Found January 09, 2013 on
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The Indiana Pacers are currently 21-14 and coming off of a resounding win against the defending champion Heat. I was surprised to see how well the Pacers were doing despite not having their leading scorer from last year, Danny Granger, due to a knee injury. In a Charmin soft Eastern Conference, they currently sit in fourth place. Upon closer review I noticed some interesting numbers that illustrate a better picture of how this team is winning their games. They are winning games despite getting woefully inept offensive production from the $60 million dollar man Roy Hibbert and their bench. This team is winning games on the strength of their defense and in spite of their poor offense. The Indiana Pacers have diverged into the two extremes of offense and defense this season.
The offense is absolutely atrocious. The Pacers are second to last in points per game with 91.2. This isn’t just an illusion because they play a slow tempo game and have the fourth slowest pace in the league. The Pacers are also second to last in offensive efficiency. They score 100.7 points per 100 possessions which is only better than the historically bad Wizards 95.7 for the title of worst offense in basketball. Much of this has to do with Hibbert’s previously mentioned struggles. Roy Hibbert is using 21.1% of the possessions when he is on the court and only shooting 40.1% from the field. His 43.1 true shooting percentage is atrocious and is second to last and ahead of only Greg Stiemsma and behind the likes of BJ Mullens, Kendrick Perkins, and Kwame Brown. Seriously, he has been worse offensively than Kwame Brown this season. The other big reason that the Pacers are so bad offensively is their bench can’t score. The ultra-athletic Gerald Green who enjoyed a renaissance season last year with the Nets has regressed and sports a 91 offensive efficiency. DJ Augustine Ian Mahimi and Sam Young also have poor offensive efficiency ratings. Only UNC standout Tyler Hansborough has an above average offensive efficiency (110) amongst their bench rotation players. If the offense doesn’t improve they will have a hard time scoring points in the playoffs.
On the flip side, their defense is magnificent. They are currently the best team in the league in defensive efficiency at 98.7 which is 6.6 points below league average. Their effective field goal percentage against is also best in the league by a rather large margin. They have a 44.5% efg against when the second best team is the bulls at 46.6%. Much of the pacer’s defensive success is owed to two players in particular, Roy Hibbert and Paul George. Hibbert has gotten better on defense every year in the league and is currently sporting an excellent 95 defensive efficiency rating. Hibbert is currently 3rd in both blocks per game and defensive efficiency rating among qualified players. Hibbert’s 7’2″ frame is excellent at altering shots and patrolling the paint. Roy Hibbert as a good defensive center on the league’s best defensive team should get some consideration for defensive player of the year. Hibbert is following in Patrick Ewing’s, Alonzo Morning’s, and Dikembe Mutumbo’s giant footsteps of being Georgetown centers that are dominant defensively in the NBA. Roy Hibbert’s improvement on the defensive end of the floor is a big reason for the team playing championship caliber defense this season. Paul George’s improvement on defense this season is the other main reason that the Pacer’s defensive has been so good this season. In his third year in the league George has been the Pacer’s best perimeter defender. He is doing this despite having to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player. George has held opposing players to 97 points per 100 possessions this season and has (2.7) ahead of Tim Duncan (2.5) and Roy Hibbert (2.3). Paul George has excellent length and elite athleticism. He uses every bit of his 6’9″ body and long arms to make opposing players shoot over him and quick enough not to get beat off of the dribble. He also rarely in foul trouble since he only fouls 2.7 times per game. The Pacers have the rare combination an elite perimeter defender in Paul George and an excellent shot blocker in Roy Hibbert. This along with coach Frank Vogel’s commitment to defense makes it hard for any team to score against the Indiana Pacers.
With a team that is so anemic on offense and excellent on defense are they really a threat in the East? Last season they gave the Miami Heat a scare when they took them a 2-1 lead in the playoffs but ultimately lost in six games. Could they challenge for supremacy in the Eastern Conference? Currently there just isn’t enough scoring to make this team a legitimate contender but a few things could change between now and the beginning of the playoffs. The Pacers are hoping Danny Granger comes back healthy sometime in the beginning of February to shoulder some of the offensive burden. A second thing the Pacers could do, is add a shooter from their bench, because Sam Young and Gerald Green aren’t cutting it. JJ Redick is on the last year of his contract and could be a fit here. Redick would help space the floor better and would allow David West and Roy Hibbert to operate with more space inside. The best thing the Pacers could do to be at least an average offensive team is to have Hibbert regain his offensive form from previous seasons. Last year Hibbert was well above average offensively and him regaining that form would help this team considerably. With just 6 games before the half way point in the season the Indiana Pacers are playing excellent defense. With just a small improvement to their offense and they could become a serious threat to the Heat’s ability to win the East again this season.
(all statistics are via basketball-reference)
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