The Indiana Pacers are sitting pretty with the 16-2 record, but I still see room for improvement, specifically through the bench. This second unit is a good upgrade over last year’s and I believe the right pieces are there. But that’s not to say, those pieces can’t work on doing their parts better in the long run. There are a few areas I would address just to make the Pacers a more complete team.
This is the big issue with any bench unit. What consistency do you get? Luis Scola has been a great addition to the unit, but he’s not quite at that double figures in scoring each night. One night, he might go for 17 points and another night he’s hitting for 3 points. Now while I do love the more points out of him, he’s got to be right around that 10 point range in my mind to be useful for the same. I believe this same idea can be presented to C.J. Watson, who has looked more comfortable with the team as they’ve played more games. Maybe that’s what it will take for the bench to find their groove. Even the rotation is not set in stone, which could lead into my next point. That could be something to look at as well, a consistent rotation for the second unit.
More Playing Time
The starters of the Pacers are going to be playing big minutes. But you don’t want them run down by the end of the season before the playoffs start. Once you get to that part of the season, you play them as much as you can. But you want their minutes to be ready to go for that, and I believe now until then, the second unit might need to go extra minutes at times. If the consistency is there, then you feel comfortable playing that second unit more. Last night’s game was a good example how the starters were gassed a bit at the end. I know I saw a tweet stating that West was tugging on his shorts and looking exhausted at the end. Now, if you can limit his minutes a bit more in the first half, then you can push him more at the end of the game. C.J. Watson and Luis Scola probably need to be right around that 20 minutes a game range. I’d have Ian Mahinmi around that 15 minute range to make sure Roy Hibbert is getting enough of a breather. Then whatever minutes you throw to guys like Solomon Hill and Orlando Johnson only help those guys in the long run.
I bring up Chris Copeland by himself as I feel like we’ve seen those short glimpses of what he can do. But once again, the consistency issue comes up. This could actually be attributed to the rotation factor as Coach Vogel said he was looking at the right match up for Chris Copeland to be used. I think you just have to throw that out the window and see what you can get out of him no matter what. Why else bring in this guy if you’re not going to give him some minutes out there? What’s the point of waiting around and him not getting any rhythm going for the season? I don’t know if he’s that guy that can be cold for a month and start lighting it up. He needs to be out there shooting the ball and if he can work on his defensive side, even better. I know that’s probably the reason why he’s not out there as much, the defensive liability. But if you can give him some spurts during a game, then maybe that can work itself out a bit. I believe that soon Chris Copeland needs to be out there more often.
These are the major areas that I know this bench can get even better. You can tell me that this bench already looks better than last year’s, which I do agree. I think that Luis Scola has been a breath of fresh air in that power forward spot. He’s smart about his ball movement. He’s got a great looking shot at times. He can even drive it when he needs to. That trade for Scola is paying off well. Even C.J. Watson looks to be one of the more solid back up point guards this team has had in a while. I’m impressed with his play over the past few games, and hope that he can continue to provide something for this team at that position. The bench just needs to be there for the starters, so they’re not gasping for air in a highly contested playoff battle. Or even now in a game, where it could be the difference between a one seed and a two seed. If we can get the production out of the bench that’s expected, this team is that much better.