Last season the Indiana Pacers were ranked fourth from last in fast break points, but that has a good bit to do with the style of play coach Frank Vogel decides for the team. It also didn’t matter as much with the league’s best 96.7 defensive efficiency. It also didn’t as matter because it wasn’t as if the Pacers weren’t capable of kicking the ball to Lance Stephenson or Paul George for some amazing plays.
The Pacers fast break, or lack there of, is now a much bigger issue. The good news for Indiana is only 9.9 percent of their points came off fast breaks (about 9.5 points a game), the bad news would be that out of the starters from last year, those two led the way in fast break scoring as Stephenson scored 13.9 percent of his points on fast breaks while PG and George Hill were tied at 12.7 percent. Sure, George Hill was tied with Paul George in percentage, but he lacked aggressiveness as the season wore on. That may change now, but it is a hope, not a guarantee. It is important though to remember that even though they didn’t rely on fast breaks to remain in games, the ability to score on them helps open up the floor and changes how teams react to missed shots. Even if the Pacers weren’t running and gunning off misses, teams still had to respect what PG or Lance could do in the fast break. In particular Stephenson was the biggest fast break threat as he found ways to turn one-on-five situations into points. Even if wasn’t the one scoring on fast breaks, the threat of him sprinting down the floor often ended up with an entire defense looking at him while other Pacers drifting into shooting areas.
Again, it isn’t as if Indiana relied on these points heavily to win games, but they were still nearly 10 percent of their scoring. It was going to be hard to replace the offense of Stephenson, but replacing that scoring and pace as well as Paul George’s is a big ask. Rodney Stuckey’s more uptempo pace (20.6 percent of his points were on fast breaks) and C.J. Miles’s (16.1 percent) may help, but only Stuckey played any where near the amount of minutes that Lance or Paul George did.
The Pacers slow pace and at least the appearance of no discernible offensive plan led to an in affective offense. The Pacers ranked near the bottom of the league in points per a touch last year despite being in the top half in the number of total touches. That to me, at least, says that the Pacers may have been passing the ball when they got into the half court, but they didn’t appear to have a solid plan when they arrived there. That brings me back to my point of why these fast break points will matter for the Pacers. If they don’t find a way to add a jolt of energy into the offense, then it will be harder to produce wins relying solely on defense and the, and I quote, “league’s worst non-Philly offense last season after February 1“. That’s with George and Stephenson on the team… gulp.
In the wake of Paul George’s horrific injury, the Pacers will likely start Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles on the wing barring any upgrade to the roster. Miles can’t dribble in the half-court, and Stuckey can’t shoot. The Pacers were the league’s worst non-Philly offense last season after February 1, and it’s hard to see them sniffing league-average production on that end without both George and Lance Stephenson. No lineup without both of those guys logged more than 28 minutes last season, per NBA.com.
Stephenson and George made for a mighty, long-armed defensive pairing on the wing; Stuckey and Miles are both downgrades. Indy still has Hibbert in the middle and a sound scheme, but it could fall to something like eighth or 10th in points allowed per possession after ranking no. 1 with a bullet last season. Combine that sort of defense with a bottom-five offense, and you’ve got a team fighting for one of the last two playoff spots in the East.
Within the team, Lowe points out Vogel might have to make major changes to the offense to use Chris Copeland and Damjan Rudez properly. Bob Dylan once wrote, The times, they are a-changin. We will find out if
Ron Burgundy Vogel has ever heard that song.
Change may come from some of the free agents the Indiana is rumored to be targeting might be able to help replace some of that fast break scoring. Shawn Marion go 20.6 percent of his points on fast breaks last season, on a Dallas Maverick team that scored 11.7 percent of their points in that fashion. Chris Douglas-Roberts also could fill that role as he scored 24.8 percent of his points that way on a Charlotte
Bobcats Hornets team that ran a similar pace (10.5 percent) to Indiana.
Those numbers may be larger than the players they need to replace, but with a possible drop in defensive efficiency, the Pacers are going to need to find a new way to score points.
Until we know what roster Indiana is carrying into the season, there are a lot more questions around the Pacers than answers.