Acquiring Lou Amundson is not a reason to celebrate. But for the current Indiana Pacers, he is the exact type of better-than-serviceable big man off the bench the team needs. He is efficient, he plays on both ends, and he matured his game in a winning system in Phoenix (although he played last year in Golden State, which is where Brandon Rush is headed). He doesn’t add a ton to the table, but he takes nothing off. He may not be the transformational piece that turns an eight seed into a four seed, but you cannot dispute that he does have a pony tail.
Best of all, the guy Larry Bird gave up to get Lou was entirely expendable.
For a quick and dirty comparison, in Almundson’s only three seasons during which he got any playing time, he posted PERs of 14.4, 13.5 and 11.3. In Rush’s first three seasons, he had PERs of 9.0, 9.6 and 10.6. Naturally, the 6’9″ forward rebounds twice as much per minute as Rush. But he also scores about as well per minute as Brandon does with a significantly higher eFG% despite not shooting threes.
That will be the only thing Indy really loses: a good three-point shooter.
Brandon, in theory, plays good on-ball defense as well, but as Tim Donahue researched, that never actually led to much measurable success for the Pacers. He breaks it down statistically in the following three paragraphs.
In his three years in the NBA, Brandon Rush played 6,048 minutes for the Pacers. While he was on the floor, the Pacers posted an offensive rating of 103.6 points per 100 possessions. For reference, only 13 teams (of the 90 total teams that took the court during the past three years) posted worse efficiency ratings than that figure. During the 7,334 minutes Rush was off the floor, Indiana scored 107.5 points per 100. This isn’t great production either, but it’s right at or slightly below league average.
But Brandon’s a defensive specialist, right? So it’s at that end where he redeems himself? Not exactly.
With Rush on the floor, the Pacers allowed just above 108 points per 100 possessions, which is slightly worse than average for the NBA. But, the Pacers were a terrible defensive team, right? So even with this below average rating, Brandon had to be helping, right? Well … the problem is that Pacers have not been a terrible defensive team — they were statistically average over the past few years. And when Brandon was off the floor, they improved, allowing only 106.3 per 100 possessions.
Numbers aren’t everything though.
Lou is also a guy who:
- fits a need (rotation big man who can sorta play both forward spots)
- has experienced success in his career (he played for the Suns in the Western Conference Finals two years ago)
- was likely frustrated last year by playing for a bad team (the 36-46 Warriors) and being injured (only played in 47 games due in part to a broken finger)
In an ideal world, he would be a little bigger so he could play some center minutes behind Roy Hibbert and Jeff Foster. But Rush was just cluttering up the wing rotation anyway so there is no real downside. And if Tyler Hansbrough misses any games (a decided possibility) and/or Jeff Pendergraph turns out to be worthless (an even more decided possibility), Frank Vogel will likely consider it very convenient to have a willing and eager “I’ll-do-whatever-you-want-coach” guy backing up David West at power forward.
Lastly, hailing from UNLV, Amundson joins Danny Granger (New Mexico), David West (Xavier), Paul George (Fresno State), George Hill (IUPUI) and Jeff Foster (Southwest Texas State University) to give the Pacers six guys who played for mid-major programs in college. That has to help give this team an identity.