We’re LeVertating: The Indiana Pacers are Getting Just What They Need from Caris

Indiana Pacers, Caris LeVert - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, Caris LeVert - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The first week and a half of the Indiana Pacers season stunk. The defense, as we expected, didn’t look great. But what really hurt was that the offense, something we expected to thrive under Rick Carlisle, wasn’t great either.

While there were flashes of excellence and 35-point quarters, there were also dry possessions, minutes, and quarters that lost them games. We shall not speak of the 3rd quarter in Charlotte ever again.

In the last 2 games, however, this team has looked far more competitive, explosive, and dynamic. So, what changed?

Caris LeVert has turned the tide for the Indiana Pacers

Perhaps the Indiana Pacers have a deep and unnerving fear of spooky season and were just trying to tread water until the calendar changed to November – it’s a possibility we must consider. More likely, however, is that the arrival of one Caris LeVert has changed the complexion of this team.

It doesn’t feel like we’ve seen much of LeVert in a Pacers uniform yet. He played just 35 games in blue and gold last year, and a sizable chunk of those were him playing his way back into shape after his cancer scare. Despite the small sample size, though, it’s hard not to like what you see.

The numbers are solid – LeVert averaged 20.7/4.6/4.9 for the Pacers last year on 44%/32% shooting splits. Over the last 2 games (let’s ignore the Toronto game where he played just 16 minutes), he’s averaging 18.5/2/6 on decent shooting – numbers which will certainly continue to go up. While his shooting percentages and efficiency are at times put into question by the basketball community, I’m here to tell you that I don’t care.

You see, the value of someone like Caris – particularly to these Pacers – is not that he’s a shot maker, but rather that he’s a shot taker. Simply put, he’s able to – without any help – generate a decent look in a way that this team has desperately needed.

The Indiana Pacers, especially with a skilled big in Domantas Sabonis, have the infrastructure to have an incredibly competent offensive system. That was the case under Nate 2, and that will undoubtedly be the case under Rick Carlisle. A fair percentage of the shots that they generate each game will come strictly from the ball screens, hand-offs, and general motion that the system generates. When you’ve got talented players running that system, as the Pacers do, it sets a baseline of sustainable offensive competency.

However, relying on play-calling and a system to generate looks, rather than individual play, can have its shortcomings (see the 3rd quarter in Charlotte that I swore I’d never mention again). Defenses adjust and scheme against the foundational components of an offense, and suddenly something like a dribble handoff gets taken away, and the team looks out of sorts.

That’s where someone like LeVert changes the ceiling of what the Pacers can be. In times where scheme isn’t enough to generate decent looks, a player like Caris can. He’s a creative, three-level scorer with a really nice handle, and his ability to go off script and improvise makes the Pacers a much more dynamic team on offense.

Simply put, with LeVert on the floor, the Pacers are much less prone to long dry spells without generating quality looks. He may not be a traditional #1 in the NBA, and may not even be an All Star, but he just might be the piece that the Pacers need to maximize the depth of talent on this roster and make them competitive in the East.

The Indiana Pacers are +16 and +18 in the last two games with Caris on the floor. Let’s try and forget about the first week and a half. A new season is upon us, Indiana, we’re LeVertating now.

Next. TJ Warrens impending return set to give the Pacers a good problem. dark