(Photo: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

The Pacers' Struggle: No C.J. Watson, Big Problems

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C.J. Watson has essentially missed the Pacers’ last 11 games. Indiana is 5-6 in these match ups. Now, there are certainly a lot of other issues that this team is struggling through, but Watson is the only reliable backup point guard on the roster, and the reserve-unit offense has been ugly without him on the floor.

Overall this season, Indiana has scored 100.1 points per 100 possessions with Watson on the floor. This isn’t a very good number but it isn’t that far below the team’s overall scoring rate of 101.9 points/100. On the other end, the team has allowed just 93.2 points/100 with C.J. out there — which is even better than the team’s overall 95.5 points/100 allowed.

While Watson hasn’t brought the 3-point shooting to the team that Indiana’s front office likely hoped when it brought him in (he is a lowly 33.6% behind the arc), these numbers show that C.J. has otherwise filled his role: He is another good back-court defender for Indiana and someone who can run the offense with some degree of competence while George Hill rests.

Getting back to shooting for a second, it’s important to note that Watson has actually been deadly in spotting up from the corner, and a great shooter in the mid-range. His high volume of above-the-break 3s is killing his overall percentage (especially on the left wing, where he is an unthinkably bad 4-for-36 on the year), but he has been a blessing in hitting jumpers from everywhere else.

C.J. Watson Shooting, 2013-14

CJ

Moreover, early in the year our own Tim Donahue noted how his new Pacer teammates had embraced him on and off the floor, with David West calling him a “winning-play guy.”

Here’s more from Frank Vogel and West on what Watson was adding.

“A huge lift,” Pacer Coach Frank Vogel said when asked what Watson provides in the fourth quarter. “Our starters come in and punch you in third quarters, and our bench guys come in and give a counter punch. Can’t say enough about C.J.”

David West credited Watson’s ability to stay within himself without being hesitant. “If the shot is there, he takes it,” West said. “Particularly in fourth quarters. He knows we’ve got opportunities to win games. He just makes winning plays.

“He’s a ‘winning play guy’.”

At the time (January 10), Watson’s fourth-quarter shooting percentage was 49%. It has dipped a bit since then, falling to 47.5%, but he has been absolutely lights out from the corners and the midrange for Indiana while averaging just over 6:30 minutes in final periods this year.

CJ 2

His absence has left a huge hole in the rotation for the past 11 games. (After sitting out awhile with a shoulder injury, he did actually play in one game against Philadelphia on March 14. But he hurt his hamstring in the second quarter and hasn’t returned since.)

Donald Sloan is Indiana’s third-string point guard, and while he means well and isn’t a complete disaster, he just should not be expected to produce on a team that has such high standards. He just doesn’t have the ability yet.

Since Watson started missing games, the Pacers have scored a disastrous 87.3 points per 100 possessions while Sloan has been on the court. The defense stinks, too (allowing 103.9 points/100).

Frank Vogel knows this is a problem and he has tried to use Evan Turner at the point at times and Lance Stephenson has also been burdened with the task on occasion.

Neither of those experiments has worked successfully.

No, the fact is that there probably is no good solution.

He is far from a star and few casual fans even know his name, but the Pacers desperately need C.J. Watson back on the court.

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Tags: C.J. Watson Donald Sloan Indiana Pacers

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