You can always count on the Kings to make things interesting. In a shocking move, Sacramento is sending second-year guard Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Tristan Thompson to Indiana in exchange for two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis, Jeremy Lamb, and Justin Holiday, ESPN reports.
Haliburton, 21, was selected with the 12th pick in last year’s draft and is signed through 2024. Hield, 29, is also signed through ’24, on a contract that descends in value.
Sabonis, 25, is signed for two more seasons after this one. Holiday, 32, has a deal that runs through next year, while Lamb’s contract expires this summer. Let’s grade this stunner for both sides.
For a team trying to rebuild, it’s hard to make a better move than the one the Pacers made here. Sabonis is a good player, but he’s a complementary star who is better suited next to elite talent than he was as the lead man in Indy, where the team was ultimately going nowhere. Haliburton is young, an outstanding shooter, a willing passer and playmaker, and he can be the focal point of what comes next for the Pacers. Haliburton is currently the only NBA player 21 or younger to shoot at least 40% from three on at least 4.5 attempts a game, and he’s 11th in assists. He is an incredibly efficient jump shooter both off the dribble and as a spacer, and he can thrive in pick-and-rolls with the right partner. Hield is one of the league’s better volume shooters who makes sense on any team (even with his step back in accuracy this season), and his uniquely structured contract will make him an attractive trade target if the Pacers want even more picks.
Coupled with the Caris LeVert trade, Indy has now had a fantastic week. They shipped out vets who ultimately weren’t moving the needle. In return, they have a blue chipper to focus their rebuild on, a late first and an early second, and players like Hield, Myles Turner and TJ Warren who could be used in more deals to fetch expirings or picks, or kept around the new backcourt. It’s an impressive on-the-fly retooling. And considering Sabonis was a name more commonly attached to contenders, picking up an actual young talent like Haliburton in return (as opposed to something draft focused) is nothing short of a reason to celebrate for the Pacers.
Kings: G for Good Lord. H for Huh?
There are no letters to describe the Kings, or a plane on which to grade them that would make sense for the current reality we occupy. Even if Haliburton is not some five-time All-Star in waiting, how does Sacramento give him and Hield up in exchange for anyone less than a superstar? Sabonis is a very good player, but he himself is a fringe All-Star who isn’t going to help this team’s defensive issues. And right now, it’s hard to get excited about his fit with De’Aaron Fox, who has taken a considerable step backward this season.
Maybe the Kings still value Fox highly, or they couldn’t find a taker for his contract. But given his efficiency issues, why not keep Haliburton—still on his rookie deal and eligible for a five-year extension—and try to build around him some more? Or maybe keep him in the event a better player shakes free? At 20–35, Sacramento isn’t really the right team to be making the Sabonis swing, especially if it costs them an emerging star on his first contract or two other valuable trade contracts. It’s another shortsighted move by a front office that has never seen a landmine it didn’t want to pick up and hold close to its face.
Are the Kings even absolutely getting better in the short term? Did they get so much better that it’s worth losing Haliburton for? Is he the type of player you trade to lose in the first round? Is Sabonis going to want to re-sign here in two years?
At best, this is another head-scratcher for Sacramento. At worst, in two years there’s a very good chance the Kings could be looking at no Sabonis, no Haliburton, and still no playoff berth to show for it.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism