Player Preview: Luis Scola, Fighting Father Time

Oct 23, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Luis Scola (4) talks to coach Frank Vogel during a time out during the first half of the game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 23, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Luis Scola (4) talks to coach Frank Vogel during a time out during the first half of the game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports /

Luis Scola is the Kobe Bryant of the Indiana Pacers.

That sounds like a farfetched statement from just about any angle you look at it, except for the fact that they’ve both been playing professional basketball for over half of their lives.

Scola played his first minutes of pro basketball at age 15 for Farro Carril Oeste in Argentina, and he hasn’t stopped knocking down mid-range jumpers since. It wasn’t until 2007 that he joined the Houston Rockets and began his NBA career, but Scola was already a veteran of the game at that point.

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Luckily for the rest of the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs, who drafted Luis in 2002, weren’t able to buy out his overseas contract and were eventually forced to trade his rights away to the Rockets. A Duncan/Scola front court in the 2005-10 era would have been an absolute nightmare for the league to defend.

After five high-caliber seasons on the Rockets and a single season with the Phoenix Suns, the Indiana Pacers acquired Scola in a trade that involved Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, and a lottery-protected first-round draft pick.

Nearly 20 years into his pro career, Scola experienced something he has never seen before last season. He was a full-blown role player. The 2013-14 season was undoubtedly a difficult adjustment for Scola due to his drastic decrease in playing time, but I believe he was still a key piece to the positive elements of the Pacers’ season.

Nearly 20 years into his pro career, Luis Scola experienced something he has never seen before last season. He was a full-blown role player.

Per game, Luis Scola averaged 17.1 minutes, 7.6 points, and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 47% from the field. While those numbers aren’t astonishing, they are actually very solid for a player with his role.

Here are a few stats you may not have noticed that can validate some of the on-court effectiveness that Scola provided last season (compared to Pacers’ starter, David West):

  • Per 48 minutes, Scola averages 21.5 points which ranks 24th among qualified power forwards in the league. David West is 23rd on that list with 21.7, via ESPN.
  • Scola ranks 13th (45%) in the NBA for best catch-and-shoot FG% among qualifying players (at least 3 attempts per game and 50 games played). David West is first on that list at 51.6%, according to

The Pacers have a pretty savvy front office. Larry Bird and Co. would not give up one of the most freakishly athletic players in the league, a rookie with potential, and a draft pick for Scola without an immense amount of confidence in Luis. The Pacers wanted Luis Scola, the man, not just the basketball player.

He’s a veteran. A responsible, family-oriented, hard-working individual that follows an age-defying diet and training program. He has exceptional hair. He plays the game the “right” way and has more accolades to him name than most players on the Pacers.

  • 1 Olympic gold medal
  • 1 Olympic bronze medal
  • 2 Spanish League MVP awards
  • 3 All-Euroleague honors
  • 1 NBA All-Rookie First Team honor
  • 3 FIBA Americas MVP awards
  • 2 FIBA Americas gold medals

I don’t care that he runs at the speed of molasses or that slipping a deck of cards beneath his feet at the peak of his vertical leap is probably impossible. The guy is a pure professional both on and off the court and that is the type of player Indiana likes, wants and needs to surround their young talent.

So, what can we expect from Luis Scola this season?

I will look for him to be more aggressive in his role. He might take a few extra shots or commit an extra loose ball foul battling for a rebound because he knows his playing time will be limited to 15-18 minutes per game. Who knows, maybe he makes those few extra shots. Maybe he gets away with the push in the back and gets an offensive rebound to keep a possession alive. Not that he didn’t do a great job at times last season, but he’ll maximize every second on the court this year in a major way.

You can expect him to be more aggressive as a leader in the locker room as well. Without Paul George, who lead by example on the court, and Lance Stephenson, who lead in many unique ways, someone will have to step up.

