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Report: Cory Joseph will exercise $7.95M option, return to Pacers

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By opting to finish his contract with the Pacers, the pesky 26-year-old gave us a reason to talk about the player we don’t talk about enough.

NBA: Playoffs-Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Cory Joseph will forego testing the financially crunched free agent market this summer to finish the final season of his four-year, $30 million contract with the Pacers, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

“If you watch what he does to help you win games — dive on loose balls and tap balls away from the opponent and getting (into) guys defensively, it’s hard to quantify his value,” Kevin Pritchard said of the scrappy guard’s tenacity at his team’s end-of-season press conference, “But we know what it is.”

Whether stripping the ball from Kyle Anderson on a key late-game possession in San Antonio, baiting Kyrie Irving into committing a turnover by forcing the side pick-and-roll action to the sideline in Boston, holding his position and forcing a bad shot when switched onto Harrison Barnes in Dallas, or staying attached on screens for Eric Bledsoe to prevent Thaddeus Young from getting stuck in 2-on-1 situations when assigned to Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, Joseph was quietly the man behind the man of Indiana’s second-half defensive improvement.

On the season, the Pacers held opponents to 10.8 points per 100 possessions fewer when Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Myles Turner and Young were on the floor with Joseph as opposed to Darren Collison, which somewhat brings into question the premium placed on keeping Joseph and Stephenson together off the bench.

Minimum 800 minutes played, Indiana’s backup guard tandem had the worst cumulative plus-minus (minus-112) of any two-man combination on the team this season.

Regardless of how Nate McMillan plans to go about maximizing his skill set next season, the immediate impact of the 26-year-old’s decision to complete his contract with the Pacers is that they will have less money to spend in free agency.

Exactly how much less will be determined by whether the second shoe drops and Thaddeus Young exercises his nearly $14 million option instead of searching for more guaranteed contract years elsewhere.

We like those guys, we’d like to have them back,” Pritchard said. “Both of those guys are core to what we do.”

If Young is of like mind with Joseph, the Pacers won’t have as much cap space this summer but they’ll potentially have more flexibility the following summer — barring trades or renegotiation — while retaining two key members of their rotation in the intermediary.