Jan 7, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) dribbles the ball in the second half of the game against the New York Knicks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Indiana Pacers beat the New York Knicks 123-109.Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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The Indiana Pacers are willing to part with their first round pick in a loaded 2017 draft class to find a player ready to make the team a playoff contender now.
The Indiana Pacers have only 25 regular season games remaining until Paul George potentially begins playing on an expiring contract.
George has the ability to opt out of his contract in the summer of 2018, prompting Indiana to embark on its efforts to appease the four-time All-Star forward now.
According to ESPN, the Pacers have started scoping potential trade partners at All-Star weekend in an effort to bolster the roster for a deep postseason run by making their first round pick in the upcoming draft — a class expected to be talent-laden — available.
With a record of 29-28, the Pacers are ranked sixth in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but have lost six consecutive games, the second longest active streak in the league.
Indiana is just two games ahead of the Pistons for the eighth and final playoff spot, with Chicago sitting one game back.
The Pacers have until Thursday’s trade deadline to bring in additional talent to pair with George, a player determined to bring the franchise its first title since claiming the 1973 championship as a member of the ABA.
George has expressed his desire to remain with the franchise that selected him with the 10th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, but also emphasized he wants to be part of a championship-caliber team.
If he remains in Indiana, George could sign a deal worth up to $219 million, but is hesitant to commit to the team unless the roster improves.
Three teams could provide Indiana pieces to appease George, while securing a potential building block by taking back the first round pick the team is willing to part with this summer.
Jan 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) and New Orleans Pelicans forward Terrence Jones (9) tie up a ball in the second half of the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Indiana Pacers beat New Orleans Pelicans 98-95.Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans
The trade: Monta Ellis and a 2017 First round pick to New Orleans for Tyreke Evans and Terrence Jones
New Orleans is only three losses behind Denver for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference, but have plenty of competition for the spot.
In order to clinch a postseason slot for the second time in the past six seasons, the Pelicans must surpass not only the Nuggets, but the Trail Blazers and Kings in the standings.
The Pelicans have their own superstar to appease, but Anthony Davis has already voiced his desire to remain with the team and is under contract until at least 2020, with a player option the following year.
Davis wants point guard Jrue Holiday to remain with the team, but the other playmaker on an expiring contract, Tyreke Evans, could be a potential trade chip.
Evans has been a polarizing figure in New Orleans since his arrival four years ago, but his complete game could serve as a nice complement to George in Indiana.
New Orleans has yet to start Evans this season, but in 25 starts a year ago, Evans averaged 15.2 points, 6.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game while converting 38.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
If the pairing of Evans and George isn’t the right fit, the team could simply let him walk in free agency this summer, while the addition of Terrence Jones provides the Pacers a stretch-4 on a reasonable contract.
The Pelicans could then have two possible lottery picks if Indiana falters after the trade and they fail to make the postseason while also adding Ellis, a potent scorer that could come off the bench for New Orleans.
Mar 13, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) shoots over Indiana Pacers forward Myles Turner (33) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Pacers 104-75. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The trade: Monta Ellis, Lavoy Allen, Glenn Robinson III and a 2017 First Round Pick to Atlanta for Paul Millsap
Atlanta has insisted Paul Millsap is no longer on the trading block and the team is unlikely to make a move after winning each of its last seven games prior to the All-Star break.
Only Millsap has been engulfed in trade speculation during his entire four-year tenure with the Hawks and he has the ability to opt out of his contract this summer and test free agency.
The market for power forwards is extremely thin, as evidenced by the return Orlando received for Serge Ibaka earlier in the week and if Atlanta wants to avoid losing Millsap for nothing this summer, a trade could be imminent.
Landing Millsap certainly be a promising piece to help convince George to remain with the organization, while the Hawks could begin their rebuilding efforts.
Geroge is averaging over 20 points per game for the third time in his career, but has yet to play with a teammate averaging at least 16 per game.
Without a secondary scorer, especially in the playoffs, an off night from George is practically an automatic loss for the Pacers. The presence of Millsap would provide a massive upgrade.
For Atlanta, the deal is just insurance incase Millsap opted out of his contract this summer.
Ellis is a bulk scorer, Lavoy Allen is a solid bench presence, Glenn Robinson III is a young piece with potential and the first round pick could help Atlanta surround Dwight Howard and Dennis Schroder with additional talent.
Oct 10, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) looks on against the Maccabi Haifa B.C at Golden 1 Center. The Kings won 136-96. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
The trade: Willie Cauley-Stein and Anthony Tolliver for Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles
Early into his sophomore season, the Kings reportedly were shopping Willie Cauley-Stein around the league.
His value could be at an all-time low, as the team has yet to start him this year and is playing him just 13 minutes a game.
Indiana has previously found massive success by dealing for a seldom used power forward from a Western Conference team, turning Jermaine O’Neal into a perennial All-Star in the last decade.
Cauley-Stein hasn’t flashed the same potential, with his scoring, rebounding and block averages all dropping from a year ago, but the dip could also be attributed to a lack of playing time.
The Pacers could use a player with the skill set of Cauley-Stein, as the team ranks second to last in offensive rebounds and could use some help with its interior scoring.