Know Your Role: Indiana Pacers Starting Lineup Beginning To Take Shape

Larry Bird and Paul George ponder what the Pacers 2015-2016 roster will look like.
Larry Bird and Paul George ponder what the Pacers 2015-2016 roster will look like. /

Positional fluidity.

It might not be a household phrase, but it’s a concept that Indiana Pacers fans will become quite familiar with throughout this next season.

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What is it? It’s the “positionless basketball” Erik Spoelstra talked about when coaching LeBron James-era Heat. It’s the difference between the Mark Jackson-coached Warriors and the current NBA champions. And, in a less successful example, it’s the Atlanta Hawks team built by Billy Knight that featured Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, and Josh Smith.

In short, it’s having versatile, athletic players who can occupy a variety of spots on the floor offensively and defend a variety of positions defensively. It’s also Larry Bird’s vision for this season’s Indiana Pacers (though I think it’s really been his — and Donnie Walsh’s— vision all along).

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“I like guys who can play multiple positions,” Bird said in 2014 when he acquired Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen from the Philadelphia 76ers for the stretch run, even though the roster he’d built for Frank Vogel to deploy didn’t seem to have so many of those guys.

With the moves Bird has made this offseason, he’s been deliberately constructing a roster built around this concept. Gone are single-position players Roy Hibbert, Luis Scola, and David West while multi-position guys like Monta Ellis, Rodney Stuckey, Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill, Lavoy Allen, Myles Turner, and Joe Young have been brought in or re-signed.

As Frank Vogel works this summer to determine how to best employ these players, he’ll have a lot more potential combinations to consider. I’d like to look at the roster a little bit and see what the Pacers currently have and what they might try to add as the offseason moves forward.

When looking at the roster and thinking about how Pacers’ basketball might be played this season, I’m not sure that a traditional view of positions is very helpful. I’m speculating that, given the personnel currently on board, the guard and forward positions will be somewhat interchangeable, so I’ll break the roster down into 3 categories (knowing there is some players who fit in multiple places: guards, forwards, and bigs.


I don’t know who will start at the guard positions for the Pacers, but I’m guessing the vast majority of the minutes is going to be split between George Hill, Monta Ellis, and Rodney Stuckey. The roles of these three guards give us an excellent example of positional fluidity. All three guys are comfortable playing both on and off the ball. All have played significant minutes at both guard positions over the course of their career, and I see no reason why that would change next season.

Between the two guard positions, there are 96 minutes to be divvied out each game. Last season these 3 players averaged a combined total of approximately 90 minutes/game. With no real reason to reduce minutes for any of these players, I’m guessing Pacer fans will see two of these three guys on the court quite often. It’s also possible that we could see these three play together in smaller lineups with Stuckey, by far the largest of the 3, getting shifted nominally to the 3 spot.

C.J. Miles will get minutes at either the 2 or 3 spot. Joe Young will be listed as a back-up point guard, but I doubt he’ll play much. Paul George and Solomon Hill can both play the 2 spot, but it’s hard to imagine a lineup where there are 3 bigger players than either of them on the court at once.


Larry Bird has stated his desire to play smaller and faster, and to play Paul George significant minutes at the 4 spot. This creates a somewhat murky picture for how Pacer basketball will be played next season and who will get the minutes at the 3 and 4 spots.

Paul George will get his minutes (he played about 36 mpg prior to his injury) — likely splitting time between the 2 forward positions. C.J. Miles, who played mainly as a 2 guard last season, will likely be pushed up to the 3-spot due to the acquisition of Monta Ellis. Solomon Hill led the Pacers in minutes last season. He will likely be in the rotation and is big enough to play both forward positions, though the newly acquired Chase Budinger, if he can stay healthy, could easily supplant Solo and turn him from the Pacers leader in minutes to a regular DNP-CD.

If the Pacers decide to go bigger, one of the players discussed in the next section will likely be brought in at the 4.


Frank Vogel has repeatedly asserted that playing small does not mean playing Centerless basketball. He has acheived all his success as a head coach with a defense that featured a strong rim-protector toward whom all action was funneled. With Hibbert being moved, the job of rim protection will fall to Ian Mahinmi and Myles Turner. Mahinmi played about 19 mpg last season. His rim protection numbers, while not as gaudy as Hibbert’s, were still excellent, so there shouldn’t be an issue defensively if he is asked to increase his role. Myles Turner has been piling up points, rebounds, and blocks in Orlando this week, but he has also been piling up fouls. He will definitely be given a chance to contribute on a regular basis this season, but his minutes will be limited by his inexperience and his fouls.

I do not see the combination of Mahinmi and Turner manning the center position for all 48 minutes each game, however. The leftover minutes will likely be given to either Lavoy Allen or Jordan Hill. Neither of these guys are the type of rim protector that Vogel desires at the 5 nor are they the type of floor-spacer Bird wants at the 4, but both guys are active bigs who can play both positions. If healthy, I’d imagine we’ll see both of them play just about every night, with the number of minutes being determined by the opponent and their own level of success. Shayne Whittington is not currently under contract (and hasn’t been very impressive in Summer League) but it’s widely assumed that the Pacers will sign him to another minimum-level contract. He’s in the mix as a stretch 4, but not at the 5 spot.


Assuming Whittington and Young are signed, the Pacers have 2 roster spots available. If I were Larry Bird, I’d want another solid option at PG and another big 3/4 tweener-type. We saw last season that you can never have two many PG’s. A solid veteran backup would be a good addition. Also, though no one expects the Pacers to be title contenders, they lack the athletic beef to guard players like LeBron and Carmelo should a playoff series arise with either team. Right now, only Paul George and Solomon Hill are big and strong enough to match-up with them effectively. That’s why I’d bring another defense-oriented 3/4 type player.

Possible Fits

PG: Luke Ridnour, Donald Sloan, Mantas Kalnietas, Marcelo Huertas

Forward: Luc Mbah a Moute, Chris Singleton, Darrell Arthur, Dorrell Wright, Shawne Williams, Landry Fields

Next: Indiana Pacers Trade Damjan Rudez for Chase Budinger