C.J. Watson A Solid Backup, But Time In Indiana May Be Over

Feb 9, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard C.J. Watson (32) dives for a loose ball against the San Antonio Spurs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 9, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard C.J. Watson (32) dives for a loose ball against the San Antonio Spurs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

That headline may be the laziest one I’ve written in a while, but I can’t think of how exactly to describe C.J. Watson more accurately. His consistency makes describing his play boring in some ways. There aren’t a lot of up’s and down’s, there is just solid, steady, C.J. Watson.

He comes in and scores 10 points, sets up his teammates and allowed the starters to rest without the lead slipping away. Indiana’s bench went from being a joke to the league’s 2nd best, and part of that reason is Watson. It wasn’t just that he was getting more time and juicing his numbers with all the injuries the Indiana Pacers faced. It was one of the more productive and efficient seasons of his career as he played extended minutes and started 21 games with George Hill sidelined for about half of the season.

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But while George Hill’s and Rodney Stuckey’s injuries created an opportunity for Watson, his own health stopped him from playing as often as Indiana needed him. Watson didn’t play in 25 games this season with a variety of ailments and it looks like Larry Bird isn’t interested in bringing him back for that very reason. The salary cap issues the Pacers face will be difficult enough and counting on an oft injured player isn’t the best investment Indiana can make.

Watson’s time in Indiana is likely over, but that doesn’t mean his career is at its end. He’s going to come off the bench for somebody next season to drop in some buckets, dish some assists, and keep the lead from fading away.

Relevant GIF

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Key 2014-15 Stats

  • 15.4 player efficiency rating (PER)
  • 10 points per game
  • 3.6 assists per game
  • 51.8  eFG%
  • 18.8 usage rate

What Went Right, What Went Wrong

Watson had highs in PER, eFG% and he had the second best season in his career as far as assists and points per a game go. He played more minutes than all but one season in his career and his numbers didn’t fall under the pressure of extended play. Watson did what you want your back up point guard to do: Come in, score a few points, and not lose the lead. The Pacers had the second best bench in the league this season and that’s something that can’t be ignored when we saw in recent seasons that a lack of solid 2nd unit was killing Indiana’s leads.

Watson style of play isn’t overly flashy, but it doesn’t lack for effort or production. Watson paired well with Stuckey playing the shooting guard role as he was second in assists when Stuckey scored, only behind David West. Stuckey and Watson helped the Pacers bench win Indiana several games when the starters didn’t show up.

Watson helped stabilize the second unit, but he wasn’t creating leads for the Pacers either.

While he wasn’t giving away leads, he wasn’t building them either. His on/off and +/- numbers hovered around zero the whole season, never swaying to far in one direction in the other. He played strong enough offense and defense, but he wasn’t going to power the team to victory on any sort of consistent basis. Watson is going to keep the team in the game and on occasion drop 20+ points, but not very often. Watson scored 20+ points in 4 games this season, hitting 4 of 5 from 3-point range in a pair of those games. He didn’t have the 3-point shooting ability of C.J. Miles or the potential explosiveness of Rodney Stuckey. Watson’s average play isn’t a bad thing, but it wasn’t a net positive either.

That consistency is exactly what you expect from a backup point-guard and Watson fulfilled his role with the Pacers this season as well as you’d expect him to. There wasn’t so much of a downside as there rarely was a notable upside either. The injuries were expected, but when average play is combined with missed time, it makes a player more expendable.

How He Scores

His offense was as consistent as they way he shoots as well. If you look at our season preview, Watson’s plays and points are nearly identical. He’s a capable scorer in pick and rolls and spotting up while scoring a few of Indiana’s rare transition baskets.

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



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His 2014-15 shot chart, via AustinClemens.com

Watson isn’t afraid to hoist up a 3-pointer nor is he hesitant to shoot from mid-range as he does most of his shooting from 16+ feet. There is plenty of red and tan (above average to average) found there so it is clear to see Watson know’s where to pick his spots. From just inside the arc he hit 41.1% of his shots while knocking down 40% from 3-point range. When you look at his spot up’s on the spider graph, it isn’t surprising to see 77.1% of his 3-point baskets were assisted.

Other than a little trouble from hitting from the left side, there isn’t anything surprising about his shot chart.

Watson’s Future in Indiana

Watson time in Indiana is likely done because of his injuries.

His play is perfectly fine, and above average at times, but his injuries and the Pacers tight salary cap make it hard to keep him around. The Pacers will look to replace him with a player they think can stay healthy and produce enough coming off the bench. There are a few options available for a similar $2 million price tag or less, and the Indiana front office is going to bet on itself that it can pick the right one to join the Pacers.

If not for his health, the Pacers likely would keep him around, but too many missed games make him a risk Indiana isn’t willing to take.

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