Joseph deal a quiet coup for Pacers braintrust
This trade didn’t send shockwaves through the Eastern Conference, or tip the balance of power in the NBA.
But it did illustrate the intelligence, creativity and resourcefulness of the Pacers’ new braintrust, because they effectively turned nothing into something in orchestrating a reported sign-and-trade deal that will bring Cory Joseph to Indiana and send C.J. Miles to Toronto.
The Pacers have been targeting Joseph for a few weeks, knowing they liked his combination of youth (turns 26 in August) and experience (71 playoff games, including a ring with the Spurs in 2014). The Raptors wanted a future draft pick, but the Pacers didn’t want to pay that price. Still, they kept their options open.
And then the dominoes fell.
The Raptors threw a massive $100 million, three-year deal at starting point guard Kyle Lowry, which forced them to begin getting some salaries off the books.
The Nets put in a $106 million offer sheet on Washington small forward Otto Porter, but the Wizards declared their intent to match.
Plan B for the Nets was taking DeMarre Carroll, who was due nearly $15 million this season, and a couple of draft picks from the Raptors for Justin Hamilton ($3 million). It was an effective salary dump for the Raptors, but left them in need of a veteran shooter on the wing.
Enter Kevin Pritchard, Chad Buchanan and Peter Dinwiddie.
While we all presumed Miles was already gone, having opted out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent, the Pacers leadership knew otherwise. Until Miles signed with another team, they would have a cap hold of around $8.7 million on the books. Of course, they could’ve renounced their rights to Miles, and that would’ve given them around $13 million in cap space. But cap space wouldn’t get Joseph, who has two years totaling $15.5 million left on his contract.
By keeping Miles on the books, the Pacers cramped their cap space but retained a movable asset. They were thus able to sign Miles to a three-year, $25 million deal in order to send him to Toronto. The Pacers got the solid backup point guard they needed, while the Raptors got the veteran shooter they needed while saving some money (Miles will earn around $6 million less than Carroll this season).
Literally, for the Pacers.
The 6-3, 190-pound Joseph has never experienced a losing season. Last year, he averaged 12.2 points, 5.0 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 22 starts last season, and the Raptors went 15-7 with him in the lineup, a higher winning percentage (.681) than with Lowry (36-24, .600).
In his career, Joseph is 43-26 as a starter (.623).
While he has not been a knock-down 3-point shooter (.317 for his career with a high of .356 last season), Joseph is a tough and gritty defender who knows how to run a team.
He’ll not only provide support for starter Darren Collison, but insurance against a 30-year-old veteran who has missed 59 games the past three seasons.
At any rate, Joseph brings the Pacers precisely what they needed: quality depth, winning experience and potential for improvement because of his relative youth.
And it cost them, in effect, someone they didn’t even have anymore.
Here’s an updated look at the Pacers’ offseason roster overhaul.
>> CORY JOSEPH (6-3, 190, trade with Toronto for C.J. Miles): One of the league’s top backup point guards, Joseph was 15-7 as a fill-in starter last season and 43-26 for his career, never experiencing a losing season and appearing in 71 playoff games in five straight appearances, including a championship with the Spurs in 2014. He’s a gritty defender, improving shooter and consistent floor general who has two seasons (the second a player option) totaling $15.5 million left on his contract.
>> BOJAN BOGDANOVIC (6-8, 225, unrestricted free agent, two years, $21 million): One of the top pure shooters on the market, he should slot in as the starter at small forward. In 121 starts over four NBA seasons he has averaged 13.1 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting .354 from the 3-point line. The Wizards gave up a protected first-round pick and two players to acquire him at the deadline last season and he did play a key role down the stretch, but were forced to renounce his rights in order to match the Nets’ offer sheet on Otto Porter.
