The Indiana Pacers entered the 2018-19 NBA season with the goal of contending for the NBA championship title. After almost eliminating the defending Eastern Conference champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in the 2018 NBA playoffs, most people believe that the Pacers would be making lots of noise in the 2018-19 NBA season. The Eastern Conference had become a land of opportunity for teams like the Pacers when James left the Cavaliers for the second time to join the Los Angeles Lakers in the recent free agency season.
Unfortunately, the Pacers’ hopes to make a deep playoff run were shattered when Victor Oladipo, who is currently considered as the best player in Indiana, suffered a season-ending injury. The Pacers are still in the playoff race, but even if they succeed to reach the postseason, it remains a big question mark if they have what it takes to beat Eastern Conference powerhouse teams like the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Toronto Raptors in a best-of-seven series.
If the Pacers are still aiming to fully dominate the Eastern Conference this season, they may have to consider upgrading their roster before the February NBA trade deadline. According to Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports, one of the players that Pacers could target is Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies.
“The Memphis Grizzlies reportedly put Conley and Marc Gasol on the trade block this week, accelerating the Conley-to-Pacers rumor mill into full tilt. The Pacers are an ideal trade partner for any team looking to unload salary. [Darren] Collison, [Thaddeus] Young, [Bojan] Bogdanovic, Cory Joseph, and Tyreke Evans all have contracts that expire this summer and make between $8 and $14 million, an appealing carrot for a front office like Memphis looking to tear down their roster around Jaren Jackson Jr. Memphis, take your pick of three. A deal like Conley and Omri Casspi for Young, Evans and Collison could hold interest for both sides.”
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 26, 2019
Unlike the Pacers, the Grizzlies are currently holding the second-worst record in the Western Conference and are projected to become a lottery team by the end of the 2018-19 NBA season. At this point in his NBA career, Mike Conley will be better off joining a legitimate playoff contender than being part of the rebuilding process. Trading for Conley could fill the huge hole left by Victor Oladipo. When he returns 100 percent healthy from injury, Oladipo could form an explosive backcourt duo with Conley in Indiana.
Aside from their expiring contracts, the Pacers will also need to part ways other valuable trade assets to convince the Grizzlies to make a deal. In any deal involving their superstars, the Grizzlies are reportedly seeking some combinations of a young player, a future draft pick, and salary cap relief.