Analyzing the Pacers Preseason

With the offseason acquisitions of David West and George Hill, most Pacers fans were very excited about this Pacers team. But actually watching these guys play basketball — dress rehearsal or not — has considerably dampened the enthusiasm of many.

Of course, they have only played the Bulls, so it could just be a demonstration of something we already knew: Chicago is much, much better than Indiana.

Still, here are eight thumbnail thoughts on the Pacers’ two preseason losses.

1. Tyler Hansbrough is the Pacers’ best player right now — or, more accurately, he is playing better right now than anyone else — by a relatively wide margin. While that’s wonderful for Tyler, who has played very well, it is an open question as to how good a team with Tyler Hansbrough as their best player can actually be.

2. Paul George has been more aggressive offensively. That’s a good thing. In fact, he’s more assertive all over the court, which bodes well overall. However, he’s also a 21-year-old kid with fewer than 1,300 minutes of actual NBA court time, so he’s making a lot of mistakes (7 turnovers and 0 assists in two games).

This year, I’m going to use a cobbled-together number called “shots produced.” It’s basically FGA + 0.44*FTA, (which is the same denominator as used to calculate true shooting percentage). In this equation, Paul produced 18.8 shots per 36 minutes in the two preseason games — a mark he only reached 4 times last season. His TS% was .540, which is league average, but it’s dragged down by his (hopefully anomalous) 6-for-10 free-throw shooting last Friday. On the whole, his involvement and activity is very promising.

3. Danny Granger looked completely lost in the two games. Granted, this is a guy who has generally played poorly in the preseason and isn’t the most discriminating of shooters, but … these games were ugly. He followed up his 5-for-17 debut with a 4-for-11 encore, posting an eFG% of .393 and a TS% of .416. These are even worse than last December’s debacle, though such numbers clearly come from too small of a sample size for deep conclusions.

This roster has had less than two weeks of practices, so it’s understandable that they are somewhat out of sync, plus they were playing the Bulls. Still, it’s somewhat disconcerting that the guy the Pacers are expecting to be their leading scorer was so disconnected from the offense. Again, Danny isn’t the most discriminating of shooters even at the best of times, but the vast majority of shots he took over the two games were even more forced than usual.

Oddly, this wasn’t a case of indiscriminately chucking up threes. In fact, only 7 of his 28 shots were from beyond the arc (and he hit 4 of them). Unfortunately, neither Synergy nor Hoopdata broke down the preseason games, but it seemed to me that most of Granger’s misses came during abortive drives, resulting a paltry 22.7% shooting on his two-point FG attempts. To let you know how ineffective his drives were, he only took 2 free-throw attempts during Indy’s two preseason games.

Some of this may harken back to Danny’s first two years in the league, during which he would put up big games when guys like Jermaine O’Neal were out — then fade into the background when they returned. In Jim O’Brien’s system, the vast majority of the sets were designed for the 3. In Vogel’s system, there’s a lot more post action, but I can’t begin to guess at where Danny fits in the sets. This is a major concern. Points again will be hard to come by for the Pacers this year, and they can’t afford to have their best scorer involved in the offense on a seemingly ad hoc basis.

4. Roy Hibbert has been typical: frustrating. He played one solid, but unspectacular game Friday followed by one bad game last night. He is simply not strong enough to get and hold post position against a guy like Joakim Noah, and he still shoots mid-range jumpers like somebody dipping their toes into Lake Michigan in December. He was also a non-factor in the pick-and-roll. And the ball (and offense) still largely stops for several seconds when it goes to him.

5. David West didn’t play enough for a well-developed opinion, but I liked what I saw. He’s bigger than I remember, and I can only hope that he and Tyler can play extended minutes together. (Hope, not expect.)

6. I am concerned about the deleterious effect that playing with a collection of guys who seem to have no idea what they’re doing offensively will have on George Hill’s game. 

7. The offense is still blah. The Pacers shots 33.7% and 35.8% from the field, respectively, during their two losses. They certainly will look better next week against the weak sisters they face (the first five games are against Detroit, Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit again, and New Jersey), but there is still no real indication of a plan.

