It’s always lovely to see an NBA trade that appears to be ready to work marvelously for both sides, and the Indiana Pacers and Phoenix Suns seem keen on putting these sorts of deals together of late. The Pacers, you’ll recall, are the team that engaged in the notoriously “win-win” George Hill/Kawhi Leonard trade in 2011. Meanwhile, new Suns general manager Ryan McDonough made everyone happy with his first big deal, acquiring Eric Bledsoe while securing depth for the Los Angeles Clippers and a couple of second-round picks for the Milwaukee Bucks (in what might be the highlight of their offseason).
As first reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Pacers and Suns have signed off on another winner. There are some slight mitigating factors to worry about, but it appears that both sides should be more than happy with the deal sending Luis Scola to the Pacers for Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and a lottery-protected first-round pick in the deep 2014 NBA draft.
Luis comes straight out of central casting for Indiana, a team that was just one win away from the NBA Finals in 2012-13, but one that featured a frustrating lack of depth behind what statistically was the best starting lineup in the NBA last season. He’ll be the obvious backup power forward and sometimes reserve center behind former All-Stars David West and Roy Hibbert, utilizing his ability to initiate called-for plays and finish and/or aid in the potency of broken possessions.
Scola’s stats (he’s averaged over 17 points, nine rebounds and two and a half assists per 36 minutes of play in his career, while shooting 50 percent) hardly matter. It’s the skill set, and the placement on a team that, despite its championship-level roster, needs him badly. And best yet for Indiana, Scola has missed just eight games out of a potential 476 in his NBA career.
If that trend continues, this will be a huge boon to someone like West. The respected starting power forward signed a three-year, $36.6 million deal during the offseason with the Pacers. Certainly well-earned, but we worry about how well the 35-year-old West will be up to the task of earning $12.6 million (technically a player option … but come on) in 2015-16. If Scola can help limit David’s minutes (already down to 33.4 a game last year) as he moves farther and farther away from his 2011 ACL tear, the floor-bound (not a shot at David, just the truth) West’s game should translate wonderfully into his mid-30s.
And though the two weren’t directly traded for each other, Scola presents the complete opposite of Tyler Hansbrough (who signed with the Toronto Raptors earlier this month after Indiana pulled their qualifying offer to the big forward) in two important areas.
First, Hansbrough’s offense was feast or famine — completely reliant on a step-slow defense or loose ball gone his way. Meanwhile, Scola is one of those rare NBA commodities — a low-post scorer you can actually dump the ball into off the bench, someone with a plethora of moves on top of his passing acumen. Scola more than tripled Hansbrough’s assists per minute and assist ratio last season, on a Phoenix team that wasn’t exactly teeming with cutters (outside of Goran Dragic) and spot-up shooters.
In return, the Pacers send back two of their bigger disappointments from 2012-13. Green, the high-flying wing who turned a professional and contribution-filled 2011-12 season into a free-agent deal with Indiana, will head to Phoenix along with second-year forward Plumlee. Green has two years and $7 million left on his deal, but he’ll make less than Scola, and could provide an option if the Suns find a team desperate enough to try and deal for Michael Beasley hahaha JK even I can’t type that with a straight face.
Most thought the Pacers reached too high for Plumlee as a pick in the 2012 NBA draft, as he was set to turn 24 just a month before training camp started, but nobody thought he’d bottom out as much as he did during his rookie season, playing just 14 games on a team starved for depth and making less than a quarter of his shots.
Plumlee will be old for a second-year player, which made his impressive Summer League showing a little curious, but he’ll be an inexpensive project the Suns can work with as they rebuild. If Plumlee doesn’t pan out, his 2014-15 contract is a team option, unlike Scola’s. And taking on Green is a small price to pay for grabbing a first-rounder out of the deal, even if the Pacers’ pick ranks in the high 20s.
It’s not a knockout move, Suns GM Ryan McDonough was never dealing from a position of strength with Scola despite the big man’s gifts, but a smart haul and clear about-face from the farce that was the Lance Blanks era in Phoenix. Why Blanks felt a need to go out and grab a veteran like Scola, who turned 33 two weeks after last season ended, for a rebuilding team is beyond us.
Why did the Pacers, ready for the brass ring, acquire the big man for the next two seasons?
Because this is a perfect match. The Pacers desperately needed depth, help for West, and a creative passer to helm the team’s offense either in breaks off the bench, or possibly down the stretch of games. Swapping out D.J. Augustin, Tyler Hansbrough, Gerald Green, Jeff Pendergraph and Miles Plumlee for Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, C.J. Watson and Donald Sloan? That’s a fantastic offseason, even if the locals won’t be blown away by the name recognition just yet. And that’s before the team sees what it has with returning former All-Star Danny Granger.
A great deal for both sides … in this economy? Apparently, it’s still within the realm of the possible.