A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Indiana Pacers

The Pacers offense and old school thinking vs new school

leave a comment »

The Indiana Pacers season is seen with a pessimistic viewpoint due to the loss of Paul George and Lance Stephenson to injury and free agency. Those wings have been effectively replaced by new additions Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles, along with expected increase in minutes for Chris Copeland. Many predictions for the Pacers now have them falling into the 30s in wins, a steep fall from last season’s 56-26.

When it comes to their results as a whole, I’m not sure how well their defense will hold up without Paul George. It’s not just that George is one of the best defensive perimeter players in the league, but making up for losing him may cause Frank Vogel to integrate a more offensive style of play, or the Pacers to expend more energy on offense. This could hurt their defensive results. Although the Pacers still have an elite defensive front court with Roy Hibbert and David West backed up by options like Ian Mahimni and Lavoy Allen.

However offensively, I believe the Pacers drop-off is not as severe as some believe.

Old school thinking

10 or 15 years ago when fans and the league were more obsessed with points per game and “creating their own shot”, the Pacers losing their two leading scorers in George (21.7ppg) and Stephenson (13.8ppg) would be seen as a disaster in the making. The Pacers are surely a disaster without any perimeter players who can create their own shot, right?

Yet how offense is played and viewed is clearly different in 2014. Like RBIs in baseball, it’s not about how many points per game you get, but how it occurs in relation to the team. A player who scores points per game but does so inefficiently and who stops the ball from moving to other more efficient shots, may not be valuable. In addition, floor spacing is now one of the best places to start when evaluating how successful an offense will work as a unit. That doesn’t invalidate the concerns about losing George and Stephenson as both were above average in league efficiency and losing them may cause defenses to key on other players, but it suggests at least looking closer before writing the new Pacers offense off as automatically worse than last year’s sub-average one, finishing 23rd in ORTG and plummeting to league worst levels after the all-star break.

How the Pacers would succeed offensively

The key to the Pacers surviving at SG and SF without Stephenson and George is in spacing and ball movement, both more paramount to offensive success than “creating your own shot”.

The last 2 years C.J. Miles in Cleveland hit 39.3% and 38.4% from 3 on 4.1 and 5.0 3pt attempts a game, in only 19.3 and 21.0 minutes per game. This equates to a sky high 7.7 and 8.7 3pt attempts per 36 minutes. Between his % and volume, it seems fair to suggest Miles could produce a strong 3pt shooting season for the Pacers. Chris Copeland shot 41.8% from 3 for the Pacers last year on 1.9 attempts a game, however by playing 6.5 minutes per game in 41 games, this was on a low volume. However for the Knicks his rookie year he shot 42.1% from 3 on 2.5 attempts a game in 15.4 minutes per game. Overall, it would also seem Copeland is a reliable 3pt shooting option. The Pacers also have a Croatian rookie wing Damjan Rudez who shot 44.1% from 3 on 4.5 attempts a game from 3 last year in the ACB. The wing who is a problem as as shooter is Rodney Stuckey, who has a career 3p% of .286 and shot 27.3% from 3 last year in Detroit. However Stuckey provides a different important skill set to the Pacers, which isg eating to the FT line. Stuckey has averaged 4.3 FTA per game for his career, or a per 36 rate of 5.3 a game. Last year George averaged 5.8 free throw attempts a game on a high volume of shots, while Stephenson only averaged 2.5 a game. Stuckey isn’t the type of offensive player I favor, but he does provide an element of driving to the basket and free throw line hat may be lacking in players like Miles, Copeland, Rudez or Pacers veterans like George Hill.

The Pacers are PG, PF and C are similar offensively to last year. George Hill is not a spectacular PG but he’s a reliable 3 point shooter and passing “game manager”, hitting 36.5% from 3 on 3.4 attempts last year and averaging 3.5 assists to 1.2 turnovers. C.J. Watson is an average but respectable backup point offensively. David West remains a solid option in the post and pick and pop. While for his dreadful offensive numbers at times, I still feel like Roy Hibbert has offensive skill on the block that if used more heavily, could draw defensive attention. Luis Scola had a poor season last year but could refind his skill game this year.

