Here we are again. The postseason. Thus, this Pacers Player Playoff Preview. (Say that ten times fast.)
Indiana is in the playoffs for the third year in a row. The team hasn’t played that well of late losing five of six games after a nice, Western Conference road trip during which they won all four games. But looking forward to the playoffs, the Pacers can regain some momentum and confidence with a good series against the Hawks.
By now, all of the players’ roles have been determined.
Let’s look at what to expect from each on both sides of the floor.
Paul George has really emerged offensively this year. He’s averaging 5 more points than he did last year, and the main two ways he scores are off threes and driving to the basket for layups/dunks off of a pick. Sometimes he’ll also stop at mid range for the pull up and if he’s being guarded by a significantly smaller defender he can shoot turnaround jump shots off post ups.
The main surprise has been his three-point shooting. He has almost one more per game than last year and has made the tenth most in the league. He’s kinda struggled, though since the all star break, hitting only 32.2% of his 3’s as opposed to 38.6% pre-all star break.
It’s amazing how Paul George’s improvement on defense is what people are raving about when you think about how he’s averaging 5 more points a game. Nonetheless, the hype on his defense is justified as he is one of the candidates for defensive player of the year. He has consistently guarded the opponents’ top offensive wing player and has almost always done an effective job. He is also a major pest at playing the passing lanes finishing with the 6th most steals in the NBA.
The part about his defense that amazes me the most is how effective he’s able to be even when he’s not playing great offensively. Also, he did a great job on LeBron this season which could be key if the two teams are to meet in the playoffs.
David West has been a nice surprise offensively this season along with Paul George, averaging 4.3 more points per game. He’s very efficient, shooting almost 50% and out of all the Pacers he’s the one guy that I’d feel most confident with when you just need one basket.
He’s the human bulldozer. When he gets post up opportunities he can bully his way closer to the basket and then out of nowhere, pulls out his patented one legged fade-away, which is incredibly efficient (per nba.com, he’s shooting 65% on both fade-away jump shots & turnaround jump shots).
He can also be very effective playing the pick n’ roll/pick n’ pop game with George Hill. He’s got a killer mid range shot; he turns one of the least efficient shots in the NBA into a deadly weapon. Almost 40% of his shots come from mid-range, where he’s shooting 47%.
David West helps set the tone for the interior D with Roy Hibbert, averaging nearly a block a game. His defense can often be overlooked but he’s great pick n’ roll defender, which can be very helpful against the Hawks and Knicks, who’ve been effective with the P n’ R. David West might not be getting love for defensive player of the year, but there’s no doubt he’s been on of the main reasons the Pacers boast the leagues best defense.
He can guard any power forward in the league the exception of the likes of Durant, Melo’, etc… He has struggled somewhat with stretch forwards who’ve got good mid-range shots (Thad Young, Kris Humphries, etc…) but it’s unlikely he’ll have to go against one in the playoffs.
George Hill’s offense can be very subtle at times, you’ll be surprised to see he’s scored 15 points or so. He’s pretty deadly when left open beyond the arc and he’s also been very effective with the pick n’ roll. He does that Chris Paul thing where you go under the screen and wait a second to see whether he’s open enough to shoot it or if someone else is open. For someone his size (6″2) he’s been surprisingly good at driving to the basket.
A lot of times George Hill is deemed more of a scorer than a playmaker, which is true considering that he’s a point guard. But, I think his playmaking is still very under rated. He doesn’t put up crazy assists numbers, in fact he’s only reached 10 twice this season, but he’s very good at setting up the offense whether it’s getting it to Roy Hibbert in the post, getting it to Paul George for a pick n’ roll, etc…
The two things, though that I like most about George’s offense are how he looks to score in the clutch and how he always stops the bleeding. He’s averaging 14.8 points per 36 min in normal situations, in the clutch (last 5 min, score <=5), however, he’s averaging 24 points per 36 min. Whenever the Pacers are allowing the other team to get on a run, George Hill makes sure to stop it. Whether it’s getting to the basket for the layup or zipping the ball to a team mate under the basket he closes up those wounds.
