Pacers Trade for Leandro Barbosa, Only Give Up a 2nd Round Pick

Back in December, the Pacers used their amnesty provision, a one-time forgiveness to remove any one player’s contract from your team’s book for salary cap purposes allowable under the league’s new collective bargaining agreement, on James Posey. Then, with his onerous $7.1 million deal instantly turned into cap space, Larry Bird did … nothing.

Many presumed that he would use that new-found money to fill one of the team’s needs, the most glaring of which seemed to be a scorer in the back court. They (sorta) tried to woo Jamal Crawford, for instance, with no success. There was a lot of talk surrounding Indiana trading for OJ Mayo, but again no dice. Bird was seemingly unwilling to pay a price that he thought was too high to for anyone on the market.

Many fans were disappointed. But Bird has long said that there could be significant benefits to being below the salary cap even during the season.

And now we’re seeing that in action as Bird just swung a deal in which he gave up essentially nothing (a second-round draf pick) to acquire instant-offense combo guard Leandro Barbosa from the Toronto Raptors. (In the deal, he perhaps also acquired Anthony Carter, who would presumably be end of the bench fodder who Toronto preferred not to pay for the rest of the season and told Indy they needed to take in order to get Barbosa for free. I haven’t seen this confirmed or refuted. Just scuttlebutt. UPDATE: Carter is in the deal. UPDATE PART II: Indianapolis Star beat writer for the Pacers Mike Wells is refuting that earlier ESPN AP report.)

Being below the salary cap by roughly $14 million meant that Bird was able to absorb Barbosa’s contract, which is an expiring $7.6 million deal that ends after this season, without having to send back any salary to the Raptors, whose motivation for unloading the Brazilian Blur was likely just that they are no longer really trying to win games this season, don’t see him as part of their long-term future, and were attempting to lower payroll expenses.

While it was a savvy move to sit on this cap space and wait for the right deal, it is not immediately apparent how Barbosa, a former Sixth Man of the Year Award winner for the Phoenix Suns in 2006-07, will fit into the Pacers rotation. Paul George and Darren Collison seem entrenched as the starting back court, as they should, and George Hill, who has been the Pacers best player during their current two-game winning streak, is definitely the team’s sixth man. He is the first guard off the bench and almost exclusively plays the two-guard, both beside Darren Collison and AJ Price.

While Leandro may be a more dynamic scorer than Hill in some ways, it seems doubtful that he would actually take any of his minutes. Hill is the better two-way player and seems to have become the leader of the second-unit. And while many fans are clamoring for Hill to play the point, many wanting him to take Darren Collison’s starting job for some reason, the numbers clearly show that he has thrived playing at the 2-guard and the team has struggled when he has run the offense.

Most of his best stretches of play this season have come while Price has brought the ball up and initiated the play. Often these plays quickly make Hill the primary ball-handler, but make no mistake: this is Hill creating opportunities from the off-guard spot not having a nuanced understanding of when to call his number and when to facilitate the offense through others. He rarely is tasked with the distributing duties that Collison and Price have manned for most of this successful 2011-12 campaign for Indiana.

Thus, when does Barbosa play?

I’m not sure, presuming there are not other trades made before the deadline in two-and-a-half hours. I know he will get some minutes. And while I can’t say I have watched a ton of Raptors games this season, I do know that Leandro can still put the ball in the hoop. So I’m sure that, once he gets on the floor, he will earn even more minutes.

Dahntay Jones is another Pacer who many fans want to see less of on the court. So some may presume coach Frank Vogel can just give his minutes to Barbosa. Jones, however, has played almost exclusively at the small forward so far this year. He has been Danny Granger’s back-up.(Or, perhaps from an Xs and Os standpoint he has played more 2 than I am accounting for here. But if that’s the case, he has been playing the 2 while Paul George is playing the 3. I’m honestly not sure, but I believe when those two are on the court together, it has been George playing his normal two guard slot and Dahntay at the small forward.)