Ideally the Pacers would find themselves with floor spacing provided by players like Miles, Copeland and Rudez and having SGs and SFs who play off the ball, would help the team have ball movement. With players like Hill, West and Hibbert, the roster is still very high IQ, which could help them pass the ball to post players and then if doubles are drawn, out to open shooters. For all of Paul George and Lance Stephenson’s talent, they also dominated the ball and contributed the Pacers finding themselves stagnant enough to settle for midrange jumpshots. The new Pacers may not be able to “create their own shot” like George and Hill, but if there’s more ball movement and spacing, this could in its own way create more open shots from 3 or at the rim than they struggled to get last year.

Barring a defensive collapse I see a lot of reasons why the Pacers would outdo expectations this year. They are a team full of veteran professionals who tend to win compared to younger, mistake-making teams and who has been well coached defensively by Frank Vogel. They won’t wow anyone with talent, but the key is intelligence and effort level. This would play out not only with continued defensive success, but finding open shooters with precision on the offensive end. A season around 44 or 45 wins and being the same type of success story the Bulls have been the last 2 seasons without Derrick Rose, would not surprise me.


Written by jr.

October 26, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Evaluating the Andrew Wiggins and Paul George comparison

leave a comment »

Although as I predicted going into the year Andrew Wiggins has not been as exemplary a prospect as expected, he is still in the mix for the 1st or 2nd pick.

One of the players Wiggins is compared to is Paul George, who has become one of the superstars in the NBA.

Is a Paul George and Andrew Wiggins comparison justified?

First, what both George and Wiggins share is excellent lateral mobility. This has helped George become one of the best wing defenders in the league, while Wiggins is expected to become a great defender in the NBA.

Like George, Wiggins is not as explosive attacking off the dribble as his side to side athleticism. Part of this is flawed ball-handling skills for both players, in George’s case an adequate first step more than elite. Wiggins may have a better first step, but I do not see Dwyane Wade in that area either.

So this combination of lateral athleticism, forward athleticism and ballhandling, draws George comparisons. However, there are other strengths I see in George I don’t see as strongly in Wiggins:

To start, George is a taller, longer player than Wiggins is and his strength level has filled out nicely. Wiggins remains skinny, albeit he has time to build his strength, or even grow taller like George did after his draft.

More importantly, George has become a terrific shooter for a small forward. He hits 37.1% of his 3s on 6.3 attempts a game this season, with an 87.0% FT. He has also excelled as a midrange jumpshooter this year.

How does college Wiggins compare to college George as a shooter? As a freshman George hit 44.7% from 3 on 4.1 attempts a game, but only 69.7% from the FT line. As a sophomore his 3P% dropped to 35.3%, but the other indicators greatly improved. His 3 point attempts per game jumped to 5.8 and his FT% 90.9%. George was known as a slick shooting prospect coming out of Fresno St.

Wiggins this season is 34.5% from 3 on 3.6 attempts a game and 76.5% from the FT line. These numbers are perfectly respectable, especially compared to freshman George. But one has to be careful assuming that just because X became a great shooter after his freshman season, it doesn’t mean Y will. What Wiggins 3P%, 3 point attempts volume and FT% all tell me is he has the chance to be a great shooter, but he also has the chance to not be much of a 3 point shooter at all.

But perhaps the biggest difference is Paul George is one of the most fluid players in the NBA, with a truly exceptional feel for the game. Everything George does is controlled, smooth and at an extra gear of craftiness offensively than his opponent. These instincts are also as big a reason as his physical tools for his defensive excellence. Feel for the Game is where I feel misrated Wiggins most coming into the season. I do not see the special fluidity or control a player like George shows.

Personally, the philosophy that has driven most of my draft analysis, is the theory that 2/3s of talent level isn’t physical tools. Paul George is a player who still looks impressive in the non physical 2/3s, due to his shooting skill and feel for the game. Without any physical advantages he may still be Mike Miller-like. When I look at Andrew Wiggins I am not as impressed in the non physical tools 2/3s of the game.

