Indiana Pacers

NBA rumors: Should Celtics be interested in a trade for Pacers' Domantas Sabonis?

NBA rumors: Should Celtics be interested in a trade for Pacers' Domantas Sabonis?

An intriguing young big man is reportedly available on the trade market and, given the question marks in the Celtics’ frontcourt entering the 2019-20 season, it begs the question whether Boston should be intrigued.

The Athletic reported Friday that the Pacers have engaged in trade talks involving 23-year-old big man Domantas Sabonis with the sides far apart in negotiations on a rookie extension in advance of Monday’s deadline.

Sabonis’ name was one that Celtics fans repeatedly invoked this summer after the departures of Al Horford and Aron Baynes. The Pacers last season struggled to find ways for Sabonis and center Myles Turner to coexist. Given Boston’s glut of wings, the two sides seemed like potential trade partners.

Now, it appears the Pacers are motivated and Boston still has an obvious need for a frontcourt upgrade entering the season. The trouble in finding a deal: Indiana’s asking price might simply be more than Boston is willing to pay, especially knowing they will have to pay a high price tag to retain the player after the season.

If the Pacers are simply not committed to try and make the Sabonis/Turner combination work then their leverage in the trade market is weakened. The Athletic’s report noted the Pacers’ asking price, however, has been too high.

The Celtics would not be immediately interested in putting Jaylen Brown into a potential package. The team has been engaged in extension negotiations with Brown and is intrigued to see the strides that he makes this season when Brown’s role won’t be as muddy as it was last season.

Maybe their willingness to move Brown — or another wing — will elevate as the season progresses but the team is eager to see how its youngest stars like Brown and Jayson Tatum perform outside the shadows of Kyrie Irving.

Trying to build a trade package that might interest the Pacers without Brown is a bit more daunting. Celtics first-round pick Romeo Langford, an Indiana native who played at Indiana University and was the state’s Mr. Basketball in 2018, would seemingly intrigue the Pacers and makes the money work in a deal. Still, the Pacers would seemingly be seeking an immediate impact player and/or some of Boston’s future first-round picks, which might be more than Boston is willing to pay given the commitment it would take to maintain Sabonis.

Sabonis has no shortage of potential in a bigger role. He averaged 14.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists over just 24.8 minutes per game last season while utilized almost exclusively as a reserve (five starts in 74 appearances). Sabonis is an excellent rebounder, ranking 10th in the NBA in defensive rebound percentage (26.9) and 12th in total rebound percentage (18.4).

Defensively, he’s not quite the Joel Embiid/Giannis Antetokounmpo stopper that the Celtics so clearly need to truly contend in the Eas,t but Indiana’s defensive numbers with Sabonis on the court last season were encouraging. The Pacers limited opponents to 103.8 points per 100 possessions with Sabonis on the floor over 1,811 minutes and that number spiked to 106.1 in the 2,082 minutes that Sabonis was on the bench.

Sabonis’ defensive stats were aided by Turner’s presence as Indiana’s defensive rating dropping to 99.2 in the 434 minutes the duo shared the court. And the more noticeable spike with Sabonis on the court without Turner was on the offensive end as Indiana’s offensive rating shot to 109.4 but it was negated slightly by the defensive rating spiking to 104.

Ultimately, the Pacers might simply be gauging Sabonis’ trade value in advance of the tough decision about how to proceed with their bigs. The Celtics should be intrigued but also do not need to rush into a deal before getting a glimpse of how all their new bigs look at the start of the season.

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Pacers jab Celtics with humorous Netflix-themed NBA schedule tweet

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USA TODAY Sports

Pacers jab Celtics with humorous Netflix-themed NBA schedule tweet

The NBA schedule for the 2019-20 regular season was released Monday, and teams around the league tried to come up with clever ways of giving that information to their fans.

The Indiana Pacers used a Netflix-themed "now streaming" approach where they picked a show or movie that had some kind of connection to each team in the league. 

https://twitter.com/Pacers/status/1160992091423608832

The Pacers' choice for the Celtics was appropriate given the long list of players who have departed from Boston since the end of the 2018-19 season.

In fairness to the Pacers, "The Departed" really is an iconic Boston movie.