And while Barbosa doesn’t fit the traditional position archetype — he’s either a small shooting guard or a horrible-distributing point guard — he certainly isn’t a small forward. And while I think having him out there with Hill in the backcourt could be effective in spurts, I doubt it becomes something we will see often. Perhaps, then, Barbosa can play some 2 and Paul George does move over to play more 3? Vogel has mentioned that George would likely be seeing more time at the small forward in the future.

I don’t know. But unless we presume Dahntay Jones, who to my eyes has played pretty well this year other than those two brainfarts against Miami, becomes glued to the bench, it seems unlikely that Barbosa will become a major part of the rotation.

Ultimately, with Paul George and George Hill already performing rather well at the shooting guard spot, and Barbosa really unable to play anywhere else, this trade seems like it is a rich guy going out and buying a top-of-the-line Nissan Z when he already has a Benz sedan and BMW coupe in the garage: it’s an altogether unnecessary luxury to have but, hey, you’re rich, so why not? If something happens to the Beamer (who is the oft-injured-so-far-this-year Germany coupe in this metaphor), you can still get around town in the Nissan.

And let’s not forget that Barbosa can score in bunches and will force Vogel to leave him out there at times when he has it going regardless of any preconceived notions regarding rotations. I can already picture him hitting his fourth three in the third quarter of a first round playoff series game during which he drops 24 points. He can heat up like that in a hurry. And he has the quickness and penetrating ability to dart to the hoop in the half-court like nobody else on the roster. There’s a reason I used the Nissan Z as his car double. And there’s a reason he got the nickname Blur.

So while Leandro Barbosa may not be altogether necessary, he is nice thing to have. If you can get it. Which Larry Bird ensured would be possible months ago.


(Footnote: I couldn’t fit this into this reaction piece organically, but just wanted to note that getting Barbosa means the Pacers are almost certainly out of the running to acquire Chris Kaman, who reportedly also may have been available for just a second-round draft pick.

I don’t know if Bird’s decision to target Leandro instead means that the Hornets got a better offer or simply that Larry prefers Barbosa for this team, but with Jeff Foster seemingly relegated to back trouble all year, the backup center spot is very thin. Lou Amundson has been an admirably fill in, but he isn’t a center.

Then again, who really needs centers anymore? Perhaps a quick guard who can get buckets is more valuable in today’s NBA. I don’t know. Just worth considering.)

Tags: Leandro Barbosa Toronto Raptors

  • Bat

    Its clear that Lance Stephenson goes out of rotation rest of season. Its good to play him early for some experience, but now games will become more serious. Hill, Barbosa and D.Jones are main bench players. AJ Price will play some PG.

  • JRC

    To me, the Pacers biggest weaknesses were at backup center and bench scoring. This trade definitely addresses the bench scoring problem. Maybe they can play some small ball with him, or something. Maybe Hill is given more time running the point for the second unit. Any way, it is a luxury. He is, however, a low cost rent-a-player that fills a need. Hopefully Amundson can keep up his recent run of strong play at backup C and/or Foster’s back will get better.

  • jeremy

    Jared am I wrong to say that by rules of proration, that Barbosa will count only 4 million against the cap and that Katmandu only counts about 7 million? That would mean that we could concievably get both!? At the least, we should still have about 9 mil remaining?

  • jeremy

    Kaman rather…

  • Chris D.

    Maybe having Barbossa sets up another deal in the next 90 minutes.

  • Ian

    There’s a belief that if the Hornets don’t get an offer they’ll just buy Kamen out, in which case the Pacers could sign him to a much smaller cap number I believe.

