Pacers Projected 9-man Rotation

Jan 5, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard C.J. Miles (center) drives between Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) and shooting guard Lance Stephenson (1) in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 5, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard C.J. Miles (center) drives between Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) and shooting guard Lance Stephenson (1) in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

What will the Indiana Pacers look like this year? That question is one of the reasons why they’ve fallen to 20th in ESPN’s Power Rankings. When you lose two of your biggest offensive weapons after a disappointing second half to the season, people do tend to wonder what’s wrong with you. Maybe if we had a better idea of what the Pacers starting rotation was going to look like, maybe that might inspire some more confidence.

“… but I don’t think we’re going to be in a situation where we’re gonna have 20-25 different starting lineups throughout the course of the year. I think we’ll settle in on what we think is our best starting lineup. If we have to make adjustments throughout the way I’m sure we’ll do it.” – Frank Vogel

That picture is slowly coming to focus as the season gets closer. After NBA Gametime’s interview with Paul George, they took a look at a projected nine-man rotation for the Indiana Pacers‘ upcoming season.

The keyword here is PROJECTED, but it is worth taking a look at what the Pacers might look like on Oct. 29th when they host the Philadelphia 76ers. Even when our own Jalen Bishop talked with Frank Vogel, the coach didn’t give away too much of what this season’s roster will look like. All he hinted at was wanting to have a consistent starting five.


PG: George Hill

SG: C.J. Miles

SF: Chris Copeland

PF: David West

C: Roy Hibbert

Bench Rotation

PG: C.J. Watson

SG: Rodney Stuckey

PF: Luis Scola

C: Ian Mahinmi

The big-man rotation is the same as last year with Hibbert being backed up by Mahinmi, but we’ll see Shayne Wittington come in after that. West will rest while Luis Scola gives him a break, and Damjan Rudez might rotate in some too. LaVoy Allen could see time at center and power depending on team needs.

Hill still starts at point guard and will be relieved by C.J. Watson, then Donald Sloan, so the same as last year.

But once we get to shooting guard and small forward it is apparent a lot has changed this off season.

Lance Stephenson headed off to Charlotte, leaving a 14-point per a game hole in the Pacers offense, and was also underrated defender. Coming in to take his place is C.J. Miles.

C.J. Miles vs Lance Stephenson

1C.J. Miles513419.
2Lance Stephenson787835.35.511.2.4911.13.1.3521.82.5.7117.

Provided by View Original Table

Miles started 34 of Cleveland’s 48 games before the All-Star break, but an ankle injury limited him to just 3 games the rest of the year. Just looking at the raw numbers he had less points and rebounds than Lance in his outings, but also played 15 minutes less a game and Lance was a rebound thief from other Pacers. Miles also was a better 3-point shooter by almost five percent but the edge goes to Stephenson in the defensive category. But making an apples-to-apples comparison between the two if difficult anyway due to the rolls they had. While Stephenson was more of a creator, Miles was playing with Kyrie Irving and wasn’t expected to handle the ball as much. However, I do think when you compare them on a 100 possession basis, I believe there is a chance Miles and at least fill in the points that will be missing from the offense in Born Ready’s absence.

1C.J. Miles51349.321.4.4354.311.1.3933.43.9.8535.
2Lance Stephenson78788.116.4.4911.64.6.3522.63.7.71110.

Provided by View Original Table

The biggest difference in their offensive games may be Miles ability to shoot 3-pointers at a better rate compared to Stephenson’s ability to drive to the basket and score. You are basically swapping 20 perfect of their shot attempts from around the rim to beyond the arc and their shooting efficiency is still roughly the same. Again, I don’t believe just because the numbers are fairer to Miles when they have equal possessions that it means Miles will easily fill in for Stephenson. He may not be able to go 30+ minutes like Stephenson did. But I think when you look at the numbers there is reason to believe Indiana won’t be able to find points from the shooting guard position. The defense is harder to determine, but we’ll have to watch closely in the opening games how Miles fits into the Indiana defensive scheme.

Chris Copeland/Solomon Hill vs Paul George

I laughed at myself typing that header, but that’s what has to happen this year with Paul George healing from his leg injury. One thing to hit on immediately. There is no way of replacing the way PG defended the wings. There is no chance in hell of that happening.  But let’s look at some of the numbers first.

1Paul George808036.
2Chris Copeland561315.
3Solomon Hill2808.