And in addition, in the 1/3 of physical tools, I wouldn’t call him a transcendent force either. I do not see him as his position’s equivalent to college Andre Drummond, John Wall, or Blake Griffin, for example. For a player who’s vertical leaping skills have been so lauded, he’s been surprisingly tame exploding around the rim. Nor has his speed off the dribble blown away the NCAA. At some point one has to ask whether his reputation as a few times a generation athletic force, is built on past reputation or present evidence. Furthermore what many of the most physically gifted prospects lately such as the before-mentioned Drummond or Wall had, is uniquely bulky body strength for their position for their explosiveness, which Wiggins is a less special physical force without. Note that I rate strength as no less important than height/wingspan, whereas the media is typically far more skeptical of prospects who lack the latter. Wiggins is a good physical talent, but good will not be enough if his skill level and feel for the game remain as underwhelming as it looks.

Written by jr.

March 10, 2014 at 10:18 pm

The 76ers picking Evan Turner 2nd overall: What Went Wrong?

with 2 comments

By the Philadelphia 76ers essentially giving away Evan Turner on the last year of his rookie scale contract, it’s safe to say the pick hasn’t gone as planned. Turner was the consensus 2nd overall pick in a widely considered top heavy 2010 draft, taken ahead of Derrick Favors, Demarcus Cousins who were considered all-star prospects at the time. Turner was expected to be no less than a star.

So let’s perform an autopsy on the Evan Turner pick.

First, consider that a major reason for Turner going 2nd was production evaluation. He broke out to a huge 20.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 blocks per game at .58 TS season his 3rd year at Ohio State, for a 30.8 PER. This domination in college earned him the Naismith and AP Player of the Year awards and made him a national media star. There are many people who use college production as their big starting point for evaluating prospects, before adjusting for age, style of play and talents afterwards when predicting whether they will adjust. Turner appealed to these draft raters.

Of course, you won’t find anyone who uses production evaluation to judge prospects less than me, it is the Jack to my Locke’s talent evaluation strategy. I simply find using production evaluation unreliable. The college games rules/strategies of play and need for player skillset, is so different than the NBA’s that it favors different prospects than the ones who will succeed most at the next level. Furthermore just as some rookies and sophomores in the NBA may develop slowly but eventually become the best players from their draft, it’s logical to believe college prospects may be better or worse players in the NCAA than their peers just because they developed at a different speed into their talent level, physically and mentally. There are too many confounding variables going into college production for me to find it useful. Although talent has a big part in who’s good in the NCAA, there are so many other factors in play as well that only leads to confusion and red herrings. Some statistics like 3 point shooting and free throw percentage or assists are important indicators of talents, but I frankly don’t really care how good a player is at the college game.

Now of course, the Sixers will have evaluated Turner’s talent level as well, as did everyone else. Everyone is aware college production alone can’t tell the story.

Turner’s biggest strength has always been his feel for the game. His craftiness, shiftiness, ability to adjust speeds and fluidity, along with court awareness passing, has shined going back to Ohio St. The funny part about feel for the game however is that while for everyone else it’s largely disregarded, when players are elite in it and everyone notices it, it can sometimes actually get overrated. Jabari Parker and Tyler Ennis are leading the way in elite feel for the game this season for this draft class and the media/fans widely recognize feel/instincts as the biggest thing going for them – and they are two prospects I like less than their expected draft positions. I only rate feel for the game as 1/3 of talent. Even for their great affinity in that area, I am not impressed enough in Parker and Ennis’ talent in the other 2/3s to support them being top 3 and top 10 picks respectively.

This weakness in the non-feel for the game 2/3s of talent, looks to be true of Evan Turner. Turner’s two other strengths are his height for a 2 guard and his ballhandling skills. However, he is an unexplosive athlete which makes him an average at best slasher to the basket. Turner was strong at getting to the basket in college due to his ballhandling and feel, however in the NBA having the burst of speed at the point of attack is essential to standout play in this area. Turner’s lack of elite athleticism also hurts him defensively, where his lateral mobility is average at best, if not subpar. It appears Turner’s concerning lack of explosiveness was misdiagnosed coming out of college, largely because he was driving to the rim so easily at the time.