  • poot

    if that is the case, very disappointing. i would rather see DJones/Hill/Price taking the backup 3/2/1 and Barbosa filling in spot minutes (Lance’s garbage time, injury sub)

    my concern is the regression. Barbosa keeps getting worse every year. the areas he is declining in most (TS%, Ast%, ORtg) are vital to a point guard. the best point guards (nash, kidd, paul) keep their Usg around 20… Barbosa’s Usg is more similar to lead wing players.

    so what is he playing?
    backup point where he is a huge detriment to the team?
    backup guard instead of Hill? push Hill to backup point? JWade already discussed the folly in that idea…

    i hope he is not a distraction. maybe playing for a “good team” will change things, but his sharp decline began on a 54 win Phoenix team the year after he won 6th man… i dont think not being surrounded by talent is his problem,
    i think he has aged past the point where his speed/athleticism separates him from the pack and hides his weaknesses. now he has to change his game (like Marion for instance) otherwise he will just continue to regress his way out of the league.

  • Ian

    poot, I’m still confused on your obssession here 1) with his decline, and now 2) his point guard stats.

    Barbosa is not, nor has ever been, a point guard. He is a shooting guard. No one is expecting him to play point, besides which, the Pacers have a backup PG in Price, and a combo guard in Hill, who would both play that spot ahead of Barbosa. Barbosa is on the team for one thing only, high volume scoring in short periods of time.

    He had a career year 08-09 (playing with Nash), and since then he has essentially been a league average player, with minimal statistical variation. All the Pacers want out of him is a guy who can come in and give an extra scoring punch when the team is struggling to create shots (something that has happened a lot over the last 20 games, especially when Hill was out). It doesn’t matter if he’s in decline since he’s on the last year of his deal and the Pacers will definitely not resign him. Having a league average offensive player coming off your bench is a good thing, and something the Pacers have lacked except for Hill (who again, has been hurt a lot this season). Worst case he’s George Hill backup insurance. Barbosa’s usage rate is not a problem with a guy you put in for 15 minutes a game to generate some instant offense.

  • Sam

    He and Amundson played together in Phoenix btw

  • AJ

    DC is probably gone now, if not from the team, then from the starting lineup. Could we move DC to Houston for Jordan Hill or Hasheem Thabeet to beef up our frontline? Also, being rumored is NJ trying to move Petro and a 1-pick for anyone who’s willing to take on his $4mil salary. WE NEED A BIG, LB!!!

  • IY

    How long do we have Barbosa for? Just for this year or 2012-13 as well?

  • Mike

    Did you just say you wanted Hasheem Thabeet? PASS.

  • Ian

    This year only. No way Larry clogs our cap space with Barbosa’s deal unless it’s a one year rental.

    As for DC, this has nothing directly to do with DC. Repeat after me: BARBOSA IS NOT A POINT GUARD. He is an undersized shooting guard. His career assist average is 2.5. And Anthony Carter might not even play, they might just cut him.

  • dwain

    Gotta love the Bird, but right now this deal makes no sense to me….maybe once realized on the court it will look better, or perhaps another trade is coming? Kinda leaves me shaking my head. This team need(ed)s a star to climb a rung into the top contenders, not side ways movement.

  • Dylan

    Liking this deal, barbosa is a solid shooting guard w/ athleticism and experience that he can bring to the table. The Anthony Carter part of the trade is interesting, we know have DC, Hill, Price, and Carter as pgs. Are the rumors going to be true about moving DC? Or is Carter just going to be released from the team? Either/or could work out just fine, the latter we upgrade by getting Barbosa. Moving DC, could even bring in another solid piece and still be solid at starting PG with G.Hill.

    At the end of it all, I trust Larry Bird #gmoftheyear and believe he will make the right moves to place this team in contention to compete with the Heats & Bulls

  • Dylan

    In reference to Sam’s comment, how about bringing in another Phoenix sun *cough*cough(Steve Nash)*cough*?

  • poot

    dwain, agreed
    as Ian is shouting, Barbosa is not a PG. So the rotation is still DC/Price (some Hill in situational)
    so he’s playing backup SG now? not over Hill.

