Should Tyrese Haliburton's success make the Sacramento Kings rethink trading him?

Sacramento Kings v Indiana Pacers
Sacramento Kings v Indiana Pacers / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The Domantas Sabonis-Tyrese Haliburton swap has been one of the most divisive trades in recent memory. Acquiring Sabonis powered the Kings to their first playoff berth in well over 10 years, but that coming at the cost of Haliburton, a franchise player in the making, seemed a little drastic.

Watching the Pacers reach their first conference finals since 2014 only made the Kings' controversial decision stand out like a sore thumb. In his first playoff outing, Haliburton is averaging 18.3 points, 8.3 assists, and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 48.3% from the field and 36.1% from three. It hasn't been pretty, but Haliburton has come through for Indiana when they needed him to.

Meanwhile, the Kings are sitting at home pondering what they plan to do next. They could go after a coveted free agent like Tobias Harris, try to acquire another high-profile scorer like Bradley Beal, or maybe try their luck in the draft with someone like Dalton Knecht. All things considered, et's just say the Pacers are currently in the more preferable position.

At times like this, it'd be hard to think that anyone in the Kings' position wouldn't second-guess their decision. However, there are other factors to keep in mind.

The Pacers owe much of their success to the injury bug

For the record, one way or the other, it is impressive that the Pacers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. No matter the road a team takes to get there, making a conference finals is an impressive feat.

While the Pacers should be applauded for getting as far as they have, the fact remains that the entirety of their first-round matchup featured a Bucks team without Giannis Antetokounmpo by their side. Losing Damian Lillard only made the series all the more of a cakewalk.

It was on the Pacers to take advantage of what they faced, but going up against a team missing its two best players is not exactly the toughest series to grind out. And yet it still took six games for the Pacers to finish them off.

Then there were the Knicks, who were, by all means, even more mired by the injury bug than the Bucks. Still, the Pacers faced a 0-2 deficit, then a 3-2 deficit, and it still took Knick players falling like dominos to pave the way for an Eastern Conference Finals birth.

The NBA Playoffs have always been a war of attrition. Usually, the healthiest team is the one that makes it to the top. The Pacers have kept their core intact, which always helps, but it's also helped that their opponents thus far have proven themselves to be beyond fragile.

The Kings may have also thrived had they been in the Pacers spot

Fun fact: the Pacers had only one more win than the Kings did this season at 47-35. Per, the Pacers had a net rating of plus-2.9, only 1.1 per 100 possessions more than the Kings had. While the Kings were more or less average on both sides of the floor, the Pacers were elite offensively (No. 2 offensive rating) and weak defensively (No. 24 defensive rating).

The Pacers' victories have come primarily because of their potent offense. Of their eight playoff wins, only two of their offensive outputs were less than 120 points per game, per When their offense hasn't shown up, they've lost and lost badly. There have also been multiple games where their offense has shown up only to lose anyway.

Would the Kings have done as well? It's hard to say because of how different their team makeup was from the Pacers'. The Kings likely would not have consistently put up 120 points a night with their full squad like the Pacers, but they also wouldn't have had to depend on that.

Hypotheticals aren't much to dwell on because they are hypotheticals. But in the Kings' case, had they sported a fully healthy squad going up against two beaten-up higher-seeded teams like the Pacers did, is it too crazy to suggest that they, too, would have succeeded as well as the Pacers have?

Haliburton and co. did their jobs, but the Kings probably would have too in their spot.

The Kings still have time to improve from their current standing

Here are the simple facts: the Pacers are going back to the Conference Finals for the first time in a decade. The Kings haven't made a Conference Finals since 2002. Indiana's success with Haliburton at the present time makes the Kings look foolish for trading him. However, that's only for now.

Here's a little-known fact: some teams managed to win big despite making a boneheaded decision. The Pistons won the title the year after they passed on Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh for Darko Millicic. The Warriors did the same not too long after they passed on yours truly Haliburton and LaMelo Ball.

The Kings still have time to improve, though only they will know how. The Pacers made a midseason splash when they acquired Pascal Siakam, which also factored into their success. If the Kings manage to acquire someone of that caliber, that changes the equation for them.

The bottom line with trades like Haliburton is that teams can't truly say whether or not they were a failure until they see the full picture. There's no denying that the Pacers' rapid success with Haliburton doesn't make the Kings look smart. However, acquiring Sabonis has given the Kings the window to explore how else they can capitalize on their current era.

The Kings may very well end up regretting the Haliburton trade when it's all said and done, but that doesn't mean their current era will be seen as a failure if they play their cards right.