The Indiana Pacers threw in the towel at this season’s trade deadline. Struggling to get off to a strong start one season after a disappointing exit in the Play-In Tournament, the front office opted for a significant roster shake-up. Veteran scorer Caris LeVert was sent over to Cleveland, defensive forward Torrey Craig ended up back in Phoenix, and All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis found his way to Sacramento in one of the NBA’s most shocking mid-season deals.
In exchange for Sabonis, the Pacers received a package built around highly-touted point guard Tyrese Haliburton. The No. 12 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Haliburton looked the part immediately during his freshman season, averaging 13.0 points, 5.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game in a Rookie of the Year-caliber campaign. The 22-year-old is undoubtedly the building block of the franchise’s future … but who will join him in laying the team’s new foundation?
As we saw with the Bulls’ massive 2021 trade deadline, I think it’s safe to say the Pacers aren’t close to done. These sell-offs are normally the precursor for a much more active offseason, and that offseason for Indiana could start with deciding the future of big man Myles Turner.
Before he suffered a season-ending foot injury, Turner’s name was one of the most popular on the trade market. The price for the 7th-year big man was set at either two first-round picks or one first-round pick and a “promising young player,” according to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto. However, due to an expiring contract in 2023 and an injury that caused him to miss the final 34+ games of the season, it sounds like the Pacers’ asking price for Turner has now shifted.
“I spoke with four NBA executives who told me they believe Myles Turner can still get a protected first-round pick outside the lottery if he’s traded this offseason,” Scotto told Fieldhouse Files’ Scott Agness in a recent episode of the HoopsHype Podcast. “When I asked the executives which teams they believe could try and trade for him, the usual suspects came up, including Charlotte, Toronto and Dallas.”
I happen to know a team that currently owns an extra lottery-protected first-round pick from Portland and is in severe need of frontcourt defense!
*Whispers*: It’s the Chicago Bulls.
Now, before the Nikola Vucevic haters start a GoFundMe to pay for Turner’s contract extension, let me be very clear: There have been no rumors or reports to suggest the Chicago Bulls have considered getting rid of Nikola Vucevic. In fact, if anything, the opinion of NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson in his latest mailbag was he expects both Vucevic and DeRozan to return next season. We should too.
Is that to say the front office will not consider a replacement for Vucevic? Of course not, but we must remember he was the first piece to this front office’s puzzle. They clearly saw him as a key building block early on, and rightfully so! He’s a 2x All-Star and one of the best offensive big men in the NBA. While the guy has struggled at times this season, he’s a supremely talented player who makes this team a lot better. Again, I expect Vucevic to return next season for the time being (and I look forward to it) … but Arturas Karnisovas has blindsided us before.
The fact of the matter is the Bulls lack rim protection. The team has given up the 7th-most points in the paint per game this season, and they hold a defensive rating that sits 20th in the NBA. Nikola Vucevic and the Bulls were able to hold their own when Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball were healthy thanks to their ball pressure along the perimeter, but injuries to both exposed how difficult it can be for them to hold down the fort. The hope might be that these two stay healthy – along with Patrick Williams – and the defense returns to an above-average unit. However, who’s to say the hope isn’t to simply add a more defensive-minded player who can hold down the fort regardless of injuries?
Turner has been a plus-defender his entire NBA career. He led the league in blocks per game in 2020-21, and he carried a +1.9 defensive estimated plus-minus that ranked in the 93rd percentile before his injury this season, per Dunks & Threes. He’s a versatile defender who limits his fouling and can switch onto other positions with relative ease.
What Turner isn’t is someone as dominant on the glass or as savvy on the offensive end. While he does carry a decent jump shot and career 34.9 percent 3-point percentage, he can be inconsistent scoring the basketball and isn’t nearly the playmaker Vucevic is from the pocket.
I probably also should emphasize that Turner – who is set to make $17.5 million in 2022-23 – is owed a fresh contract after next season. However, get this, Vucevic is also up for a new contract after he gets paid his $22 million next season. How old is Turner? He just turned 26. How old is Vucevic? He will be 32 in October.
All things considered, that is something we have to keep in mind when we think about how the Bulls might approach Vucevic’s future. Do they want to hand him a new multi-year deal into his mid-30s? Maybe! I don’t think his game will age particularly poorly, but it’s still a question worth asking at this point in time.
So … what exactly am I getting at here? To be honest, nothing concrete. I just think this Turner situation opened the door for us to start an important dialogue about where this Bulls team may be headed. While I believe this is the nucleus Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley want to continue to build around, the Bulls have also entered a win-now era with an ultra-aggressive front office. They have already shown they will do whatever it takes to plug holes on this roster, and we simply must keep that in mind as we head toward this summer.
Maybe Turner’s market is something to keep an eye on or maybe it’s something completely irrelevant. After all, Agness did tell Scotto he envisions a world where Turner stays with Indiana and they look at what he can do with Haliburton. All I truly know for now is these are the kind of conversations we can have about a Bulls team hoping to stay competitive, and I look forward to having more.