>> DARREN COLLISON (6-0, 175, unrestricted free agent, two years, $20 million): A veteran in for his second tour with the Pacers, Collison is clearly a stop-gap solution. He was supposed to be the point guard of the future when acquired from the Hornets in 2010 but never took a firm grasp on the position. He was supplanted late in 2011 by George Hill, who was subsequently supplanted last year by Jeff Teague, and now it’s the carousel has spun back to Collison. For now. A decent 3-point shooter and on-ball defender, he isn’t a true creator but is a solid pro.
>> VICTOR OLADIPO (6-4, 215, trade with Oklahoma City): Perhaps a little bit of Mike Dunleavy Syndrome has plagued Oladipo, who has been a respectable player dogged by the expectations of being the No. 2 overall pick in a thin 2013 draft class. He can defend both backcourt positions but is a bit of a tweener offensively. But he’s still just 25 and with athleticism to burn, so there’s a chance he could blossom with the Pacers.
>> DOMANTAS SABONIS (6-11, 240, trade with Oklahoma City): Although his stock was much higher a year ago when entering the league, Sabonis did start 66 games for the Thunder as a rookie. He was overmatched at times and ultimately lost the job, but he’s only 21 and at 6-11, 240, likely needs a year or two to fill out his frame and grow into a truer version of an NBA center. He has skills around the basket but needs to improve his face-up game.
>> T.J. LEAF (6-10, 225, first-round draft pick, UCLA): A lean, skilled power forward, Leaf has an intriguing offensive game and could evolve into a high-level stretch four. An efficient 3-point shooter who knows how to use the threat of the arc as a floor-spacer, he also has an array of moves off the dribble and can create for himself and teammates. He’ll need to add strength to be more effective defensively, but he has unusual savvy for a player of his youth (20) and could be called upon to play a substantial role right away.
>> IKE ANIGBOGU (6-10, 250, second-round draft pick, UCLA): Questions about his knee caused this first-round talent to drop into the middle of the second round, where the Pacers gladly rolled the dice on his potential. Already built like an NBA center at 18, Anigbogu is an athletic freak with outstanding rebounding and shot-blocking instincts, although his offensive game is very raw. Meniscus issues may require another cleanup procedure this summer but he intends to be ready for training camp.
>> EDMOND SUMNER (6-6, 186, second-round pick acquired from New Orleans, Xavier): A talented point guard who may not play much, if at all this season while recovering from ACL surgery in March and shoulder surgery in May, Sumner has the length and athleticism to merit the nominal investment.
>> PAUL GEORGE (6-9, 220, traded to Oklahoma City): Forced the Pacers’ hand when he declared his intent to leave the team as a free agent next summer, and there’s no replacing a four-time All-Star who is one of the best two-way players in the league.
>> JEFF TEAGUE (6-2, 186, unrestricted free agent signed a three-year, $57 million deal with Minnesota): Did not have the explosive season the Pacers anticipated, but they still would’ve re-signed him at the right price.
>> C.J. MILES (6-6, 225, traded to Toronto for Cory Joseph): Although he opted out of his contract, Pacers retained his rights and thus were able to engineer a sign-and-trade after Miles inked a three-year, $25 million deal. A streaky but effective 3-point shooter, Miles was a positive force in the locker room and on the court but may forever be remembered by Pacers fans for his missed open jumper that would’ve won Game 1 in Cleveland.
>> MONTA ELLIS (6-3, 185, released): His best years were behind him when the Pacers signed him in 2015, and he was a major disappointment. He didn’t have enough of an offensive game left to overcome his defensive shortcomings, and a succession of injuries didn’t help.
>> LAVOY ALLEN (6-9, 260, released): Played himself out of the rotation with ineffective rebounding and modest inside presence.
>> AARON BROOKS (6-0, 161, unrestricted free agent): A scoring point guard who didn’t score enough to merit consistent minutes, the 32-year-old could be facing the end of his NBA career.
>> RAKEEM CHRISTMAS (6-9, 255, released): After a few promising flashes last season, Christmas was caught in the frontcourt shuffle, and was unable to contribute much in summer-league play because of a sprained ankle, while Jarnell Stokes shined as a more athletic, active power forward prospect.
Photo of Cory Joseph by Getty Images