Secondly, he has typically had a non-existent 3 point game. Turner is currently averaging 0.7 3PM/2.5 3PA (28.5%), while he has the time to improve his 3 point stroke, in the NBA it’s a disadvantage in both efficiency and spacing value to not be a consistent 3 point threat at SG. In his final season at Ohio St. Turner averaged 0.7 3PM/1.8 3PA (36.4%), the percentage respectable but the low volume indicated a shaky outside shooting talent. He also shot only an ok 75.1% from the FT line. This type of shooting career is indicative of a player who can become a 3 point threat, but shouldn’t be counted on to be one. Turner however is a reasonably solid midrange shooter for his position. I am not sure whether to give him credit for better than average passing skills, although his assists per game has been solid, as a high volume possession user with ballhandling and feel for the game as his specialty, if a more gifted passer he may be hitting 5 or 6 assists per game instead of 3 or 4.

Effectively, the combination of his non-feel for the game talent, appears to be perfectly average. My talent grades for Turner at SG would in fact look like this, using these rubrics:

11: Transcendent, 10: Incredible 9: Elite, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Decent, 5: Average, 4: Lacking, 3: Weak, 2: Very poor, 1: Awful

What the overall grades mean:

25+: Perennial all-star talent, 23-24: Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent, 19-22: Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18: Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent, 14-16: Rotation player talent, 12-13: Deep bench to rotation player talent, 11 or lower: Deep bench player talent

Evan Turner:

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, lateral quickness, size) talent grade: 5 / Average

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite

Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Despite Turner getting taken so high being a mistake, I am not sure so the Sixers should have given up on him. It is hard to get long term starting caliber players and Turner is still young enough to improve his 3 point shooting, which could make him an upgrade from 5 in the skill impact talent category and make him very useful. Turner is only 4 years and 8000 minutes in his career. When players like Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic weren’t even starters 4 years into their careers and now are arguably deserving of All-NBA consideration, breakouts could happen. Or to give another example, Demar Derozan is a draft older than Turner and has had a massive 5th year breakout season. At the least, Philadelphia keeping Turner would have given them the chance he takes his game to another gear statistically enough to become a real trade asset later. Turner may not be a spectacular talent, but there is value in good starting talent. But then again, if the Sixers lose enough games from here on out to get the #1 or #2 pick in the draft, they may consider that well worth the value of trading Turner.

Written by jr.

February 25, 2014 at 11:32 am

Talent grading the Pacers and Blazers starting lineups!

leave a comment »

The Indiana Pacers and Portland Trailblazers are two of biggest and fun stories of the year, with a combined 34-5 record to start the season.

Both sport well balanced, cohesive teams and neither relied on ‘tanking’ to build its core. Not counting the lockout season, the Blazers haven’t been under 30 wins since 2005-2006 while the Pacers haven’t seen 1988-1989. A combination of talent evaluation through slick trades, signings or late round drafting have helped them build contenders.

Here is how my talent grading system rates each starting 5

Portland Trailblazers

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent

Damian Lillard and Lamarcus Aldridge lead the way in this category. Lillard is both an above average athlete and has great ballhandling skills, allowing him to blow by opponents and to the rim. A good frame for a point guard also helps his finishing. Lillard is a talented slasher physically.

Although Portland likes to use him on the perimeter, Lamarcus Aldridge is also an above average athlete and can use his explosiveness to make plays. His size and mobility helps him physically on the defensive end as well.

The rest of the starting lineup has mixed results in my physical impact talent category. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum both lack either the athleticism or ballhandling to attack the basket explosively, becoming perimeter orientated shooters. Matthews has good size for a SG helping him on the defensive end, while Batum is one of the longest players at his position.

Mirroring Matthews and Batum, Robin Lopez is an average athlete at center but has impressive length, helping him contest or block shots.

Physical impact talent (Athleticism, size, ballhandling) talent grades:

Damian Lillard: 8

Wesley Matthews: 3

Nicolas Batum: 4

Lamarcus Aldridge: 7

Robin Lopez: 6

(Average: 5.8)

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent:

I rate three of the Blazers as among the best at their position in this category: Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and Lamarcus Aldridge. LIllard is already one of the best shooters at point guard both spotting up and off the dribble and is an adequate passer for a point guard. Lamarcus Aldridge is one of the best midrange shooters at PF and has developed an outstanding post repertoire, with his length helping in that area. Nicolas Batum is both an elite shooter at SF and has strong point forward skills. He also has the length to play in the post.