As with all the Pacers starters, George Hill’s defense has been very good. However, he’s struggled against the bigger point guards like D-Will and Westbrook who can post him up. His length is his greatest asset on defense where he’s gotten pretty good at playing the passing lanes averaging a steal a game. There’s no need to worry unless somehow the Pacers end up playing the Nets because Deron Williams has abused him.
Roy Hibbert got off to a very bad start to the year offensively, making fans wonder if he’d been paid too much money this off season.
Since the all star break? It’s like it’s been a whole new player offensively. He’s averaging more points, more free throws attempted & made, higher field goal percentage and higher free throw percentage. He’s had 15.4 points per game on 50.5% shooting post all star break, compared to 10 points per game on 41.4% shooting pre all star break.
Look for the Pacers to pound the ball to Roy early and often. He’s developed an arsenal of post moves that is arguably the best in the league. Before this season all he had was the hook shot which he was good at from the right and decent from the left hand. This season he’s become very good at the hook from both sides, added in a running hook to his game and most surprising of all is that when you’re least expecting it he’ll pull out a nice looking up and under.
Roy has got a 4 inch height advantage on Al Hofford so look for the Pacers to try and take advantage of that.
This is Roy’s bread and butter. When you got a 7″2 human being asked to stand near a basket and disrupt opponents’ shots, it’s gonna make a difference. When that player who is good at it, disciplined and works hard to disrupt shots you get one of the best defensive forces in the league. Roy Hibbert is one of the leading candidates for defensive player of the year and he has the second highest defensive rating behind Tim Duncan.
The most efficient shot in the NBA is the layup or shots taken in the restricted area. That’s why teams make it a priority on defense to defend the paint. Few (if any) defend the paint better than Roy Hibbert as the Pacers hold opponents to a league best 53.3% shooting less than 5 feet from the basket. When teams play the Pacers, while Roy Hibbert is on the court, they are taking less shots in the paint than their average on a lower field goal percentage.
One of Hibbert’s only struggles defensively is guarding the pick n’ roll which could become a problem if teams put him in it frequently.
Lance Stephenson is the Pacers best fast break player and because of his size he’s probably one of the better one on one fast break players in the league. When the Pacers are settling for too many perimeter shots, Lance usually tries to get to the basket. It’s a little scary, though, that the Pacers best player at getting to the basket is also one of their worst free throw shooters (65.2%).
Lance was in somewhat of a slump post all star break, his 3 points shooting percentage has gone down to 28.6% from 35.2% pre all star. He’s also been getting to the free throw line much less, attempting 1.3 less free throws per game since all star break.
He has gotten better though in the past 7 games. His 3 point shooting is back up to 35% in that span and he’s shooting almost 70% on free throws while averaging 3.3 attempts per game.
If Lance can average 10+ points per game it will be very helpful to the Pacers offense.
Lance Stephenson’s defense has improved greatly this season. He does a good job defending one on one and his 6″10 wingspan is very helpful playing the passing lanes. He averages 1 steal a game and has come up with some key late game steals that have led to Pacers wins.
He still has some defensive break downs but overall, he has become way better than he was at the start of the season.
Gerald Green’s offense consists of almost only 3 things:
- 3 point shooting – even though he comes off the bench he averages the 3rd most attempted threes on the Pacers. He’s not an amazing three point shooter but he’s a streaky shooter, so when a few go in, a lot go in.
- Dunks – he doesn’t drive to the basket too often but the Pacers will run set plays for him sometimes to get an alley oop. He’s also had his share of transition alley oops.
- Post – he’s got a pretty good turnaround jumper off of post ups, so look for him to take advantage of that if he’s being defended by a shorter player.
Hopefully his career high 34 points against the 76ers can give him some momentum going into the playoffs.
Unfortunately, Gerald only seems to put an effort on defense when his shots are falling down on offense. I can remember a few times this season when he’s missed a three on offense then either allowed an open 3 on defense or allowed his man to get past him to the basket.
On the flip side, when he’s hitting his shots, he seems to put a big effort into defense. For example, last game against the 76ers, he hit a three on one end than right after that easily blocked an Evan Turner layup attempt.
Tyler’s points come mostly off of mid range jumpers, offensive rebound putbacks and free throws. His mid range shooting, usually one of his strengths, has been pretty horrendous this season. He’s shooting a disgusting 28.9% from the mid range.
