Value In The NBA: Where The Milwaukee Bucks Currently Stand

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Put aside your feelings about who the Indiana Pacers received in exchange for George. Look, instead, at what they accepted:

Four guaranteed years of Victor Oladipo and the rookie-scale contract of Domantas Sabonis—who, when factoring in restricted free agency, can be under their control for the next seven to eight years.

No picks. No impending free agents. No instant salary-cap relief. The Pacers talked themselves into immediacy—into semi-known commodities who can contribute now but don't have the option of leaving anytime soon.

Sprinkle in deals for Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison, the trade for Cory Joseph, the retention of Thaddeus Young and Monta Ellis' departure, and the Pacers' objective is clear: Don't sniff rock bottom. It's also puzzling. As The Ringer's Mark Titus explained:

"As the rest of the league either tanks or tries to get the most out of a title contender, the Pacers stubbornly continue to shoot for the moon despite never having the artillery to do so. And I suppose that's noble, as it could be argued that tanking isn't in the spirit of the game.

"Still, eventually something has to give. Of all the NBA franchises that have stayed in the same city since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, Indiana is the only one to have both never won an NBA title and never had a single player named to an All-NBA first team. Meanwhile, all signs point to the Pacers winning 30-something games again this year, landing a late lottery pick that won't make an immediate impact, and failing to attract any big-name free agents in the 2018 offseason. The cycle will probably repeat itself in 12 months."

Small-market squads cannot always withstand contrived collapses. One-year tank jobs can squander goodwill among the fanbase. And self-instituted implosions aren't the only way to jump-start a rebuild.

Cornerstones can be found later in the draft. The Pacers scooped up George at No. 10. They selected Danny Granger 17th overall. Myles Turner, now their best player, went at No. 11. They have experience retooling outside the comfortable confines of premeditated irrelevance.

And yet, picking early in the lottery remains the most efficient method of superstar acquisition—especially for small-market franchises that don't hold mystique as trade and free-agent destinations. The Pacers' refusal to "Sam Hinkie" their way to talent is admirable, if fiscally motivated, but it doesn't change their position.

They're trying to rebuild with one hand tied behind their back.

Also: Kevin Pritchard is too low on Gary Harris, too high on Victor Oladipo, hates Cleveland with a burning passion or some combination of all three.

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