LITTLE ROCK — Former Arkansas star and Fort Smith native Isaiah Joe signed a three-year contract with the Philadelphia 76ers totaling nearly $4.2 million with a 2-year guarantee on Friday, just nine days after the club selected Joe with the 49th pick in the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft.
The two-year guarantee is on the front end of the deal and is worth more than $2.4 million, with the total potential three-year compensation working out to $4,198,912.
Joe (6-5 shooting guard) is expected to arrive in Philadelphia by the end of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to join the 76ers in preparation for the 2020-21 NBA season that is set to begin with regular-season games on Dec. 22. Training camp around the league is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Joe was one of three players drafted by Philadelphia that the Sixers intended to sign, with two more picks (Nos. 34 and 36) that were shipped off immediately in trades that were worked out prior to the draft to bring in veteran guards Danny Green (he just won an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers) and Seth Curry. Joe joins those two to form a trio of sharpshooters from distance, a coveted commodity in today’s NBA but something last season’s Sixers squad did not have enough of while finishing 6th in the Eastern Conference with a 43-30 record. Philadelphia also drafted former Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey (No. 21, first round) and former DePaul forward Paul Reed (No. 58, second round; Reed looks to be in line to sign a two-way contract with the club).
Joe was the most prolific three-pointer shooter in the SEC spanning his two seasons at Arkansas, and his underrated value on the defensive end of the floor has the Sixers envisioning Joe as a welcome 3-and-D piece to their puzzle that is built around inside-the-arc stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. At the end of the day, most players in the draft are seeking at least two years of guaranteed money and a roster spot with a chance to earn their way onto the court with a role in the rotation. And the 76ers’ deal with Joe, relative to where he was selected in the draft, reveals the club’s confidence in what he can bring to the table now to help the team improve.
To put Joe’s contract a bit more into perspective, two players drafted ahead of him — Tyler Bey at No. 36 to Dallas (one of the two picks traded by the Sixers) and Saban Lee at No. 38 to Detroit — are expected to sign two-way contracts that come with first-year guarantees of roughly $79,000. Those players can make more than the guarantees depending on how many of the maximum 50 NBA games they will be activated for while splitting time in the G-League, but their earnings ceiling will be between $400,000-$500,000.
And looking back to the 2019 draft, Joe’s deal is comparable if not identical to what last year’s Nos. 38-40 picks signed. Former Hog Daniel Gafford, selected by the Chicago Bulls with the 38th pick last year, signed a deal that mirrors Joe’s contract for the first three years. Joe’s deal is also identical monetarily to last season’s Nos. 31 and 32 picks (the first two selections of the second round) except that those players’ third seasons were guaranteed. His contract also has more guaranteed money than last season’s Nos. 43 and 44 picks.
Given that the ’20-21 NBA season has been whittled down to 72 games because of the coronavirus pandemic — that’s 10 fewer contests than the typical 82-game regular season — Joe’s per-game pay adds more value for him.
Joe’s having a busy week. On Wednesday, Fort Smith mayor George McGill honored the city’s native son by declaring that Nov. 25 will now and forever be known as Isaiah Joe Day. Joe is the second former Hog from Fort Smith to be drafted as he joined legendary Triplet, former All American, and former NBA first-round draft pick Ron Brewer, Sr. (selected No. 7 overall by Portland in 1978).
Joe became only the fourth former Razorback to be drafted immediately following his sophomore season at Arkansas as he joined Joe Johnson (10th overall pick in 2001), Bobby Portis (22nd overall pick in 2015), and Gafford in doing so. He’s only the seventh Hog who finished his career at Arkansas that was drafted this century, joining Johnson, Portis, Gafford, Ronnie Brewer, Jr. (14th overall in 2006), Sonny Weems (39th overall in 2008), and Patrick Beverley (42nd overall in 2009).
Joe — he declared for the draft in late April, withdrew in early August to return to school, only to re-enter the draft in mid-August — told Hogville.net on Nov. 17 (the night before the draft) that he could sense his dreams of playing in the NBA were close to becoming a reality.
“I’ve been getting mentally prepared for what’s going to happen next, my next steps in life,” Joe said. “I feel like I’m going to get drafted, so now it’s just about the opportunity presenting itself. I’m just really excited to be in this type of situation. A lot of players don’t end up in this situation that they’ve dreamt of, so I’m excited to know my dream is slowly coming true. It’s just a blessing.
“I have no doubt there will be a lot of emotions come out (when Joe’s name is called on draft night), because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. There will be some emotions in the air, definitely some excitement and a lot of celebration going on.”
Joe was not only the SEC’s top three-point shooter the past two seasons — both in makes (207) and takes (548) — he was one of the top per-game volume three-point shooters in the nation at 3.45 makes and 9.13 takes per contest while at Arkansas. His effieciency from NBA three-point shooting distance as a sophomore exceded 44%. His shot creation off the dribble was among the best in the nation as he registered 97th and 89th percentile in two seasons. Joe economizes dribbling with a less-is-more approach that suits the pro game, and he excels in moving off the ball (running to spots both in halfcourt and transition, settling into gaps in the defense, offsetting and relocating, etc.). Those attributes promote good offensive flow and spacing, and thus helps draw out defenders to create opportunities for others to drive and score. Joe was also a plus-defender in college due to his length, quick lateral movement, instincts, and understanding of positioning, footwork, and taking angles.
Joe earned SEC All Freshman honors in ’18-19 when he was the first Hog rookie to start every game since Portis (’13-14) while averaging 13.9 points and setting the school record for made three-pointers (113 at a 41.4% clip). Joe was a preseason All SEC pick as a sophomore and through the mid-point of the season he was named 1 of 10 finalists for the postseason Jerry West Award, which honors the top shooting guard in the nation.
But he was hampered by a mid-season injury in ’19-20, affecting his play in five games and causing him to miss six more. In the end, Joe played in 26 games in ’19-20 and finished the season as the team’s second-leading scorer at 16.9 points per game (7th in the SEC) and the league’s leader in made triples (94) despite missing those six games due to the injury. He also averaged 4.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.4 steals, and 36.2 minutes. He led the team in charges for a second straight season, and he was 81-of-91 from the free throw line for 89.0% (the efficiency led the team and was top 3 in the SEC). He was once named SEC Player of the Week.
In the nine SEC games that Joe played in while healthy (three prior to injury and six after returning from injury), the Hogs went 6-3 as he averaged 20.4 points while shooting a collective 36-of-97 from 3 (37.1%) and 42-of-43 from the free throw line (97.7%). Arkansas finished the season 20-12, but the Hogs were 17-4 with a healthy Joe in the lineup.