Luis Scola: Age Aint Nothing But a Number

Apr 5, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Luis Scola (4) dunks against Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson (8) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 112-89. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Luis Scola (4) dunks against Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson (8) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 112-89. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Luis Scola has most likely heard the phrase “father time is undefeated.” But he appears to be taking the “fine wine” approach to aging, improving his vintage as the years pass.

Scola had a minor resurgence in his second year in a Pacers uniform, showing improvement across the board. Whether due to increased opportunities given all the team’s injuries, fresher legs, or just a better understanding of coach Frank Vogel’s system, Luis looked closer to the player he was before coming the Pacers.

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Despite early-season struggles that left many Pacers fans dubious that he had anything left in the tank, Scola improved his per-game averages across the board. His points (7.6 to 9.4), rebounds (4.8 to 6.5), assists (1.0 to 1.3), and steals (0.3 to 0.6) all increased. Scola’s slight rise in minutes (17.1 to 20.5) certainly didn’t hurt, but the eye test agrees with the math: Scola only played about 7% more of the available minutes, but increased his averages by significantly more while maintaining the exact same effective field-goal percentage (47.1%) on more attempts. He was more active on defense and on the glass, was more aggressive on the offensive end, and was a genuinely committed runner to boot.

Larry Bird specifically mentioned wanting Scola back during his end-of-the-year press conference, but a lot will depend on what Luis is looking for. He’s likely to get somewhat more lucrative offers from elsewhere; the Pacers will not have a ton of cap room to work with unless David West and/or Roy Hibbert opt out of their final years (approximately $12 million and $15 million, respectively), and Scola is both a useful player and a good veteran presence for any playoff team.

The Pacers also will look at re-signing Rodney Stuckey, a guy who played for minimum salary last year but will likely command a pay raise this year. Bird did mention that some guys said they wanted to stay here regardless of money, but didn’t mention any of those players by name. It would seemingly be a 50/50 proposition on whether or not Scola returns, but it’s likely that Bird, Vogel, and the team would welcome the return of Luis Scola.

Relevant GIF

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Key 2014-2015 Stats

  • 16.8 PER
  • 9.4 PPG
  • 6.5 RPG
  • 47.1% eFG
  • 22.8% Usage Rate

What Went Right, What Went Wrong

Luis Scola had his best season as an Indiana Pacer in 2014-15 amidst the chaos that represented the Pacers’ year. With the blue and gold needing more out of Scola while playing him alongside inexperienced guys like Donald Sloan, Solomon Hill, and Lavoy Allen, Scola delivered modestly. Scola arguably outperformed started David West for a good portion of the season, though he lacked West’s skill as a sneaky passing big man. If we delve into the advanced stats, Scola

  • had the highest PER (16.8) since his 2010-11 campaign
  • had the best Total Rebound Percentage (an estimate of the % of available rebounds the player grabbed while they were on the floor) of his career at 17.5%
  • had the best 3-pt shooting year of his career, at a modest 25% (on 20 attempts)
  • nearly doubled his win shares (an estimate of how many wins an individual player contributed) from 2.5 to 4.4

Luis truly had a solid season across the board, and broke out a ridiculous number of old man style post moves, routinely going under, around, and seemingly through defenders on his way to well defended layups. If we were to look for a place Scola struggled, however, we’d need to look no further than 15 feet from the basket; the free throw line. Before signing with Indiana, Scola’s last two years from the charity stripe were solid; 77.3% and 78.7%, respectively. Since joining the blue and gold, Scola has shot only 71% from the line, including the worst performance since his rookie year last season, 69.9%. Dropping almost 9% over a two year span is concerning, and Luis seemed to have a significant number of 1-of-4 days at the line with big misses.

How He Scores

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The above spiderweb chart shows, via, what types of possessions lead to his points in 2014-15. (created by Tim Donahue, follow @TimDonahue8p9s)

Luis Scola’s offensive chart is very very similar to that of David West; they both paint a picture of a guy who needs the ball delivered from teammates for the bulk of their scoring, a guy that excels as the screener in pick-and-roll situations, in the post, and as a spot-up shooter.

None of this is surprising if you’ve seen Scola play, as these are visible strong suits of his. What may come as a bit of a surprise, and where he differs from West, is his scoring in transition and on putbacks.

Scola was aggressive on the break in 2014-15, turning hounding defensive pressure when his man was a high screener into steals and layups with unexpected regularity. His aggressiveness on the glass (as referenced earlier in his career high TRB%) also paid off with a good number of his points coming on putback possessions.

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As you can see here from Scola’s shot chart, he was most effective from two distinct places: above the free -hrow line straight on, and just outside of the restricted area, straight on. These speak to Scola’s strengths as a scorer; receiving kickouts as a screener in the high pick and roll, and using his old-man post game to get to the middle of the lane and finish with his right hand. Again, he is very similar to David West in the sense that his game relies on very little athleticism.

It wouldn’t be shocking to see Scola continue to produce with reasonable efficiency and productivity until he decided he no longer wants to do it anymore, rather than a guy being forced to retire due to lack of ability to produce.

Luis Scola’s Future in Indiana

Luis Scola was the fifth-highest-paid Pacer in the 2014-15 season at about $4.9 million. That is not an absurd salary for a versatile, reliable backup big man who played in 81 games. But it’s doubtful the Pacers will be in a position to pay that kind of contract again in 2015-16, especially for a 35-year-old backup power forward.

The Pacers offseason is still very much in a state of flux, however. It’s possible that Roy Hibbert and/or David West could opt out of their deals, leaving more room to bring Scola back on a short deal.

Next: David West is Old and Fading, but Still had a Lot to Give This Year

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