    Doesnt that make him third string?

    idk either. i watched lots of Raptors games these past seasons and Barbosa is not the 6th man you remember giving the lakers fits in the playoffs 5-7 years ago. now he mainly jacks up 3′s, he rarely drives any more and is now inept at drawing fouls. he is really good at fouling though, and when he is not fouling he is gambling on D and letting players blow by him.
    you know what you’re getting from him. high volume of shot attempts per minute, mostly from the perimeter. considering he’s not a very good shooter, why is this a good thing again?

  • Ian

    Dylan, Carter is 36 years old, and if I recall his only strength when he was younger was his defense. I think the best you could hope for is that he’d mentor the younger players. I doubt he’ll see the court except in blowouts, assuming we don’t just cut him.

  • Ian

    Barbosa is a calculated gamble. If he can play at a level somewhere between this season and his Phoenix years, he’s a very valuable guy off the bench. If not, then he’ll drop out of the rotation and the Pacers will have given up an end-of-the-2nd round pick. The Pacers had to pick up salary because they were below the minimum anyway.

    Also is everyone forgetting how many games George Hill has missed this year? Having Barbosa play SG instead of Stephenson in the 2nd unit is a huge upgrade if Hill (or someone else) is out. Hill’s injury showed the Pacers have no margin for error as far as perimeter scorers.

  • robe

    Carter ain’t playin one minute for the Pacers

    Barbosa to play 3rd string SG? Hopefully another trade is in the works- this guys stinks!
    If not he is decent insurance for the year. I believe Pacers have to get above a min level anyway and this trade accomplishes just that.

  • adam

    One thing I don’t think anyone mentioned, is Barbosa would be nice insurance if Hill gets injured again. Pacers losing streaks have come mostly while Hill was out. If he gets hurt again, the bench wont be as thin anymore.

  • Tim Donahue


    While the Pacers will only actually pay Barbosa the roughly 25 games he will play for them this year, a team’s cap figure is established by the salaries of the players on their roster as of the last day of the season. Therefore, Barbosa will count as $7.6mm against the Pacer cap.

    If the Pacers got Anthony Carter, too, then it leaves them just over $5.8 million of available cap space. If it’s just Barbosa, then they have just under $6.7 million. (I am unsure of the final details at this point.)

  • The Other Ian

    I’m pretty sure this was done only as insurance for Hill, who’s missed a lot of games after all. He was our only real scoring threat off the bench before the trade after all

  • Portlandia

    put a Bird on it!

  • NoLookPass

    We needed another passer but we landed a guy who shoots more often than anyone on our roster by a full shot on the per 36 rate this year. We needed an established big but Lou fooled Larry into thinking we’re fine with him, when his easy buckets at the rim doesn’t translate when teams pick up the defense.

    We’re better than last night but not as good as we could/should be!

  • Mike

    I’m sure Larry knows what he’s getting with Lou. It’s not hard for even the average fan to know what you’re getting. There probably just wasn’t any other deal out there. A bench scorer for a second round pick (nothing). At least this year he remembered to set the clocks in his office forward an hour…

  • Jesse

    Jared needs to explain to Mike Wells that George Hill is not an effective point guard. He keeps tweeting that the Pacers made this move in order to replace Collison with G Hill, when Vogel has been open about how Hill excels at the 2 spot. I see this as insurance for Hill as well. From what I gather, he’s pretty capable of creating his own shot.

  • dwain

    poot why oh why won’t LB listen to us armchair GM’s :)? ok so i can see LB looking around and saying i want to run a small ball offense at times, have an extra 3 point shooter out there that gives the point guard another opening to hit when a drive goes bad or the offense is just plain stalled, maybe Barbosa will be a pleasant surprise off the Pacer bench. It does seem that his scoring has been on the rise in the last few games, i’m willing to give about (oh) 30 seconds for this thing to work out for the betterment of the team…trust in Bird…i’m down with that! Go Pacers!!!

  • Mourning

    Thx for the article, Jared. I hadn’t really considered that this could mostly affect Jones more then Collison. Makes a lot of sense too, though I like how Jones has played this year (mostly anyway). Moving George to SF when Danny goes to the bench and having both Hill and Barbosa in the backcourt could work out really nice IF they can keep the number of TO’s limited.