A few Celtics fans were quick to remind the Pacers on Twitter that Boston swept Indiana in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, but that fact doesn't take away from the humor in these tweets. It's all in good fun.

On a more serious note, the return of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford -- who left Boston in free agency for the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, respectively -- will be two of the most-anticipated games on the NBA calendar next season.

Click for the must-watch games on Celtics' 2019-20 schedule>>>

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The (really, really early) look at the Eastern Conference playoff picture

The (really, really early) look at the Eastern Conference playoff picture

BOSTON -- Some of the most significant players in the free agency market hitched their lot to teams within minutes of free agency beginning on Sunday at 6 p.m., creating what will be an undeniable domino effect for the rest of the NBA. 

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will form a lethal 1-2 punch in Brooklyn after Durant’s “redshirt” year after recovering from an Achilles injury. 

The Milwaukee Bucks plan to bring back (most of) the band from last season’s squad which finished with the best regular season record in the NBA by re-signing Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez although Malcolm Brogdon (four years $85 million) is bound for Indiana via sign-and-trade.

And of course, the Celtics came to terms with Kemba Walker on a four-year, $141 million deal. 

Indeed, the deals are getting done at a furious pace which is setting the tone for what should be a much-improved Eastern Conference. 

Here’s a (really, really early) look at the playoff pecking order of teams in the Eastern Conference after Day One of free agency. 

Philadelphia -- The sign-and-trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Miami was about the only hint of a bad night for the Sixers, who got a younger 3-and-D player in Josh Richardson. And then there was the ultimate punch-in-the-gut for Celtics fans with Al Horford agreeing to a four-year, $109 million deal ($97 million of which is guaranteed). Joel Embiid’s biggest nemesis is now a teammate, and the Sixers are poised to not just be the best team in the East but on the very short list of legit title contenders. 

Toronto -- This is assuming the best-case scenario for Toronto which would be for NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to return and seek a repeat. Of course, the Raptors return several key players from their championship squad, but their future as an elite team in the East hinges heavily on which team Kawhi Leonard hitches his lot to in the coming days. 

Milwaukee -- The Bucks kept their core (minus Malcolm Brogdon) intact, and will begin the season as one of the top two teams in the East depending on whether the NBA champion Toronto Raptors are able to re-sign Kawhi Leonard. Khris Middleton’s deal puts him among the highest-paid players in the NBA. The Bucks also brought back George Hill (three years, $29 million) which will help fill the void left by Brogdon’s departure. 

Indiana -- The backcourt tandem of Victor Oladipo and newly acquired Malcolm Brogdon will solidify a Pacers team that continues to be one of those teams on the rise. The growth of Myles Turner into a consistent stretch big will go far in their chances of being among the last team’s standing.

Boston -- The Celtics will have a drop-off with the departure of Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn) and Al Horford (Philadelphia), but it won’t be that far off from where they were a year ago. Kemba Walker will come in and help fill the void left by Irving. But Boston has no one who can replace Horford. Still, there’s more than enough talent for the Celtics to stay in the mix with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and what should be an improved Gordon Hayward (Celtics fans fingers crossed).

Brooklyn -- With Kevin Durant (Achilles) expected to take all year to recover, Kyrie Irving will be very much a one-man show with the Nets, surrounded by good but not great talent. It’ll be enough to continue building off the success of last season and just as important, position Brooklyn to be a major force in 2020 when a healthy Durant returns to action. 

Miami -- Pat Riley has been great at getting free agents to visit. But with no cap space a bunch of bad contracts, he made the most of his opportunity in landing one of the better fits for the Heat in Jimmy Butler. Several pieces had to be moved in order to get Butler in the fold, but it’ll be worth it because Butler is one of the best late-game closers and who knows, maybe he’ll convince Dwyane Wade to come out of retirement for one last dance through the league. 

Orlando -- The Magic had an effective-but-stealth Day One when it came to free agency. They made the playoffs a year ago and went into free agency content on keeping most of their guys around. Mission accomplished with the Magic re-signing Nikola Vucevic (four years, $100 million)  and Terrence Ross (four years, $54) as well as adding free agent Fariq Al-Aminu (three years, $29 million).

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