What Indiana needs is a consistent level of production and leadership from Luis Scola. Never forget: Scola dropped 44 points against the Nets in 2010. He shot 80% from the field that night. More recently, he laid 20 points, on 14 shots, on the Atlanta Hawks in a critical Game 2 Pacers win last postseason.

A few big games here and there from Scola would do wonders for Indiana this year. But what they need mostly is just some semblance of consistency, and if he doesn’t have to face another injury like the elbow issues he suffered last season, that should be possible.

And if not — and if Scola has to live through another awful year in Indiana — at least he will have had a strange end to a long, professional career that has taken him to three difference continents.

– Justin Ochoa (follow @Justin_M_Ochoa)

Relevant GIF

Archer - Luis Scola2
Archer - Luis Scola2 /

If you plan to follow the 2014-15 Indiana Pacers, you’ll need a sense of humor. Laugh so you don’t cry. And what’s funnier than Archer? Nothing. Nothing is the answer.

Key 2013-14 Stats

  • 13.4 player efficiency rating (PER)
  • 7.6 points per game
  • 4.8 rebounds per game
  • 47.1% eFG%
  • 23.8% usage rate

One Key Question

Will minutes translate to consistency for Luis Scola?

The Situation: Luis Scola had a very up and down first year with the Indiana Pacers, occasionally putting up points in flurries (Game 2 against Atlanta in the playoffs), while disappearing for entire games on other nights. Scola possesses a smooth midrange jumper and a variety of creative finishes inside; he is a polished scorer, though his age is now making him an unreliable producer.

Best-case Scenario: Scola sees more minutes, both subbing for West and playing alongside him, and it becomes apparent that additional minutes help him find his rhythm. The Pacers wind up with a two-headed monster at the power forward spot, giving both adequate rest and adequate attempts, and forcing opposing coaches to game plan for both players.

Worst-case Scenario: Scola’s age and the difference between international play and NBA play are his downfall, and consistency is something that’s beyond his reach at this point. He continues to alternate between a sweet shooting, scoring forward and a hesitant, overmatched defensive liability.

Prediction: Luis Scola plays roughly the same as last season, struggling to find consistency, and misses Lance Stephenson’s contributions more than anyone else. By the end of the year, we’re seeing more of Lavoy Allen and less of Scola.

– William Furr (follow @Will_Furr)

How He Scores

Luis Scola
Luis Scola /

The above spiderweb chart shows, via Synergy Sports, what types of possessions lead to his points in 2013-14. (created by Tim Donahue, follow



Spots ups, pick and pops, and post ups rule the day for Scola. But if you note the percentage of his points he managed to pick up in transition, off of the offensive glass, and on cuts (roughly 35% combined), you’ll see that his reputation as a clever, diverse scorer is well earned. Even in a down year for him, he managed to have a more well-rounded spiderweb chart than many other Pacers.

Luis Scola
Luis Scola /

His 2013-14 shot chart, via Nylon Calculus

Good god, Luis Scola. Make a layup already. It is interesting that Scola still fared so well in the midrange despite a loooong mid- and late-season slump in his shooting. But would it kill you to hit a few more of your attempts in the paint? Is this age overcoming his craftiness or something that he can improve in 2014-15?

Sweatin’ Bullets

sweatin bullets
sweatin bullets /

Sweatin’ Bullets is an 8p9s tradition started by Jonny Auping in which we offer standalone facts, observations, and commentary, often devoid of context or fairness.

  • Luis Scola was generally a beast in Argentina’s FIBA run. He has always done great in international play, and it says something about that style that he was able to do so this summer at such an advanced age.
  • Luis Scola finished the year with an offensive rating of a lowly 96, via Basketball-Reference. Team-wise, the offensive ratings weren’t great, but Scola was the only full-year rotation player to finish lower than 100. (Evan Turner also had a 97 in his 27 games.)
  • This has nothing to do with Luis Scola really, but I was in Buenos Aires in June and, man, is the steak and wine there amazing and you can consume it in nice restaurants for like $20. Supremely drinkable malbecs cost $3 in grocery stores. You should go.

Further Reading