Indiana Pacers: Trade Deadline Looming

With the NBA Trade Deadline quickly nearing (3 p.m. Thursday), many who the follow the Indiana Pacers are wondering if Larry Bird will pull the trigger on a franchise-altering deal. While the Pacers have plenty of players they wouldn’t mind parting with (T.J. Ford, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy and Jeff Foster to name a few) the only guy anyone seems to want — that’s available anyway — is Murphy. Here’s a few rumored deals I found floating around the interweb:

The Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers have long been linked to each other in trade rumors. The Pacers were asking for Zyndrunas Ilgauskas’ expiring deal ($11.5 million), second-year forward J.J. Hickson and a first round pick in exchange for Murph. On the Pacers side of things, this would be a great deal. Taking on Ilgauskas would give them more cap flexibility this summer, Hickson is a promising young player, and 1st round draft picks are always coveted, no matter how low they are (and Cleveland’s will be very low).

Unfortunately for Indianapolis sports fans who follow the Pacers, the Cavs balked at giving up Hickson, and it now looks like the Suns, who are offering up Amare Stoudemire, and the Wizards, who’re dangling Antawn Jamison, have trumped the Pacers proposed Murphy deal. If neither of those deals works out, the Cavs, who need to bring in an impact player to keep LeBron James in town, could find themselves in a desperate enough position that they re-open talks with Indiana. Let’s hope so.

The Milwaukee Bucks have also expressed interest in Murphy, but those talks seem to be waning as the Paces have refused to take back Charlie Bell, who’s due $7.8 million over the next two years. One interesting rumor I saw was Murphy to Milwaukee for Kurt Thomas’ expiring contract ($3.8 million in 2009), Luke Ridnour’s expiring contract ($6.5 million in 2009) and Ersan Ilyasova.

I like this deal for two reasons. One, the Pacers clear over $10 million in cap space for this summer — I know Bird’s goal is 2011, but extra cash is always a good thing — and two, Ilyasova’s actually a pretty good player. Only 22-years old, the 6’9″ sweet shooting forward is averaging 10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.2 three-pointers a game this year. Essentially he’s a younger, cheaper version of Murphy, with good upside to boot. I’d rather have draft picks over of the expiring contracts, but still, this deal puts the Pacers in a better situation than they’re currently in. As Dr. Leo Marvin would say, baby steps, Larry, baby steps.

The Kings are rumored to have offered up Kenny Thomas’ $8.5 million expiring deal “straight up” for Murphy. I can only hope Bird broke into uncontrollable laughter when Geoff Petrie called with that proposal. The Pacers need to do something, but not that something.

Chances are, when the dust settles Thursday afternoon, the Pacers roster won’t have changed. With Murphy, Dunleavy, Foster and Ford set to reach the end of their deals in 2010-2011, Bird can wait and see what the market looks like this summer, when those players will be more attractive. Not a bad move — now is not the time to make a deal just to make a deal — but that means Conseco Fieldhouse patrons will be stuck watching this depressingly inconsistent Pacers squad a little while longer.

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