The Indiana Pacers are a bad defensive team. It’s that simple. Their offense is one of the best in the league, but on the defensive end of the court, they just haven’t been able to piece things together.
Tyrese Haliburton led them to an incredible run in the In-Season Tournament, putting their name on the main stage of NBA media, but since then, they’ve gone just 1-4.
In those five games, they have held their opponent to below 120 points just once, and it was in their sole win against the LaMelo Ball-less Charlotte Hornets, who still put up 113.
If the Pacers want to be taken seriously as a playoff team, they should look into making big changes at the trade deadline. But outside of that, additional defensive moves should be made.
According to Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report, a “sneaky free-agent pickup” the Pacers should consider right now is Stanley Johnson.
Johnson was teammates with Pacers wing Bruce Brown for half a year on the Detroit Pistons in the 2018-19 season before getting traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in a three-team deal.
The now-27-year-old’s NBA career looked to have fizzled out after a subsequent stop with the Toronto Raptors, but while on the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021-22, he provided some intrigue.
During his time with the Lakers, Johnson played the third-most minutes per game of his career at 22.8, giving them quality perimeter defense - something they needed badly.
For the Pacers, adding Johnson would give them a new body to put out on the perimeter to get stops, as he would walk onto the team as one of their best defenders right now.
At 6-foot-6, Johnson isn’t quite big enough to guard fours and fives, but his ability to get stops on opposing wings would be invaluable to a Pacers team with little perimeter defense on the roster.
Johnson isn’t a guy who would play a ton of minutes, but for a minimum contract, he would be a solid option for the Pacers to take a swing on, especially if they gain an open roster spot after making a trade at the deadline.