His greatest asset is his ability to get to the free throw line, he averages 7.9 free throw attempts per 36 minutes, which is 4th best in the league (among players who’ve played over 1,000 minutes). His free throw shooting could be better, but 72% isn’t bad for someone his position.
His offensive rebounding is also great, he averages 4.2 per 36 minutes, which is ninth in the league among players who have played 1,000+ minutes (by the way Roy is 3rd on that list).
Almost any player that is known for their high motor is going to be good defensively. This is the case with Tyler. He’s very good at running the opposing players towards half court coming off of screens.
He has caused some problems, though against point guards who are good at splitting the screen (Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, etc…) when he doesn’t get there fast enough.
For the first half of the season Ian was one of the Pacers best bench scorers. He was knocking down shots from mid range, he was getting to the free throw line and was finishing his shots at the rim. This continued into February, which was pretty much his best month of the season.
However, since then he’s been an offensive liability. His shooting percentage in March & April has dropped to 41% (compared to 47% in games before March), he’s missing more than half of his 1.7 free throw attempts per game (42% on free throws) and as of late he just seems extremely hesitant to shoot (1.8 field goals attempted per game in April).
Also I can’t write something about Ian without mentioning his brick hands.
If this keeps up in the playoffs I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pendy completely overtake Ian’s role.
In the first half of the season it was his defense which made him the most effective bench player. Now that his offense has disappeared, he’s getting playing time solely off of his defense. He’s one of the better backup rim protectors in the league, lowering most opponents field goal percentages in the paint and restricted area.
His defense has dropped off too much during his offensive slump, which is a good sign, however Pendy has pretty much matched Ian’s defensive effectiveness.
D.J. hasn’t been as effective as the Pacers would have liked this season. Most of his offensive stats are down from last year (per 36 minutes). He isn’t nearly as aggressive as he was in Charlotte and he seems to have lost his playmaking ability that he showed flashes of with the Bobcats.
His scoring has come off of threes mostly (more than 55% of his points come off of threes) and he shoots more than 65% of his shots from beyond the arc. His 3 point shooting percentage was off the charts in January and February, shooting 43% in those months. Since then, however, it’s fallen to 34%.
For the most part D.J.’s defense has been decent but since he is undersized, teams will look to exploit that by posting up against him with taller guards.
Orlando had a great start to the season with his three point shooting, posting 46.4% from downtown before all star break. Since then it’s dropped down to 34.8%, which is still pretty good.
He boasts great ball handling skills which have made him look like a poor man’s Jamal Crawford at times this season. He’s great at getting to the basket off the dribble resulting in 23.3% of his shots coming in the restricted area, a number nearly unheard of for a guard, let alone one who is a rookie.
Orlando has had his share of defensive miscues this season, but considering he’s a rookie, his defense had been great. His 7 foot wingspan helps him consistently disrupt opponents; shots.
What the Pacers saw defensively from Orlando in training camp after the draft was one of the main reasons the team felt comfortable trading away Dahntay Jones. Although, he might not get too much playing time during the post season, he looks to have a very bright future with the Pacers.
Pendy is the “hidden gem” for the Pacers this post season and it seems like he has a likely chance of completely overtaking Ian’s backup role.
He forms a great pick n’ roll duo when he’s on the court with George Hill. He’s got a very good mid range shot and he’s also able to finish at the rim. He’s shooting 42.2% from mid range, 61.5% from in the paint and 55.2% in the restricted area. He’s also a great free throw shooter, shooting 91% on the season and 86% for his career.
I’m aware that he hasn’t too large of a sample size but I’d love to see the Pacers try to match the Knicks small ball lineup with Chris Copeland by putting in Pendy.
For the past month or so Pendy’s defense has pretty much been on par with Ian’s which is the main reason he soaking up more and more minutes. His offense has always been the strongest part of his game, but what he’s shown recently defensively is what could eventually lead to him overtaking Ian’s role.
When the Pacers came back to beat the Cavs last week, Pendy was surprisingly the defensive anchor. Ever since then he’s been playing top notch defense and he just gives the Pacers good minutes every time he’s put on the court.
Shoots the ball at 39%
Can stay in front of the player he’s guarding.
Tags: Playoff Preview