Wesley Matthews is largely a spot up shooter from skill perspective, but is one of the best in the league at that skill.

Robin Lopez is the weakest link in the starting 5 for skill. He can finish around the rim a bit and is developing midrange, which is enough for average ability for center.

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grades:

Damian Lillard: 9

Wesley Matthews: 8

Nicolas Batum: 9

Lamarcus Aldridge: 9

Robin Lopez: 5

(Average: 8.0)

Feel for the Game talent:

This category is also a strength for the Blazers. I’ve come to largely use fluidity and the ease/control of a player’s game as the measure of feel for the game and instincts. Batum and Aldridge are two of the most fluid and natural players at their position, while Matthews is also known for his mistake-free, natural game on both ends.

I wouldn’t call Lillard elite in feel for the game, but he has control and craftiness and enough fluidity to be above average. I would also rate Robin Lopez’s feel to be above average, which helps him make the right decisions offensively and defensively.

Feel for the Game talent grades:

Damian Lillard: 7

Wesley Matthews: 8

Nicolas Batum: 9

Lamarcus Aldridge: 9

Robin Lopez: 7

(Average: 8.0)

Here is the players total grades:

Damian Lillard

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 7

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7

Total talent grade: 23

Wesley Matthews

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 3

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8

Total talent grade: 19

Nicolas Batum

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 4

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9

Total talent grade: 22

Lamarcus Aldridge

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 7

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9

Total talent grade: 25

Robin Lopez

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 6

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7

Total talent grade: 18

I tend to treat 19 as a threshold of sorts for “blue chip” and 25 as a “true star” talent, so using these grades Lamarcus would rate among the league’s elite talent, Lillard and Batum a next tier down and Matthews and Lopez on the edge of blue chip status.

The Blazers have a tremendous skill impact talent due to their shooters and Aldridge at PF, with good to elite feel for the game across the board. While physical impact isn’t their strength due the lack of slashing at SG and SF, the team length defensively is great and they get enough from Lillard and Aldridge attacking the basket offensively.

Indiana Pacers

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent:

My top rated Pacer in this category is Lance Stephenson. Lance has a strong combination of athleticism, ballhandling and strength giving him ideal slashing tools for a shooting guard.

Paul George is an impressive athlete with elite length for his position, albeit ballhandling can push him to the perimeter and prevent an elite grade in this category for me.

Roy Hibbert is a difficult player to grade in this category. On one hand he has sluggish athleticism and speed, however he is one of the longest players in the league, especially valuable at C helping him block shots. I would rate him as above average in physical impact talent.

The two remaining Pacers starters George Hill and David West are limited in the category. Hill is a big PG defensively, but has impressive ballhandling and speed, hurting his ability to attack the basket. West is strong but is neither explosive athletically or long at PF.

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grades:

George Hill: 4

Lance Stephenson: 8

Paul George: 7

David West: 3

Roy Hibbert: 6

(Average: 5.6)

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent

Paul George and David West lead the way in this category for me. George has turned himself into one of the best outside shooters in the league, uses his length to create midrange shots and has both passing skills and post potential. West has long been a master of the midrange jumper at PF and has post skills near and away from the rim.

George Hill is an impressive open 3 point jumpshooter and decent passer, but has struggled to create at a high volume from the perimeter. Roy Hibbert has strength and moves in the post and can shoot a few feet out, but is not a skill first player and can struggle with touch.

Lance Stephenson is the weakest link in this category. His jumpshot has long been a work in progress, a big weakness at shooting guard. He does have passing and post talent.

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grades:

George HIll: 7

Lance Stephenson: 4

Paul George: 9

David West: 9

Roy Hibbert: 6

(Average: 7.0)

Feel for the Game talent:

I rate Paul George’s feel for the game as one of the best in the NBA, showing supernatural fluidity, ease and control offensively along with his defensive instincts.

David West and Roy Hibbert are also among the best at their position in the category. West has superior craftiness and timing against his opponents, while Hibbert is the big easy recognizing plays offensively and defensively.