As further evidence of the preseason futility, the team assisted on only 50% of its made buckets in each of their games. League average is almost 58%, and the bottom of the league is somewhere around 52%. I know — preseason and small sample size — but, this is a continuation of a trend. Under Vogel last year, they assisted on just a tick under 50% of their made field goals. These are just really, really bad numbers.

8. My final impression? This team needs to play some bad teams so Pacers fans can regain their optimism.

Tags: Preseason

  • kent

    Wow!! That made me want to see the next Pacer game!!

  • Oak Moses


    Also, you seem to be implying that there are sets other than PnR/PnP. You might want to inform some people of this radical notion.

  • JSwid

    I get that the Pacers looked dismal on offense the past two pre-season games but I think some people are looking way too deep into this. I’m gonna use the Colts as an example. When have they had a winning record in the pre-season?? Yeah, I dont remember either! The fact that the Pacers played the top team in the east that led the NBA in defensive FG% given up sure has some say in this. I liked what I saw last night with the Pacers on defense and being aggressive by driving to the basket. They just had trouble finishing at the hoop on several occasions! Hill looked nervous and West played a decent game for his limited minutes. But the post lockout has lasted less than two weeks before the first pre-season game and not many practices have happened. I think this is a good Pacers team and I think we are gonna make a lot of noise in the East. Danny Granger is a concern obviously but at the same time I wanna see a full season of him playing with these new players. Granger has had to carry the load for the past 3-4 years and pretty much had a lot of pressure on him. I think he is still finding out how to play with more talent on the team (as odd as it sounds) but it seems like he still feels the need to try to put up 25 points every night. I think he will be ok to be honest, but only time will tell! Go Pacers! Its gonna be a good season!!

  • Ian

    Yeah I don’t think you can draw much of anything except maybe that Hans is out to show all the doubters wrong, which is certainly promising.

    The Bulls are the NBA’s best defensive team, maybe the best team period in the NBA, and they returned everyone at all important from last year, while the Pacers swapped McBobs and Rush for West and Hill, that’s a lot of minutes coming and going.

  • WWible

    I am hoping the moves made by the Pacers turn out to their benefit, but I truly believe that a couple of years from now fans, and hopefully management will realize the mistake they made in not drafting Kenneth Faried from Morehead State University. George Hill is a fine player, wished he had played at IU, but I did not see our PG situation in peril, as Collison is a fine PG, and who knows we might have been able to get Mr. Hill in the off season anyway.
    For full dsiclosure, I’m from Indy and have been a life long Pacer fan, almost 35 years, but I am also an MSU graduate, so I have kept up with Faried’s career their. He will be akin to a Dennis Rodman, without all the sideshow distractions, and that would have been fun to watch in a blue and gold uniform.

  • Dustin Abel

    I am fairly certain things will get better after they get a few games under their belt. They’ve only been practicing and playing for a couple weeks due ot the lockout, and had an extra month away from basketball. I think after they get more time with George Hill and David West, and Granger gets into a rhythm offensively, that we’ll be fine.

    It’s too easy to agree with the statement on Hibbert. I said the same thing last year. He’s way too soft for being a 7’0” big man. Instead of dicking around in MMA gyms, he needs to hit the weights and put some lean body mass on that frame to throw around. He’s a suspect finisher as well. I can think of at least 20 different times, just off the top of my head, that he had opportunities to score at the bucket last year and couldn’t finish. It’s no wonder he’s a non-factor in the pick and roll. He has no mid-range game and he can’t finish at the bucket consistently!

    I still love him, though. He just needs to beef up and work on his finishing/face-up game.

  • Colby

    Overall, I agree with Tim. The big thing under Vogel’s post up offense is the fact Hibbert is as stated above, soft. Marshmallow soft. They can pass it inside to him like he’s “going to” post up but that’s all. Unless Hibbert beefs up and turns into a man instead of a freak looking high school junior he is, and will not be the future big man for this team. I loved him in college but that was college. All we have right now is a glorified college all-American team. I’ve never been a believer in Granger, but he’s never really had “quality” behind him until now. Problem is, in a shortened season it may not be enough for this young Pacers team to find their groove. There’s potential, but that’s what they said about the Shake-Weight. Here’s hoping.