With Victor Oladipo Trade For Caris LeVert, Indiana Pacers Opt For Younger, Controllable Asset

Perhaps lost in the sea of big names and scorching takes in Wednesday’s four-team James Harden mega blockbuster was a really interesting, simple one for one swap orchestrated by the Indiana Pacers that gave them a much more certain future.

Instead of keeping 26-year-old guard Caris LeVert themselves after he was part of the Brooklyn Nets’ substantial package to acquire Harden from the Houston Rockets, they re-routed him to Indiana for 28-year-old, two-time All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, per reports.

Both players have had significant injuries in the past, Oladipo’s ACL, LeVert’s foot, among other long-term maladies, but Oladipo is in the final season of a four-year, $85 million contract that allows him to hit unrestricted free agency next summer.

In a conversation with me back in September, the 2017-2018 NBA Most Improved Player knew how important the current season would be for the rest of his career.

“I know it’s a huge year, and I know that obviously I’m gonna have to be focused and take things to another level,” Oladipo said. “But my thing is that I’m at my best when my back is against the wall. I always feel like I’m overlooked, underrated. I’ve always been like that my whole life. But right now, it’s like on another scale for me. I’m taking this really, really personally because this next year is a big stepping stone for me in my career. I’m taking it very seriously. And I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to the grind leading up to it.”

Oladipo was certainly meeting that challenge with the Pacers. In nine games, he averaged 20 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game on 42.1% from the field and 36.2% from three. But there were rumors since the summer that he may be on the trading block and there were certainly questions about his long-term future in Indiana.

Rather than losing him for nothing and then trying to replicate that value in a shallow free agent market next summer, the Pacers opted to flip Oladipo for a younger player at a similar position in LeVert, who has an additional two years and $36.2 million left on his contract beyond this season.

LeVert has proven he can be a valuable scorer and ball-handler in the league, averaging 18.5 points and six assists per game both starting and coming off the bench for Brooklyn this season. It’ll be interesting to see how Indiana uses him, whether in the same backcourt with Malcolm Brogdon or utilizing him off the bench.

Either way, the Pacers didn’t want to take any chances with Oladipo any longer, opting to take a sure thing who may not be as good rather than risking losing a prime asset for nothing. It’s an interesting case of risk management as Indiana looks to compete in a stacked Eastern Conference with a long-term core of All-Star Domantas Sabonis, Brogdon, Myles Turner and LeVert.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/shlomosprung/2021/01/13/with-victor-oladipo-trade-for-caris-levert-indiana-pacers-opt-for-younger-controllable-asset/