With just $8 million to spend this offseason, the Pacers have added an above-average defender to their rotation for a fraction of what many believed he would get on the free agent market.
The Pacers agreed to terms with guard Dahntay Jones on a four-year, $11 million deal late Wednesday night.
Jones started 71 games for the Nuggets, a team that advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals, last season. He is a defensive-minded wing player, which essentially kills two birds with one stone for Indiana.
The fact has been beaten to death -- by myself and many others that cover the Pacers -- but the club has been horrible defensively in recent seasons. Jones averaged just 5.4 points and 2.1 rebounds in 18.0 minutes per game for Denver last season, but itís his ability to defend that intrigued president Larry Bird and general manager David Morway.
In addition to fortifying Indianaís defense, Jones adds depth on the wing.
Mike Dunleavy isnít expected to return until 2010, and the Pacers are now expected to let Marquis Daniels and Stephen Graham leave as free agents.
I anticipated that the Pacers would explore re-signing Daniels to a long-term contract after they declined his expensive option for the 2009-10 season, but they obviously felt as though Jones was a better option. That doesnít mean they didnít negotiate with Daniels, but itís doubtful they would have been able to lock up Quisy to the price they paid for Dahntay.
Opting to sign Jones makes sense for a club that has no problem scoring. He wonít need the ball in his hands to make a difference, something that canít be said for many players on Indianaís roster. Daniels, while lacking deep range, is a better offensive player, but Jones could be considered more athletic at this point, especially with the knee issues the former has dealt with recently.
Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star has reported that the first year of Jonesí deal is worth about $2.7 million, which means the Pacers still have roughly $3.4 million of their mid-level exception to use on a free agent, in addition to their $1.9 million bi-annual exception.
The agreement, which is expected to be finalized with a signed contract early next week, isnít going to make a huge splash anywhere. It was a minor detail on Sportscenter, but perfectly fits with what Bird and Morway are trying to accomplish in Indiana.
Grade for Pacers: B+
Jones isnít the type of player that is going to stuff that stat sheet, but he will help complete a team. The Pacers arenít whole yet, but the front office has continued to keep their eyes on the plan. Drafting Tyler Hansbrough was the first phase this offseason, but Jones is far from the last.