Raptors-Pacers trade grades for Pascal Siakam deal shows rare NBA win-win

Raptors-Pacers trade grades for Pascal Siakam deal shows rare NBA win-win

The Toronto Raptors finally did it. After years of speculation about when and how the Raptors would blow up their middling roster, Toronto finalized its decision to embrace a rebuild by trading its only remaining link to its 2019 NBA championship team and one of its best players in franchise history.

The Raptors traded Pascal Siakam to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday. In return Toronto received guard Bruce Brown, forward Jordan Nwora, two 2024 first-round picks, and a Pacers 2026 first round pick, protected inside the top-4. The Raptors are receiving the Pacers’ own 2024 pick, as well as the least favorable of the Jazz/Clippers/Rockets/Thunder picks due to a complicated swap from a previous trade. Kira Lewis will also go to the Raptors from the New Orleans Pelicans, and was included in the deal to make the money work.

We have a fresh 2024 NBA mock draft if you want to see how Toronto could spend their newly acquired picks.

The Raptors had already traded long-time stalwart OG Anunoby to the New York Knicks three weeks earlier. By dealing Siakam, Toronto is fully committing to a youth movement built around 22-year-old forward Scottie Barnes. From the Pacers’ perspective, acquiring Siakam shows the team is serious about building a contender around their own young star, point guard Tyrese Haliburton.

This is a fascinating deal. Let’s grade it from both sides.

Pacers grade: A-

The Pacers have been one of the best stories in the NBA this year. With Haliburton emerging as a superstar, Indiana has put up what is currently the highest offensive rating in league history by scoring 121.6 points per 100 possessions at the time of the trade. The offense has powered the Pacers to a 23-17 start that would currently have the team as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Indiana has had two big issues holding them back this season: a shaky defense and a lack of size. The Pacers defense ranks No. 27 in the NBA at the time of the trade, mostly because their personnel was too small and too thin. Siakam immediately helps fix both areas.

At 6’8, 245 pounds with a 7’3 wingspan, Siakam immediately injects size and defensive impact at the four for Indiana. He joins center Myles Turner to form a versatile front line on both ends of the floor. Suddenly, the Pacers will actually be able to get a stop after spending this entire season playing shootouts.

Siakam first became an NBA star by getting the job done on the defensive end. As Kawhi Leonard eventually moved from the Raptors to Los Angeles Clippers in free agency, Siakam became a high-usage forward scorer who could attack mismatches off the dribble and overpower small opponents. Siakam is now in his fifth straight year of averaging at least 21 points per game, and he’ll bring a new dimension to the Pacers offense as well.

Siakam isn’t just a one-on-one scorer — he can be a secondary handler and facilitator, too. In Toronto, Siakam’s attacks to the rim rarely felt easy because the Raptors had some of the worst spacing in the league. Toronto has regularly been in the 20s in three-point rate, percentage of shots taken from three, leading to a cramped floor for their star forward.

Indiana will have no such problem: the Pacers take more than 40 percent of their field goal attempts from three, and make 38.1 percent of them, the fifth-best mark in the NBA. With a genius point guard like Haliburton at the controls, and a ton of shooters around him, Siakam’s scoring efficiency and playmaking could level up again. The biggest knock against Siakam has been his own poor outside shooting — he’s making 31.7 of his threes this season, and made 32.4 percent of his triples last year — but that should be mitigated in Indiana with so much shooting around him.

There’s also the issue of Siakam’s age and contract. Siakam turns 30 years old in April and is on an expiring contract. He’s going to command a massive new contract that will pay him into his 30s. Toronto decided that wasn’t a deal it wanted to give out. Indiana is ready and willing to do it. How Siakam will age without a reliable jumper is one of the big questions in the aftermath of this trade, assuming he does agree to a deal with the Pacers now that the club has his bird rights. It’s not like Indiana is a hot free agent destination, so the Pacers had a pay a premium in picks and an eventual contract to get another star for Haliburton.

Siakam’s next contract would scare me a bit, but the on-court fit in the present is awfully nice. The Pacers add size, defense, and a secondary creator next to Haliburton. These are all things Indiana didn’t have despite its wonderful start this season, and it’s possible it could push them to the top of the second tier of East contenders that includes the Knicks, Miami Heat, and Cleveland Cavaliers.

It’s a bold move, but the Pacers also didn’t have to give up any of their best young players in this deal, keeping Bennedict Mathurin, Andrew Nembhard, and Jarace Walker in this deal. While “three firsts” sounds like a ton for Siakam, those picks don’t have as much upside as unprotected picks. Indiana had to get bold to get another star, and they did. That should be applauded.

Raptors grade: A-

The Raptors didn’t want to pay Siakam his next deal. That was their main motivation for getting this trade done. While Toronto could have probably gotten more for Siakam had they decided to trade him last year or the year before, the Raptors still did well to acquire assets in this deal for a player on an expiring contract.

Right now, Toronto would have the No. 18 and No. 27 overall picks in the 2024 NBA Draft after this deal. Our latest mock draft has them taking G League Ignite forward Tyler Smith and Arkansas big man Trevon Brazile with those selections. There’s another draft pick at play for Toronto, too, its implications also influenced this deal.

Last season, Toronto traded a top-6 protected 2024 first round pick for big man Jakob Poeltl. If the Raptors’ pick lands at No. 7 or lower, it goes to the San Antonio Spurs. By dealing Siakam, Toronto can tank its record and improve its chances of keeping that pick. Right now, the Raptors pick would be No. 6 heading into the lottery. We had the team selecting Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham with that selection in our latest mock.

Brown is an interesting addition for the Raptors, too. The 6’3 guard played a pivotal role on the Denver Nuggets’ NBA championship team last season before signing an inflated two-year deal with the Pacers in free agency. Brown has a team option for $23 million next season. The Raptors could flip him to a contender at the trade deadline, could use his salary to acquire another highly paid player it would prefer to have, or could decline the option to open up cap room. Brown is a good player, and his unique contract makes him even more valuable.

After landing Immanuel Quickley and R.J. Barrett in the Anunoby trade with the Knicks, Toronto prioritized getting picks in the Siakam trade. Even though 2024 is considered a bad draft, there’s still a chance those picks can be super valuable. The last draft that was considered this bad was 2013. That draft had Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert in the mid and late first round.

The Raptors finally picked a lane. It’s Barnes’ team now, with Quickley as his sidekick. It’s tough to deal a franchise legend like Siakam, but Toronto did well to get so many picks if they didn’t want to pay him into his mid-30s. This is the rare NBA deal that makes sense for both sides.

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