Provided by View Original Table

Well, looking at the offensive numbers it doesn’t look any better, and we’re even using Chris Copeland’s numbers from two years ago when he actually saw the court for more than six minutes a game. While Copeland was projected by NBA TV, there is reason to think second year player Solomon Hill might see some action as well. Neither Solomon Hill or Copeland has been a consistent starter, nor have they been “the guy” in their team’s offensive scheme. Copeland is a poor defender but was nearly hitting half his field goals and 42 percent of his 3-pointers two years ago. When the Pacers faced him two years ago in the playoffs he hit 11 of 17 three point attempts and showed the ability to kickstart an offense with that sort of play. Then he went to die on the Pacers’ bench in 2013-14.So does Vogel not trust him to play small forward? Was the depth with Granger and then Turner enough to leave him on the bench? We’ll find out soon enough. But even if Copeland is hitting 3-pointers at a fair rate, it is hard to see him averaging 21 points like George did. Copeland’s existence as a Pacers has primarily been beyond the arc and only 32 percent of his shots came inside the arc, and only 28 percent were around the basket. Copeland isn’t going to replace the driving, and-1 creating ways of PG, that’s for sure.

But what about Solomon Hill? He’s a bit of an unknown quantity. He played in 28 games last year, averaging about 8 mins when he did hit the floor. Solomon Hill split his time between the hoop and the 3-point line. With such limited time on the floor it is hard to know exactly what to expect from the 23rd pick two years ago. He showed he was decently efficient in the little time he was on the court, but it is much easier to perform against reserves that it will be to go against other teams starters.

Chris Copeland might get the nod to start the season, but his poor defense will most likely give way to Solomon Hill as the year wears on and the second year player gets experience under his belt. His defensive rating was much closer to PG’s than Copeland’s was, but he’ll need to show an ability to score against NBA starters before he gets a full time job in the Pacers line up.

Even if Copeland or Hill could replace Paul George’s offense (doubtful), the defensive boost PG gave the starting unit is going to be the bigger problem the Pacers face replacing their small forward.

Rodney Stuckey and the Second Unit

Rodney StuckeySG73526.

Provided by View Original Table

Last year Lance Stephenson ran the second unit after being the first starter to hit the bench. The ball heavy approach by Lance was an improvement, but the second unit still struggled to do more than keep pace or not lose the lead. This year it will be the 7-year veteran Rodney Stuckey filling in that role. Having a dedicated sixth-man instead of spacing out Lance’s minutes to allow him to run the second string may be the best chance to the Pacers to improve their bench in years. Stuckey will have the chance to do that when he takes the floor with what will likely be a rotation including C.J. Watson, Copeland/Solomon Hill, Luis Scola, and Ian Mahinmi. Stuckey may be a ball heavy player with a 24.3 usage rate, but he won’t have to worry about taking all the shots he can before he has to start giving up shots to PG as Lance did last year. There may be comparisons to make between Stuckey and Stephenson, but the roles will be completely different.  Stuckey managed to score 13.9 points a game last year coming off the bench, where as the Pacers best bench scorer, Scola, averaged 7.6. While Stuckey may be a shooting guard now, he came into the league as a point guard and averaged around five assists as a starter. If he’s willing to pass the ball more now even as a shooting guard, maybe we’ll see more bench production, but with Watson being the back-up point guard there is more reason to expect Stuckey to be more worried about scoring in his role with the Pacers. His defensive rating of 113 may look scary, but considering the Pistons had the 25th ranked defense last year, allowing 110 points a game, there is hope that number might come down with the Pacers. Either way, his offense will be needed in the second unit.

The Pacers just aren’t the same team anymore

More than worrying about whether the numbers game makes sense, can any of these guys replace the offense and defense that will be missing, it is important to remember this simply isn’t the same Indiana Pacers team of 2013-14. They aren’t going to be the same or play the same as they did a year ago. They’re going to have to adapt to survive and hope to makes the playoffs.

Stuckey might be able to improve the bench’s scoring, C.J. Miles can work to fill in the scoring gap left by Lance Stephenson. Maybe Vogel’s defensive scheme can do enough to hide their defensive inefficiencies.

There is reason to think they sky isn’t falling, but the tandem or Lance and PG not being here in the 2014-15 season knockout punch to any hopes of a championship. No team loses a franchise player to injury and can reasonably hope to make another run. It isn’t any fun to call the season over before it has even started, but this year is about seeing what pieces might fit with the Pacers future. There is no use comparing it to the past.