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    09/07/2011 10:47 PM
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2013/14 NBA Team Preview: Indiana Pacers

Season Review 2012/13:


Advanced Stats
Numbers
Rank
Pace
90.2
25
Offense
104.3
20
Defense
99.8
1
Rebound
52.5
2

4 Factors
Offense
Numbers
Rank
Defense
Numbers
Rank
eFG%
47.9
22
eFG%
45.3
1
TO%
14.3
27
TO%
12.9
26
Reb%
30.3
4
Reb%
25.4
6
FT%
21.9
8
FT%
19.7
12

Monthly Performance
Record
OffRtg
DefRtg
November
 8-8
99.5
100.4
December
 10-5
106.3
100.6
January
 9-6
103.7
99.6
February
 9-3
112.4
97.1
March
 11-5
109.2
99.1
April
 2-5
105.0
114.1


Three seasons ago, Frank Vogel replaced Jim O’Brien as the Pacers’ head coach, after the team had won just 17 of his first 44 games in the 2010-11 season. Since then and with Vogel as their Head Coach, Indiana reached the playoffs in all three seasons by getting into the Eastern Conference Semi Finals two years ago and then reached the Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last year. They were eliminated by the Miami Heat in both occasions.

There isn’t a single factor that can explain the Pacers’ good season but the continuous development of their players and their team chemistry. Their season didn’t start well with Danny Granger’s injury that really affected the team. Indiana started the season with a 3-6 record, while playing some incredibly awful offense, as in five of their six losses, the Pacers couldn’t even score 90 points! Eventually, the team started to form a new identity with the breakthrough of Paul George.

Frank Vogel’s defensive scheme was simply brilliant and the Pacers were the best defensive team in the league last season. Vogel’s goal was clear: prevent their opponents from scoring near the basket and behind the line: the two more productive areas of the game and the Pacers achieved them by being #1 in both points in the paint allowed with 35.5 ppg allowed and #1 on 3pts defense with just 32.7% 3pts allowed.

If you think that Indiana was an ultra aggressive defense, then you’re wrong! They were just #26 in the league on forcing turnovers and they were indeed the 7th worst team in the league in steals per game. However, Indiana compensated their lack of aggression with an ultra disciplined defense. They contested every shot behind the line and they let Roy Hibbert do his job in protecting the rim. Their “weakest” link was on the 16-23 feet defense where they were the 9th worst defensive team in the league with 39.4% FG allowed, but this was exactly their game plan: dare their opponents to shoot from the less productive area in the court.

As it had happened the previous season, Indiana’s starting lineup was just crushing their opponents. The Hibbert-West-George-Stephenson-Hill lineup played together 1219 minutes and had remarkable numbers with a 112 offensive rating and a 99 defensive rating! Once again their bench struggled to be productive, but Stephenson’s and George’s breakthrough was more than enough to compensate Granger’s injury.

Offensively, the Pacers struggled in the first half of the season, but improved dramatically over the last two months of the competition.

Improved Offense - Hibbert Factor
Team
Hibbert
Split
OffRtg
FG%
FG%
FTA
FT%
Before All Star
104.2
42.9
41.4
2.2
68.7
After All Star
109.0
45.0
50.8
4.2
79.8

Frank Vogel’s offensive system is post-centric based, so Indiana was the team in the league with the highest volume on post up plays. But with their starting center shooting 41.4% FG, Indiana had just a 104.2 offensive rating in the first half of the season. Then suddenly, Hibbert “changed the chip”, looked much more confident and improved dramatically his shooting. Thanks to that, Indiana’s offense gained fluidity as their opponents had to worry more with Hibbert, something that opened space to the team’s perimeter shooters.

Due to the fact that they didn’t have good depth and their starting lineup had a lot of minutes on their legs, Indiana spent April in “saving mode” by losing five of their six games, something that allowed the Knicks to grab the #2 seed in the East. If we exclude these five games and their poor start of the season due to Granger’s injury, Indiana had a 45-21 record, a 68.1% winning clip!

In the playoffs, the Pacers steamrolled the Hawks in six games, having lost the first two games on the road. In the second round, they had a great series against the Knicks, where Indiana was the underdog. Matchup wise, the Pacers’ defense was a tough opponent for the Knicks, who were coming from a record setting season on shooting behind the arc, but who would be facing the best perimeter team in the league in the Pacers. With Roy Hibbert outplaying Tyson Chandler, the Pacers had a clear edge over the Knicks that they took advantage to win the series in six games, while winning all their home games.

During the whole season, it was said that Miami would have problems against big strong teams that would pound Miami’s undersized lineup. The Pacers were the perfect example of that and played a tremendous series against Miami, who was just decided on the Game 7, where Indiana’s inexperience paid the price. In five of the seven games, the Pacers had double digit offensive rebounding numbers, while Roy Hibbert was a monster in both ends of the floor. However, the Pacers’ offense couldn’t handle the aggressive Heat defense, as they committed 21 turnovers on the Game 7.