Hill is a noticeably smooth decision maker and thinker compared to his position. Stephenson is the most erratic Pacer in the starting lineup but I have always been impressed by his feel, fluidity and control on his drives. As he matures he can catch up to the rest of the Pacers in high IQ play thanks to this feel and raw instinct talent.

Feel for the Game talent grades;

George Hill: 8

Lance Stephenson: 8

Paul George: 10

David West: 9

Roy Hibbert: 9

(Average: 8.8)

Total grades:

George Hill

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 4

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8

Total talent grade: 19

Lance Stephenson

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 8

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8

Total talent grade: 20

Paul George

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 7

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9

Feel for the Game talent grade: 10

Total talent grade: 26

David West

Physical impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 3

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9

Total talent grade: 21

Roy Hibbert

Physical impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9

Total talent grade: 21

Mirroring the Blazers, the Pacers have one talent in Paul George that rises above the rest, but importantly surround him with at least blue chip talents. The combination of elite feel for the game and length as a team helps them dominate defensively, while offensively they lean on their skill level to win games.

I believe it’s useful to cross compare a few of these players, to see the impact of each category.

For example, I gave Lamarcus Aldridge and David West and identical score in my skill impact and feel for the game categories. This means my system rates the difference between them in talent, as coming from Lamarcus Aldridge’s greater physical tools (athleticism and size). In fact I believe it’s reasonable to say that outside of physical talents, Aldridge and West are practically the exact player.

Likewise Paul George and Nic Batum’s skill level and feel for the game is very similar, as is Damian Lillard and George Hill’s. George and Lillard are both more physically dynamic players, helping them attack the basket get to a level up.

Roy Hibbert and Robin Lopez likewise rate similarly in my physical impact and skill impact categories. However Hibbert’s elite feel for the game gives him an advantage.

Wesley Matthews and Lance Stephenson are very hard to cross compare in this way, since Matthews strength of shooting is Lance’s weakness and Lance’s slashing is Matthews’ weakness. I’d use a player like Manu Ginobili or James Harden, to show what Lance’s talent could be if he had a shooting game like Wesley Matthews’. Or the reverse, Matthews may also be Harden or Manu if he could drive like Lance.

Coincidentally, adding up the grades of both starting lineups add up to the exact same score of 107, or an average of 21.4. Although the Trail Blazers came out of nowhere, for me their starting lineup’s talent level checks out as contention caliber.

On whether Paul George’s offensive production is sustainable

leave a comment »

On Morningpickup.com I analyzed Paul George’s shooting chart so far this season and whether he can maintain MVP production:


Written by jr.

December 5, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Is Eric Gordon destined to be the Pacers’ final piece of the puzzle?

with one comment

Eric Gordon

Eric Gordon (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Once upon a time the Detroit Pistons built a great, defense first core around Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace that needed one more piece to contend for a title. After trading for Rasheed Wallace the rest is history.

The Pacers look like the closest mid-2000s Pistons equivalent since them. The foursome George Hill, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert is devastatingly effective as they crush teams defensively and pick apart with skill and intelligence offensively. None are superstars, but arguably 4 players at an all-star level makes up for it.

But conventional wisdom says, they have the need for (a) Sheed. And the gaping hole is the 2 guard spot where the mediocre Lance Stephenson resides.

If they fall in the playoffs this year, who can be their Sheed acqusition? The available player that jumps out to me is Eric Gordon.

Gordon’s blue chip talent is obvious, but his unhappiness in New Orleans has made his max contract there a disaster. With paltry efficiency this year and unreliable health, the Hornets should not believe in him as a long term piece.

However in Indiana he’s not only going to an elite team, but to his home state and where he played college ball. If there’s any team made to make Gordon happy and motivated again, it’s the Pacers. Whether his production is related to health is another story and on a max contract he’d be a huge risk to take. Another reason Indiana being Gordon’s home state matters, is the Pacers are among the league’s dregs in attendance despite such a great team. Gordon helps the attendance both by being from Indiana and by being a star scorer. Points per game sells players.

