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Pacers acquired Jordan Nwora, George Hill and draft picks in four-team trade
In corresponding moves, the Pacers are waiving 2019 first-round pick Goga Bitadze, Terry Taylor and James Johnson.
In what became a very active NBA trade deadline, highlighted by Kyrie Irving dealt to Dallas, Kevin Durant to Phoenix and the Western Conference getting much more competitive, the Pacers got involved to add additional draft assets.
The Pacers acquired 6-foot-8 forward Jordan Nwora, Indy’s own George Hill, Serge Ibaka and three second-round picks in a four-team trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns.
The deal centered around Brooklyn re-routing Jae Crowder, who was part of the larger Durant deal, from Phoenix to Milwaukee.
In order to complete the trade, the Pacers waived Terry Taylor and 2019 first-round pick Goga Bitadze. Both players fell out of the rotation and were the fifth and sixth options, respectively, at center.
James Johnson was also waived to open a roster spot.
The expectation is that Ibaka will be waived and hit the buyout market, per league source, and that Hill, 36, will take on a mentoring role for the remainder of the season.
The trade call was completed early Thursday evening.
To summarize the deal:
Incoming: Nwora, Hill (owed $4M), Ibaka ($2.9M), three future second-round picks from Milwaukee, plus cash considerations from Brooklyn.
Outgoing: Draft rights to Juan Pablo Vaulet to Brooklyn; Taylor, Bitadze and Johnson waived.
The Pacers did not practice Thursday. They have a home-road back-to-back this weekend, Friday against Phoenix and Saturday at Washington.
The Pacers are 25-31 this season and have lost 13 of their last 15 games. They have four games left before the All-Star break.
Decision No. 1 for the Pacers was signing Myles Turner to a contract extension last week. No. 2 was deciding what to do with Bitadze, who’s in the final year of his rookie contract and was going to be a free agent in the offseason. With no trade value, the Pacers elected to waive him and his $4.8 million salary for this season to clear a roster spot.
Bitadze, who is just 23 years old, was never able to play in summer league due to several situations out of his career — Visa issues, Covid-19 and the death of a family member — and he declined to spend time in the G League with the Mad Ants this season, per league sources.
Bitadze appeared in 170 games, starting in 21. One thing the Pacers highlighted on draft night was his outside shooting, but we never saw that consistently. He shot 25.6% from range in 3+ seasons and never better than 28.8% in a season.
Not having a consistent role was something that he struggled with. He was not productive playing a limited minutes off the bench, and then he quickly dropped on the depth chart after the Pacers drafted Isaiah Jackson in 2021 and then acquired Jalen Smith one year ago.
Taylor, meanwhile, was signed to a three-year deal at the end of last season. His $1.8 million salary for next season is non-guaranteed, but the Pacers are on the hook for $1.5 million this season.
Taylor began the season in the rotation, playing at least 15 minutes in each of the first four games. A week later, he dropped out and was replaced by Oshae Brissett, a better 3-point shooter but worse rebounder. (Brissett will be an unrestricted free agent in July.)
Since the calendar turned to 2023, Taylor only played in 8 of the last 19 games and for 90 minutes total.
Taylor, 23, went undrafted in 2021, signed a training camp deal and then earned a larger role. He’s done everything the Pacers asked of him, including playing in a G League game on Monday. Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle was courtside for the first half of that game, sitting next to Jim Boylen.
By waiving Bitadze and Taylor, it also helps clear some of the logjam at center.
Nwora is 24 years old and under contract through the 2023-24 season, due $3 million for next year. He’s a player the Pacers have monitored over the last few years, but he chose to re-sign with the Bucks before this season.
He a scorer, but can he become more of a two-way forward? The Bucks didn’t believe his defense was good enough.
The University of Louisville product is averaging 6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game this season in about 16 minutes per game with Milwaukee. He’s a 37.6% career 3-point shooter and fits the Pacers’ timeline. He’s 24 and like Tyrese Haliburton, Aaron Nesmith and Smith, was part of the 2020 NBA Draft — the 45th overall pick, taken by the Bucks.
The Pacers only had a second-round pick for that draft.
Nwora also brings championship experience with him to Indy having played with Giannis Antetokounmpo and winning the 2021 NBA Championship.
Hill, the Broad Ripple High School product, previously played for his hometown team from 2011-16. In 35 games this season with the Bucks, he averaged 5.0 points and 2.5 assists per game off the bench.
He joined the Bucks last season to be a role player on a championship-contending team as he’s still seeking an NBA title. So he goes from arguably the favorites in the Eastern Conference to back home, where things are much different since he left in 2016.
The two things that are the same: Turner and the training staff. OK… three things since I’m still around.
Ibaka, 33, has only appeared in 16 games this season. He and the Bucks mutually agreed last month to find him a new team … so they did. He hasn’t appeared in a game since Jan. 1. And won’t for the Pacers.