Sunday, October 18, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Indiana Pacers

INDIANA PACERS
[] 38-44
[] Offensive Rating: 104.4 (23rd)
[] Defensive Rating: 104.0 (7th)
[] Net Rating: +0.4 (15th)
[] Last playoff appearance: 2014
[] Coach: Frank Vogel

The Pacers getting Paul George back at full strength is a major factor, although they managed to stay afloat long enough last season to get George back in time for a playoff push.  That push fell just short, however, as Indiana lost out on the East's 8th seed by a tiebreaker.  While getting George back is good for this year's playoff odds, it's yet to be seen how the Pacers' defensive identity is changed by the loss of David West and Roy Hibbert on the frontcourt.  West's toughness and Hibbert's rim protection were key pieces to Indy's defensive reputation over the past few years.  Losing them in order to get younger and play at a faster pace figures to affect things in a negative way defensively.  They did bolster a stagnant offense by adding Monta Ellis in the offseason, and having George back should push the offense closer to the middle of the pack.  Myles Turner could also help the offense if he adapts to the NBA game quicker than expected.  What all of this means for the overall performance of the Pacers will be dredged out over the 82 games of the season.

Projected Starting Five

PG: George Hill - 6'2, 180 - 8th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
43
16.1
21.5
23.8%
57.9%
35.8%
.361
79.0%
.267
31.4%
10.3%

Hill had a career year in 2014-15, scoring at an efficient rate despite a more involved role in the offense, doling out more assists and cutting down his turnovers.  The return of Paul George means Hill's role should go back to its normal level, and we're approaching the end of Hill's prime.  He'll still be good, but I bet he takes a step back to good, but not great-ish this year.

SG: Monta Ellis - 6'3, 175 - 11th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
80
18.9
16.5
27.9%
50.9%
28.5%
.210
75.2%
.224
20.5%
11.7%

I'm just not sold on the fit here.  Ellis is going to frustrate Frank Vogel and an otherwise defense-first squad, and they don't really need his inefficient possessions with Paul George back and presumably at 100%.  I'd prefer to see Vogel minimize the minutes he shares with George so he can be the high usage volume scorer he's always been, instead of the second option.  Honestly, I think Indiana would have been better off spending Monta's dollars on more depth in the frontcourt and giving his minutes to Stuckey and Miles.

SF: Solomon Hill - 6'7, 225 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
82
8.9
10.2
15.9%
50.7%
32.7%
.328
82.4%
.304
11.9%
13.8%

Hill filled in for Paul George about as well as one could have expected him to last year.  His defense and his toughness were positives, and he did just enough offensively for the first two things to mean something.  With the Pacers figuring to play Paul George more as a small-ball PF, Hill figures to retain his starting job at SF.  The Pacers will be thrilled if he improves his outside shooting again.

PF: Paul George - 6'9, 225 - 6th NBA season (2013-14 stats)
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
80
21.7
20.1
28.3%
55.5%
36.4%
.367
86.4%
.341
17.9%
12.5%

George wasn't good in the 6 games where he saw action last year, but it was great to see him on the floor after the gruesome leg injury he suffered in the Team USA scrimmage last summer.  As much as I don't root for the Pacers, it is fun to watch the way George plays the game, and it's better for basketball if he's back at full strength this year.  He may not work his way back onto an All-Defensive or All-NBA team this year, but he's going to be good.  It should be interesting to see how (and how often) he defends the NBA's bigger PFs.

C: Jordan Hill - 6'10, 235 - 7th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
70
12.0
16.2
22.7%
49.4%
73.8%
.216
16.4%
9.9%
23.4%
1.0

Hill went from really solid in 2013-14 to really average last season.  His scoring efficiency took a massive tumble as his trips to the FT line slowed down and he didn't shoot well.  His rebounding rates also took a hit.  The main difference between the two seasons, aside from production, was that Hill spent most of his time at PF two years ago, and at C last year.  He'll be at C in most of his time with Indiana, so we'll see how that goes.  I think he'll be fine this year, but his starting spot will be under attack from Myles Turner from day one.