While his health, production and contract presents a risk, the upside is no less than an NBA title. Gordon is precisely what the Pacers need in a 2 guard, providing a top scorer beside George who excels at driving to the rim and getting to the line, while being able to hit the outside shot. The lineup of Hill, Gordon, George, West and Hibbert if healthy, is a flawless fit of elite defense, decision making, shooting and post offense. The Pacers somehow getting another blue chip starter on Hill, George, West and Hibbert’s level is just what they need to challenge the Heat in the East and meet their 2004 Pistons destiny.

What could a Gordon acquisition look like? Danny Granger would obviously head out. In New Orleans he’d be an expiring contract who if healthy could help them make a playoff run next year and prove himself worth of a new contract. If Granger is only there for a year, they got out from Gordon’s contract and are free cap-wise to rebuild around Anthony Davis. The Pacers may have to throw in their late 1st round draft pick and/or last year’s 1st Miles Plumlee to sweeten the deal, but those are small prices to pay if they believe in what Gordon can do for their team. The Hornets asking for the talented Stephenson may be harder to swallow for the Pacers, but he’s not an untouchable talent. A 3 team trade with Danny Granger headed to a team more ready to win than New Orleans and the Hornets getting assets back, is also plausible. The Hornets agreeing to a Gordon to Indiana trade would be a hurdle, but a very plausible one.

Long term, Gordon’s contract puts the Pacers in bind with Paul George and David West both likely inking long term deals this year. But if they can build an immediate contending team, those financial hurdles can be a bridge crossed later.

Eric Gordon would present a big risk for the Pacers, but “going for it” with him may be a offer they can’t refuse.

Written by jr.

April 5, 2013 at 2:44 pm

The Curious Case of the Indiana Pacers’ offensive talent vs results

with 2 comments

Pacers Paul George

Pacers Paul George (Photo credit: IsoSports)

With a 38-23 record, the Pacers are in contention for the 2nd seed in the East and on pace for 51 Ws. In judging their talent alone it’s easy to see why. Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert have all made all-star teams, giving them SF-PF-C rotation that can hang with anyone’s. Add in another respectable starter in George Hill and a few other respectable players like Lance Stephenson and Ian Mahimni and the Pacers have the horses to be a top 3 seed.

What makes the Pacers interesting is how they are exceptional defensively and below average offensively, ranking 1st in DRTG and 20th in ORTG. The latter rank is even an improvement over where they sat before the all-star break. The Pacers are a classic example of a team that expects to suffocate a team defensively, then score just enough points to win.

The reason I find this interesting is it’s clear the Pacers have above average offensive talent. Starting with their star frontline, both West and Hibbert have impressive post skill as well as shooting range, opening the frontcourt for drivers. Then there’s their star of this season George, who’s shooting and spacing at small forward is a valuable asset in any offense. All 3 have exceptional intelligence and feel for the game to go along with their offensive skill, making them great offensive talents. While the Pacers’ guard play is not their strength, Hill and Stephenson can get to the rim and make plays which is all that’s asked of them.

Look at some of the teams ahead of the Pacers in team ORTG: Sacramento, New Orleans, Cleveland, Toronto. These are very flawed offensive teams, lacking in skill, spacing and cohesion/intelligence on that end. All 4 of those teams are also ahead of the the 2nd best defensive team in the league the Memphis Grizzlies, who rank 19th in ORTG despite talented offensive horses like Mike Conley, Jr., Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

What’s likely is the value of the Pacers and Grizzlies offensive talent, actually shows up in their DRTG. By playing with better offensive teammates, more energy can be expended on the defensive end. Moreso maybe simply because Frank Vogel and Lionel Hollins will it, the Pacers and Grizzlies are more likely to take plays off offensively, than they do defensively.  This seems especially true of the role players, who’s minutes are constantly on a hook. Presume Vogel and Hollins pull a role player if his defensive effort lapses, while an offensive coach like Mike D’Antoni lets that end determines who stays on the floor. With a different coach the Pacers’ ORTG may be top 10-15 matching their talent, but the cost may be defense. Not to disrespect their defensive talent, as they have as much length and intelligence on that end as anyone.

