Donald Sloan, remember him?
The former Texas A&M Guard and NBA journeyman might see a little more action this year as Lance Stephenson is gone and the role of shooting guard is in flux.
Sloan may be down the depth chart, but with the shooting guard and small forward spots vacated, the backup roles aren’t locked down yet. George Hill wand C.J. Watson had the starting and back up roles last year, but there is a chance Watson might see more minutes. With so many changes to both the starters and the backups it’s hard to figure out exactly where Sloan might land in the rotation, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of him this upcoming season.
But is he ready?
Sloan hasn’t earned the right to say he should get more playing time, seeing as he shot 37.6 percent from the field during his 8.2 minutes per game last year. With the 4.7 minute drop from his 2012-13 season in Cleveland, his production diminished in direct proportion.
After playing in the 2014 Summer League, he feels a lot better about his game, and knows anything can happen in a given season. Just take a look at the Los Angeles Lakers, who had to call up two members of the D-League last year — Manny Harris and Kendall Marshall — just to complete a rotation.
His form is improving, and all it takes is a few minutes in a game during the season to shine. You have to be ready and prepared, regardless of when that time is going to come. Because, at the same time, all it takes is a few appearances of mediocrity to find yourself back at the bottom of the barrel
Young points out you can’t put a ton of stock in summer league and that Sloan may still end up just filling out the roster, but there is still a lot of unknowns in Indiana. It is still hard to say exactly who will being what roles. Maybe C.J. Miles plays some shooting guard, maybe Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles see time too, but there is a chance we see a bit more of Sloan than we saw a year ago.
So should Pacers fans be optimistic? Well, let’s take a look.
We only saw him sparingly in the first few months of the season, playing in 27 games between November and February. Pre All-Star Break he played about five minutes a game but as the season wore on he doubled up on his minutes. He played in 21 games after the break and saw a dip in shooting percentage as he scored around three points a game. Just like the Pacers team, he began to regress and went from being a net positive on the floor to a -19.1 net rating. While he played better in his one start, the back ups’ win against the Bucks and had a -5.9 rating, it wasn’t as if Sloan set the world on fire. A small sample size (sarcasm), but better than the other games if that means any thing.He struggled in the Bucks game to finish at the rim, one of the reasons why he wasn’t an efficient shooter last season either. He had one of the team’s lowest eFG percentages both in the regular season and in the playoffs. The numbers from last year didn’t exactly trend towards a Sloan renaissance.
But maybe that’s what Young was getting at. He didn’t develop well as a player last year because he never saw significant minutes. Perhaps working with better players AND getting into the game more will allow him to settle in to get comfortable and be a better player.
Averaging two turnovers per 36 minutes last season during his time on the court, Sloan has to get a better sense of how to take care of the ball. That only comes with time and minutes, things he probably won’t see with this crowded roster.
For the Pacers, it’s not crowded with talent. Roy Hibbert is going to feel insurmountable pressure since the team’s No. 1 option went down, and likely damage his efficiency when he increases his offensive load. Thus, the team is crowded with average offensive players that will fighting to prove their playoff worth. It’s a bad recipe for Vogel, who isn’t close to the label of an offensive mastermind.
Sloan has been battling to find a niche with a team, and to keep a steady job. The Pacers have given him another shot, but you have to do more than just award a contract to expect results. You have to test their limits on the court, against real competition.