  • Bruno

    Nobody can know for certain how this is going to work up. But everytime you make a deal, either in basketball or anywhere else, is all about gain/risk ratio. The way I see it, the best case scenario, you have a player that can give you a boost from the bench and make a difference in a playoff game (think nate robinson in boston) and it cost you nothing. The worst case scenario, he doesn’t make a shot, becames a defensive liability, so you bench him and he’s gone by the end of the season. And again, it cost you nothing. And the good thing is that even in the worst case, Leandrinho is not a trouble-maker, so you won’t have the chemistry issues with him in the locker room. I think is a great deal, at least a better one than trading some good players for J. Crawford.

  • Mike

    Bruno – Totally agree. No risk here.

  • AMFinocchi

    I think this is a great trade for a lot of reasons. First, I think the starting team has a more-cleared-mind PG with Hill instead of Collison. Why I mention this? Imagine the bench team with: Collison-Barbosa-Hansgrough playing pick’n’roll or pick’n’pop. This could improve the stats level of this 3, specially DC and Tyler, who have suffered with the offensive sistem that the starting line up has been running. It’s true that Barbosa play awful D, but he can do a great job in case the Offensive game shouts down (which happens often with this team, specially in the lost games). Plus, it’s only this year.
    And about Kaman, Lou si playing pretty well, and I would wait to Foster getting %100 (I don’t care if it takes all the regular season). Also, I don’t want a bench player with a 14 million contract.

  • Bat

    Everyone needs to think further this season. Remember that your beloved George Hill didn’t signed extension then we are in danger of losing him in this summer.
    If Barbosa playing near level of GHill, we can target him as Hill substitute if Hill goes to other team.

  • Portlandia

    put a Bird on it :)

  • lopdof

    didnt Granger swear to one day rip off Barbosa’s head and make love to the open orifice?
    1:37 into the video … this is how Barbosa gets his shots off (notice the miss)

  • Mike

    Bat: The Pacers are Hill’s dream team. He has expressed nothing but love for his hometown team and I can’t see him moving. Hibbert is the RFA that we have to worry about locking up this year.

  • EMOS

    Still trying to make sense of this deal but I think I have an understanding. For many reasons actually. Bird plans to tire teams out during the playoffs. Having speedy guards that can match up and play small ball while making opposing team’s players chase us all around the court. Our size is very rangy and we cause match up problems all over the place. The need for a backup big man isn’t really a make or break thing since there aren’t that many dominant big men in the league currently. I think P George will be coming off the bench now with Barbosa for a powerful offensive punch. Moving George to SF to dispel Granger while awarding Hill for his consistency with the starting SG spot. Collision will still start and Price behind him with Barbosa, Hill and George rotating the SG spot based on match ups. Our attack will be relentless and combined with our defense and tempo and constant substitutions will have team’s head spinning. Hopefully we will continue to see less of Jones and Stephenson although I like Jones playing spot minutes at SF but that’s it. Stephenson needs more time and these games are too important to allow him more training this season. And of course if the Pacer’s don’t want to ante up to pay the price for Hill this off season, they can keep Barbosa for cheap. But, if you want Hill you will have to pay him or he is walking. By 2015 who are the top SG/’s going to be? George, Harden, Gordon (maybe/injuries), Ellis (maybe but …so) and HILL. You are going to have to pay for that. Name me the other future SG’s in the game? So good move and it shouldn’t effect the chemistry that much but rather refine us and provide some additional veteran leadership for the playoffs baby! GO PACERS!!!

  • Realist

    George is not coming off the bench. That’s crazy.

  • Justin

    As I’m sure many of you have noticed, when George Hill is out of the line-up, our second unit can’t score to save their lives. I think this move is intended more to provide bench scoring in his absence than it is have much of an effect on the day to day rotation.

  • Tom

    I just hope this deal means d. jones stays on the bench. forever

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