Finally in regards to the Pacers, even if they’re 20th in the league in ORTG, they still have to score enough points to win every game. Any team on pace for over 50 Ws, still requires a lot of offensive production. George, West, Hibbert and co. deserve credit on that end for the reason that, it could be worse.

Written by jr.

March 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Video Blog #5 – Where Do They Go From Here? (Lakers, Clippers, Pacers, 76ers)

leave a comment »


In this blog I discuss the offseason and future of the LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers

Written by jr.

June 7, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Is Lebron’s Game 3 against the Pacers destined to be a forgotten meltdown?

leave a comment »

Wizards v/s Heat 03/30/11

Wizards v/s Heat 03/30/11 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I watched the Heat let the Pacers blow them out to a 2-1 lead in Game 3, I eagerly awaited for the 3rd year in a row, the morning after reaction to yet another Lebron disappearance in the most important game of the season so far. From a 43-43 tied score at halftime to the 4:16 mark of the 4th when lead 86-67 (the game essentially over), Lebron went 1-7 with no free throw line attempts except a missed technical (bookended by a Granger staredown and Lance Stephenson choke sign) and no shot attempts within 10 feet – for 2 total points. Once again in game seizing time, Lebron’s production shrank as he timidly put up jumpshots.

Yet the reaction has been nowhere near what it was after the disappearing act in the 2011 Finals or Game 5 against Boston in 2010. The reason for this is a few things. Thanks to his play in the first half and garbage time, Lebron still put up 22 pts (10-22), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, a respectable number. Secondly Wade had arguably the worst game of his career, let alone playoff career, with 5 pts (2-13), 5 TOVs, and a scuffle with Erik Spoelestra, to wear the goathorns moreso than James. Finally, as has been the case the rest of the series, the Heat simply had no depth past Lebron, Wade and Mario Chalmers’ excellent 25 pt night offensively – with Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem continuing to be MIA.

Thus the reaction has been for the most part that Lebron simply didn’t have the help this game, as he hasn’t all series.

I’m not buying it. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

May 18, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Deron Williams and the Indiana Pacers: A match made in heaven that is unlikely to happen due to silly reasons

with 7 comments

Deron Williams NBA Draft 2005

Deron Williams NBA Draft 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since Dwight Howard picked up his player option with the Orlando Magic, Deron Williams has been the big free agent prize of this summer. He’s an elite talent with size and explosiveness, elite playmaking and feel for the game and an outside shot – easily a top 5 player at the PG position. Deron has had a turbulent handful of seasons since a fed up Utah Jazz sent him to the NBA’s version of Siberia in the New Jersey Nets, then on the verge of a team-up with Dwight Howard, a W.T.F. move from his Dwightness by picking up next season’s player option left Deron without the assurance he’ll have Howard if he resigns with the Nets this year. Furthermore the “other option”, the Dallas Mavericks, certainly don’t look like a plum deal. Dirk Nowitzki may be a 2nd star, but he just finished his 14th season which is as far as the primes of even the most longevity friendly stars go and both he and the Mavericks certainly didn’t look like themselves this year. The Mavericks also have next to no long term, young talent to surround Deron Williams with. The Mavericks are not a great long term situation for Deron. Their appeal likes with Marc Cuban’s strength as an owner/GM – But is that enough?

The truth is there’s a perfect situation for Deron Williams out there – and they have the capspace enough to sign him this summer. It’s the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers are in the 2nd round after a 50 W+ equivalent season and have a loaded group of talented forwards in Danny Granger, Paul George, David West, Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert. The biggest thing holding them back is the lack of a finger to pull the trigger on that gun – the backcourt creating talent to make it all come together. If they made a stat comparing PG production to replacement level, they might as well call it “Wins over Darren Collision” – Oh and Collision is their starting point. The Pacers have the frontcourt offense and defensive talent that a star guard would likely make them contenders. Who could be a better fit than Deron Williams? The Pacers would be the perfect supporting cast for him. Granger gives him a secondary perimeter scorer, George hits open 3s and defends at an elite rate, he can play the pick and pop/roll game with David West, and Hibbert anchors the defense and scores in the post. It’s a team with both the talent level and fit to contend for an NBA title year in and year out. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

May 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm