Indiana Pacers: Should the team pursue Steve Clifford?

Steve Clifford - Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Clifford - Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /
2 of 4
Indiana Pacers, Steve Clifford
Steve Clifford – Credit: Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /

What are Steve Clifford’s strong points that can help the Indiana Pacers?

Steve Clifford is widely known as one of better defensive-minded coaches in the league. Since landing his first head coaching gig with the then-Charlotte Bobcats in 2013, five of his eight squads deployed a top-10 defense despite lacking a true rim protector. In Charlotte, he largely depended on Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller. In Orlando, Nikola Vucevic was the nominal rim deterrent.

If the Indiana Pacers come calling on the veteran coach, it will be because of his proven niche at engineering effective defenses. After all, the Blue and Gold finished the season with a middling 14th-ranked defensive rating, the franchise’s lowest in the department since 2017. It was their drastic decline as a point-preventing unit that largely catapulted them towards an underachieving campaign.

Another impressive feat by Clifford is his ability to elevate the team’s rebounding numbers. Since 2013, seven of his squads finished in the top 5 in defensive rebounding percentage. The only roster that failed to crack the upper echelon is this year’s rebuilding Magic team which still finished eighth. This will be a major boost to Indiana’s dead-last ranking in the department.

While he doesn’t advocate for crashing the offensive boards, this is because he prioritizes getting back in transition more. Both of these reflect his emphasis on valuing possessions and preventing opponents from getting easy buckets via second chance points and fast break opportunities, two areas where the Pacers finished 30th and 24th, respectively.

Oh, and Clifford-coached teams are also consistently one of the best at avoiding turnovers, with all eight of his teams finishing no worse than sixth in turnover percentage. Four of those squads, the 2013-17 Bobcats/Hornets, led the entire association at taking care of the ball.