Folks, after a month-plus of actual basketball (what a delight!) the trade rumor mill is creaking back to life as we learn which teams are good, which teams are not, and which teams are ready to hit the nuclear option.
And the Indiana Pacers are apparently ready to blow it up.
The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Tuesday that the Pacers are "expected to open up trade conversations around some of their veteran stalwarts" as they realize they aren't very good.
More specifically from Charania:
"Multiple sources said that the Pacers are receptive in trade dialogue with rival teams centered on potentially moving guard Caris LeVert and either two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis or center Myles Turner. All three players have frequently garnered significant interest from rival teams."
That makes sense! The Pacers are six games below .500, have never been good enough to actually contend, and need retooling. It's time.
What does this mean for the Sixers, who are still saddled with the absent Ben Simmons and are looking to get a great deal better as the season goes on?
There probably isn't a two-team swap that would make sense to President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey, but this certainly makes Indiana much more interesting in a potential three-team swap, which always seemed like a more likely (if also much more circuitous) route to the Sixers landing a superstar in return for Simmons.
Sabonis counts for $19.8 million against the cap this year, while Turner counts for $18 million and LeVert counts for $17.5 million. Having those kinds of significant salaries freed up to move makes life much easier for the Sixers as they seek a salary-matching answer in moving Simmons' $33 million cap hit.
Is there room for Morey to circle back to the Kings and see if they're still opposed to trading De'Aaron Fox after realizing their point guard logjam isn't working? Maybe with the inclusion of Pacers pieces the Blazers can be cajoled into sending a more favorable package than C.J. McCollum and picks to the Sixers - that is, if they believe it really is time to blow their own operation up, which it seems is more "when" than "if" at this point.
For fun, let's take a spin through the trade machine and toss out a singular hypothetical three-team deal:
PHI receives: De'Aaron Fox, IND 2022 1st round pick, SAC 2022 1st round pick pick
SAC receives: Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert
IND receives: Ben Simmons, Damian Jones
The Sixers get a young, star-type playmaking point guard who can push the pace, plus a pair of first-round picks from bad teams; the Pacers form an insane NBA Jam duo of the future in Simmons and Myles Turner; and the Kings get All-Star defense and rebounding from Sabonis, and wing scoring from LeVert.
It might not be perfect, but it feels like progress.
In general, while this news from Indiana doesn't present a single obvious route to a deal, the optionality could be very helpful for Morey & Co. as they work towards finally ending the Simmons saga.