This is why the Indiana Pacers won’t contend anytime soon

Rick Carlisle, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Rick Carlisle, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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For years the Indiana Pacers were known as a hard-working team that hustled on the defensive end of the court. Going back to the teams with Paul George and Roy Hibbert, the Pacers tended to have a reputation for being an elite defensive team.

Much of that reputation carried over into the following iteration of McMillan’s Pacer teams with Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner. While the team was certainly less successful in the playoffs, they consistently could defend, even if they didn’t always get it done on the offensive side of the court.

So the real question is, what happened? The biggest change in the streak changed when McMillan’s staff moved on and new coaching was brought in. Along with McMillan went Dan Burke, who was credited with much of the team’s defensive success in the 23 years that he worked with the team. The clear drop-off can be seen in the year-over-year team defensive rating and ranking over the last 5 years.

McMillan: 18-19, 106.5, 3rd in the league
McMillan: 19-20, 108.0, 6th in the league
Bjorkgren: 20-21, 112.4, 13th in the league
Carlisle: 21-22, 116.1, 28th in the league
Carlisle: 22-23, 113.4, 21st in the league

As you can see, while there was a bit of a drop-off when Bjorkgren took the reigns from McMillan, there was an even bigger drop-off when Carlisle came in. So the question becomes, why do we continue to struggle so much on defense?

Some of it might be attributed to pace. Given the team plays at such a frantic pace, it may leave the defensive side of things more open than they were when McMillan was coaching the team. McMillan’s teams played extremely slow and mostly in the half-court. In contrast, Carlisle’s teams run the floor consistently and flourish in the fast break.

Carlisle needs to prioritize improving the Pacers defense before they will be able to contend for anything.

But for a team that has one of the best defenders in the league (Myles Turner) and a backup point guard that has previously led the league in steals (TJ McConnell), you would think that this team could improve on the defensive side of the ball.

Carlisle needs to prioritize improving the Pacers defense before they will be able to contend for anything. They say that defense wins championships. While that may not always be true, not having one, seems to always prevent you from playing for one. The Pacers aren’t going to win anything meaningful until they can figure out how to make it harder on the other team to score.

Next. 5 forwards the Pacers should target. dark