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Indiana Pacers: Why signing Deandre Ayton is not the way to go

Chris Phillips

The Indiana Pacers have been connected to Phoenix’s former #1 overall draft pick Deandre Ayton and the Pacers have never had a player on their roster who was the #1 overall pick. There are a lot of people who are letting it be known strongly that Ayton to the Pacers is a strong possibility. But is it the right move?

Let’s take a look at the cases in favor of and against Deandre Ayton taking his talents to Indiana.

Related: Indiana Pacers coach says top pick Bennedict Mathurin ‘reminds me of Dwyane Wade’

Why Deandre Ayton to the Indiana Pacers makes sense

indiana pacers, deandre ayton
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Ayton to the Pacers, whether it’s a sign-and-trade or an offer sheet, makes sense. Ayton doesn’t want to be in Phoenix anymore. The Pacers have the salary cap available to give him the max offer that he wants. Plus, the NBA salary cap is about to go up, so Ayton’s max deal won’t look so bad in a couple of years.

Ayton would easily be the most nationally recognized player since Paul George was in uniform for the Blue & Gold. Sorry, Victor Oladipo, but in my opinion, you were a flash in the pan. You had one tremendous wonderful season that we all loved and got wrapped up in but then you gave us the finger and turned your back on us. So for me, karma is letting you know that you messed up. To be clear, I’m not saying his leg injury is a part of karma. I’m referring to everything that happened once he returned. 

Now that I’ve unleashed some pent-up angst I feel better and we can move on. Ayton could very easily succeed in Indiana. The pairing of Tyrese Haliburton and Ayton has drawn comparisons to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal from Pacers fans. That comparison is plausible if you realize Haliburton and Ayton are most likely not Hall-of-Famers like O’Neal and the late Bryant. 

However, the Haliburton and Ayton pairing could do some serious damage in the Eastern Conference. Especially with the additions of Bennedict Mathurin, Chris Duarte, and the presumed to be lottery pick of the Pacers in the 2023 draft. Add in the Cleveland pick which could be late lotto or just outside of it, plus the Boston pick in next year’s draft and the Pacers could be extremely dangerous.

Why the Pacers don’t need Deandre Ayton

indiana pacers, deandre ayton
Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ll notice I did not mention a couple of young intriguing Pacer players. I did it on purpose, as those players are Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Smith. You may not find an Indiana Pacers fan who is more excited and who thinks these two talents are going to be absolute studs in the NBA, than I. For whatever it’s worth, I rostered them both on my fantasy basketball team and am currently debating whether to keep them or gamble on being able to draft them. I digress, yet again.

These players showed that they can play together. Granted it wasn’t very often as the Pacers used Smith and Jackson at the center spot. However, when those two were on the floor together and accompanied by Haliburton, Buddy Hield, and Duane Washington, that unit registered the HIGHEST effective field goal percentage, minus opponent effective field goal percentage (eFG%), of +.150! The next closest was +.109 and the lineup consisted of Myles Turner, Duarte, TJ McConnell, and former players Caris LeVert and Domantas Sabonis.

We also need to point out that the NBA is no longer about having a dominant low post big man in order to win championships. See Golden State’s recent championship or their opponent in the finals, Boston. Or go back to last year’s Milwaukee winner. The NBA is now a wing-driven league. Dominate big men are a dinosaur. There is a reason Phoenix doesn’t want to pay Ayton max dollars. Why Utah shipped out Rudy Gobert. Teams don’t need to tie up a lot of their salary cap in the center position. Unless you have a Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, or Karl Anthony-Towns type center.

Bringing in Ayton would negatively impact both Smith and Jackson. We can already see, or at least make a case, that the Smith and Ayton pairing didn’t work, otherwise, Phoenix wouldn’t have traded Smith in the first place. We can also point out that the pairing of a classic low post big man with a modern big man doesn’t work. Looking at the TurBonis duo from the past few seasons.

Ayton is more athletically gifted and arguably better than Sabonis. However, Ayton and Turner aren’t as good of a passer as Sabonis, so how will that affect the offense? For me, I want to see a big man rotation of Turner, Smith, and Jackson. Three large humans who can space the floor, block shots, run the court, rebound, and score on the block. Oh, and who is athletic enough to switch on smaller, than them, players. 

Final verdict

If the Pacers landed Ayton then Indiana’s two professional sports teams’ most recognizable players would be a left guard, Quenton Nelson, and a center. The year is 2022, not 1980 when NFL teams were about offensive linemen and running the ball. And the NBA was about the dominance of the largest most athletic humans. If the Indiana Pacers don’t want Turner on their team, then ship him somewhere else where the return is a wing and/or draft picks. Preferably lottery draft picks.