Very few people could imagine that the Pacers would be one game away from reaching the NBA Finals, but looking at how the team played during the whole season, this would have been a good reward for their great basketball.


Offseason Report:

GM Kevin Pritchard’s job on this offseason was quite predictable, looking at the fact that the team's weakest link is clearly identified: its bench!

Once David West’s three-year $36 million contract became official, Coach Vogel was sure that his starting lineup would continue in the team for at least one more season.

Pritchard had then the task to add some valuable depth to the team, something that clearly missed last season and that became an issue on the playoffs.

Danny Granger’s return is immediately great news for them, but Pritchard wanted more. He signed C.J. Watson to replace the disappointing D.J. Augustin, while in the frontcourt he let Tyler Hansbrough leave for Toronto, while he traded for Luis Scola and got Chris Copeland in free agency.


Season Preview:

With better and more options in the bench and with the natural development of his young players, I have no doubts that the Pacers will one of the league’s powerhouses this regular season.

Both LeBron James and Kevin Durant are currently in a world of their own in terms of quality, but on a Tier 2 level, I have no doubts in putting Roy Hibbert there, assuming that he will have a similar production that he had in the second half of last season.

Due to his huge size, Hibbert’s stamina levels were quite low until now. Hibbert was averaging about 30 minutes per game, a low number for a “star player”. However, in the playoffs Hibbert played more time with 32 minutes per game against Atlanta, 37.5 minutes per game against the Knicks and finally 39.6 minutes per game against Miami. Even though he had a heavy load, Hibbert answered pretty well and flat out dominated: 22.1 points per game, 55.7% FG, 80.4% FT and 10.4 rebounds per game in the series against the Heat was superb and if Hibbert can average about 34/36 minutes per game while having a similar offensive production that he had on the second half of the past season by shooting 50% FG, while being a great defender once again, then he will be a Top 10 player on this league.

With Danny Granger’s absence, Paul George had a breakthrough and showed some flashes of a true superstar. His defense is absolutely stellar, something surprising as we are in presence of a 23 years old player who has already the maturity and discipline of a veteran. His evolution was so clear that he averaged 7.6 rebounds per game, 4.1 assists per game and 1.8 steals per game, while his shooting was quite streaky. His 41.9% FG is a subpar number and he attempted way too many treys per game for someone who shot 36.2% 3pts, but we can’t ask for a 23 years old player to be perfect. Thanks to this great breakthrough, the Pacers didn’t hesitate in giving him a max-deal five-year deal contract worth of at least $90 million during the off-season! It’s always a risk to give big bucks to such a young player who is still developing, but assuming that George remains committed, he will be together with Hibbert the foundation of the team’s future.

David West’s renewal wasn’t big news in the offseason, but it was a key move for the Pacers organization, as West with 33 years old had another great season. He missed nine games during the regular season and once again he showed a sharp efficient offensive game that has been characterizing him. A healthy line of 15 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists per game is pretty much a lock for him this season, who is the team’s leader.

George Hill and Lance Stephenson are the two remaining members of the starting lineup and obviously their contribute were quite positive last season and the perspective is that they will continue having the same role this season. George Hill was traded by the Spurs a couple of seasons ago so San Antonio could draft Kawhi Leonard and the trade was good for both teams. With Indiana’s offense being post-centric oriented, it isn’t necessary for the PG to be a true playmaker. So, Hill just needs to shoot well from the outside, avoid turnovers and of course be a good defender. This is exactly what Hill has been doing for the Pacers (he shot 37% 3pts last season and committed just 1.5 turnovers per game). On the other hand, Stephenson was the team’s wild card in both ends of the floor as when he was “on”, the Pacers were pretty much unstoppable but at the same time he was error-prone. With just 22 years old, we can expect a mental evolution from him, but not a huge one, as he is an eccentric player.

If Danny Granger remains healthy this season, then he may be the extra factor that will send Indiana into the top of the league, but I have some doubts about him not just health wise, but also regarding his playing style. Granger was the team’s best scorer in 2011-12 but thanks to a high volume/low efficiency trade off, something that the team doesn’t need right now. I don’t know if it wouldn’t be better for Granger to be the team’s 6th man coming off the bench and with a “green light” offensively instead of being a starter and “taking off” shots from Hibbert, West and George.

Indiana’s bench will definitely be much better this season. C.J. Watson is a serviceable backup, especially when compared to D.J. Augustin. If Danny Granger gets into the starting lineup, then Lance Stephenson will be sent into the bench, while Orlando Johnson might surprise with a good evolution as well. In the frontcourt, the Pacers will have a second unit with superior offensive skill in comparison with last season with Luis Scola and Chris Copeland. Eventually, their interior defense will suffer a bit with the presence of these two players, but they will compensate that offensively.

Unless something weird happens, Indiana will easily have home court advantage in the 1stround of the playoffs and then be once again a huge challenge for Miami.

My name is André Gomes, I’m from Portugal and I am a Professional Handicapper. My sole purpose is to constantly beat the sportsbooks by taking advantage of the evaluation errors they make. It is most... Read more

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