Cowboys keep Mike McCarthy; Pacers going for it with Pascal Siakam

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The Pacers are making their intentions clear: They’re going for it, and they’re bringing in whomever they feel can help them get to the mountaintop. Two-time All-NBA selection and two-time All-Star Pascal Siakam is headed to Indiana in a three-team deal.

  • Pacers receive: Pascal Siakam, 2024 second-round pick (via Pelicans)
  • Raptors receive: Bruce Brown, Jordan Nwora, Kira Lewis Jr., 2024 first-round pick (via Pacers), 2024 first-round pick (lesser of picks from Jazz/Clippers/Rockets/Thunder) and 2026 first-round pick (via Pacers, protected 1-4)
  • Pelicans receive: Cash considerations

Siakam, an impending free agent, is expected to work on an extension with Indiana, a key part of what makes him so valuable to his new team. The 29-year-old forward is averaging 22.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists while shooting 52.2% from the floor this season.

I like this trade for both major parties involved considering their respective goals. Let’s start with the Pacers, who are taking a big swing and getting a really good player to pair with Tyrese Haliburton. They earned a “B” in Sam Quinn’s trade grades.

  • Quinn: “The Pacers had two critical needs coming into the trade deadline. The first was simply a natural forward. … The second major need here was a No. 2 scorer. … Siakam obviously checks both boxes, and Indiana is uniquely positioned to maximize him. The Pacers rank seventh in 3-point attempts, 11th in 3-point percentage and second in pace. They have the spacing to mitigate his poor shooting and play so fast that he’ll spend less time off of the ball in half-court settings than he would anywhere else. … He’ll immediately become one of the best defenders on the team.”

Toronto, meanwhile, swings its second big trade of the past three weeks after sending OG Anunoby to the Knicks in late December. Combining those moves, the Raptors have acquired two young potential franchise cornerstones (Immanuel Quickley, R.J. Barrett) and significant draft capital. Sam also gave Toronto a “B.”

  • Quinn: “The 2024 pick they got from Indiana is currently slated to fall somewhere between 17th and 19th, depending on tiebreakers. The pick coming from Oklahoma City is a bit less enticing — currently slated for 27th, and because of the heavy protections on it, it almost certainly won’t get much better. Indiana’s 2026 pick will likely fall somewhere between those two slots. … Fortunately, the Raptors have drafted exceedingly well in that range under Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster. Between 2015 and 2017, they landed Delon Wright at No. 20, Siakam at No. 27 and Anunoby at No. 23.”

😁 Honorable mentions

😬 Not so honorable mentions

🏈 Cowboys retain Mike McCarthy as head coach

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Fool me one time, shame on you. Fool me two times, shame on me. Fool me three times? Well, Jerry Jones will give you one more chance. After three consecutive disappointing playoff exits, Mike McCarthy will return to the Cowboys for the final year of his contract.

After going 6-10 in his first year with Dallas (marred by a Dak Precott injury), McCarthy has reeled off three consecutive 12-5 seasons, and only the Chiefs have a better record over that span. At 62-45 overall, McCarthy has the best record of any coach in franchise history. That’s the good news.

The bad news is each of those last three seasons has ended with a thud, ranging from heartbreaking to humiliating.

Thirteen straight playoff trips without even a conference title game appearance is the longest in NFL history. Is McCarthy the guy to end the Cowboys’ postseason woes? I don’t think McCarthy is a bad coach. I also don’t think he’s a great one. Jared Dubin had McCarthy and staff eighth on his postseason rankings, and that seems about right. The disconnect between regular-season success and postseason failure is hard to explain, but it’s McCarthy’s turn again — probably his last one in Dallas if he fails — to fix it.

🏈 Biggest questions remaining for playoff teams

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We’re down to eight playoff teams, and it’s an excellent eight. From star quarterbacks in their first postseason (CJ Stroud, Jordan Love) to playoff fixtures (Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen) to everyone in between (maybe-star Brock Purdy, Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield) it’s a really fun group at the game’s most important position … and well beyond that.

We often debate which squad is the best team and how said squad will stack up, and Bryan DeArdo ranked the remaining teams 1-8, in fact.

But what about the questions? The issues that keep coaches and fans up at night? Cody Benjamin tackled the biggest questions for each team left, and there’s a lot on the line for the AFC’s No. 1 seed and its quarterback.

  • Benjamin: Baltimore Ravens: Can Lamar get over the hump? — Past playoff games may not directly affect Jackson going into their Divisional Round matchup with Houston, but just like Prescott in Dallas, he’s still got big-stage boxes to check, entering with a 1-3 record as a playoff starter. He’s been more efficient as a passer and decision-maker in Todd Monken‘s system, but now it’s time to deliver in a must-win scenario.”

I’m a big believer in Baltimore, and Monken’s system that Cody mentioned — and Jackson in it — are huge reasons why. So is the defense. And the special teams. And John Harbaugh. Yeah, it’s a really good team.

🏀 Warriors assistant Dejan Milojevic dies after heart attack

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Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic died Wednesday after suffering a heart attack. Milojevic had been hospitalized Tuesday night following a medical emergency at a team dinner in Utah. He was 46 years old.

  • Milojevic had been on the Warriors’ staff since 2021, helping the franchise win the 2022 NBA title.
  • Prior to his time in the NBA, Milojevic coached in his native Serbia — where he coached and mentored a young Nikola Jokic — and in Montenegro.
  • As part of a statement, Steve Kerr said, “In addition to being a terrific basketball coach, Dejan was one of the most positive and beautiful human beings I have ever known, someone who brought joy and light to every single day with his passion and energy.” Adam Silver also released a statement.

The Warriors’ game Wednesday against the Jazz was postponed, and games that were played around the league held a pregame moment of silence. Golden State hosts the Mavericks tomorrow.

📺 What we’re watching Thursday

🏀 Bulls at Raptors, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 14 Virginia Tech at Duke (W), 8 p.m. on ACC Network
🏀 No. 10 LSU at Alabama (W), 9 p.m. on SEC Network
🏀 Grizzlies at Timberwolves, 10 p.m. on TNT

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