Bench

PG: Toney Douglas - 6'2, 190 - 7th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
12
4.3
11.2
17.2%
45.0%
27.8%
.353
61.5%
.255
20.0%
15.0%

Douglas was neither relevant nor productive last season, but here he is on a team short on backup PG options, and I think that means he's going to get serious minutes this year.  This is a serious weak spot for the Pacers.

G: Joe Young - 6'2, 180 - Rookie
GP
PPG
APG
SPG
FG%
3P%
FT%
36
20.7
3.8
1.1
44.8%
35.7%
92.5%

The 43rd pick in the 2015 draft could see time at both G spots, but his services are more needed at the PG spot.  A successful transition into the pros will be determined by his ability to shoot the three ball and at least play passable defense.

SG: Rodney Stuckey - 6'5, 205 - 9th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
71
12.6
15.4
23.4%
52.8%
39.0%
.187
81.9%
.286
20.2%
12.2%

Stuckey had a solid year for the Pacers in 2014-15, including a career high 3P%.  He doesn't get to the FT line as frequently as he did earlier in his career, so if he's going to be useful again this year, he can't fall apart from behind the three point line.  If Young and/or Douglas can't lay claim to the backup PG minutes, Stuckey could see more time as a lead guard this year, something he hasn't done heavily since 2010-11.

G/F: CJ Miles - 6'7, 210 - 11th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
70
13.5
14.1
23.9%
52.5%
34.5%
.539
80.7%
.195
7.1%
7.5%

Miles' outside shooting took a bit of a dip last year after two straight seasons above 38%.  As a three point specialist, his value is mostly predicated on what he does beyond the arc.  I think he'll be better this year, but if he's not, minutes could dwindle if Budinger is healthy.

G/F: Chase Budinger - 6'7, 220 - 7th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
67
6.8
12.2
16.3%
53.7%
36.4%
.367
82.7%
.208
8.0%
10.3%

The Pacers grabbed Budinger from the Wolves in exchange for forward Damjan Rudez.  Budinger topped the 60 games played mark last year for the first time since his second season in the league (2010-11).  He was a solid bench piece too, so if he can maintain his health again this year, the Pacers look to have won that trade.

PF: Lavoy Allen - 6'9, 230 - 5th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
63
5.0
14.9
15.2%
49.3%
70.2%
.157
16.7%
12.8%
20.5%
1.4

As far as bench bigs go, Allen is fairly average.  The Pacers brought him back in free agency this year with a multi-year deal.

F/C: Myles Turner - 6'11, 245 - Rookie
GP
PPG
APG
BPG
FG%
3P%
FT%
34
10.1
0.6
2.6
45.5%
27.4%
83.9%

For what little that summer league play means, Turner got his career off to a great start in Orlando this summer.  If he can bring his rim protection with him from Texas, and continue to round out a raw offensive package, he'll be challenging Jordan Hill for the starting C spot by the end of the year.  He's got a shot at a really solid rookie season and a spot on one of the All-Rookie squads.

C: Ian Mahinmi - 6'11, 230 - 8th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
61
4.3
10.8
12.5%
51.6%
30.4%
.481
17.2%
10.2%
24.0%
1.4

There aren't many free throw shooters in the league worse than Mahinmi, but he brings value elsewhere.  The defense-oriented big man does enough around the basket on offense and is a good defensive rebounder.

Outlook

Replacing David West, Luis Scola and Roy Hibbert with Jordan Hill, Lavoy Allen, Myles Turner and Ian Mahinmi doesn't seem profitable, but it's probably outweighed by a full season of Paul George.  They upgraded the offense with Monta Ellis at SG too, although the effect that has on the defense is to be determined.  The backup PG spot was downgraded though, as Joseph Young and Toney Douglas don't figure to offer what CJ Watson and Donald Sloan did last season.  There was a lot of change in the Pacers roster over the offseason, and if you add it all up, I think the return of Paul George means that Indiana comes out ahead.  I've got the Pacers pegged for 42 wins and a playoff berth.

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