Veteran big man Daniel Theis has been frustrated with a lack of playing time in Indiana and wants out. The Los Angeles Clippers need a backup center with Mason Plumlee sidelined for a couple of months with a sprained right knee.
It's a match, and the first step toward making it a reality is taking place with the Indiana Pacers and Theis agreeing to terms of a buyout, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. This is also not a surprise, and veteran Pacers reporter Scott Agness reported a day before Theis was not with the team because this is where things were headed. The Clippers’ interest in Theis also had been reported.
Once Theis clears waivers, he will sign a veteran minimum deal with Los Angeles and immediately step into a backup role behind Ivica Zubac.
A handful of quick thoughts here:
• While we don't know — and may never know — the financial figures here, Theis had to agree to a buyout number that may be much less than the $7.5 million he was still owed (the prorated portion of his $9.1 million contract) to get the Pacers to sign off on this. (Consider the $9.5 million team option for next season declined.) Traditionally, buyouts are for the amount a player can sign for with a new team, but this early a buyout may have been for more than that. Theis' salary could have been used in a deadline trade, the only motivation for the Pacers to agree to a buyout now is to save a chunk of cash (aside from helping a veteran get where he wants, which always plays well with agents).
• The Clippers can only sign Theis to a veteran minimum contract.
• When Plumlee gets healthy (sometime after Christmas and likely into 2024) the Clippers will have three veteran bigs on the roster and, if everyone is healthy, may look to make another trade or move using one of their salaries.
• Filling in the backup five spot will help a Clippers team that has not won a game since the James Harden trade. Since the injury to Plumlee, P.J. Tucker has been forced into a backup center role he can no longer effectively play for extended stretches in the NBA. While backup five is not the biggest challenge the Clippers face, it is legitimate, and Theis will make them better on the court.
• Theis, who played in only seven games last season due to a knee injury, looked ready for a larger role when he averaged more than 20 minutes and 10.9 points a game for Germany in helping it win gold at the FIBA World Cup last summer. However, he was buried on the Pacers' depth chart and was frustrated, saying, "I'm not happy with the situation I'm in right now. I want to play and take all the good stuff from the summer into the season." Now he gets his chance.