursday evening, he sent the team’s 20th pick and a future 2nd-round selection to the Brooklyn Nets for forward Thaddeus Young — who averaged 15.1 points-per-game in 2015.
Just like that, Bird has the Pacers looking like a team who can make their case of being a top-five team in the Eastern Conference for the upcoming season. And he hasn’t even spent a penny in free agency.
Here’s a look at what the Pacers’ starting lineup could look like this next season barring any free agent moves:
- PG: Jeff Teague
- SG: Monta Ellis
- SF: Paul George
- PF: Thaddeus Young
- C: Myles Turner
The fact that Bird has yet to make a pitch to any notable free agents come the start of the free agency period on July 1st is a scary thought given how much he’s improved some of the holes on the roster over the last three days.
The Pacers did use their 2nd-round, 50th-overall pick on forward Georges Niang out of Iowa State. Niang averaged 20.5 points and 6.2 rebounds through 35 games with the Cyclones in 2015 — a solid player that the Pacers get at a bargain in the later parts of the draft.
Bird is committed to getting the Pacers back into contention, and it’s been very evident. With free agency still looming, things should get very interesting in the coming weeks.
Be sure to follow Ink On Indy as we continue our coverage of the Indiana Pacers’ offseason.
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