NBA Picks: Indiana Pacers Need a Couple Pieces
by Aaron Smith - 7/31/2013
The Indiana Pacers were just a game away from being the Eastern Conference Champions and taking on the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. The Pacers had been extremely impressive early in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami, but they couldn’t rise to the occasion in the deciding Game 7. The Heat coasted to a 99-76 victory in the finale of their series against the Pacers before going on to edge out the Spurs in the NBA Finals.
It was a season of mixed emotions for the Indiana Pacers and their fans. The Pacers certainly exceeded expectations for the season as a whole, but coming up just short against the eventual champs is frustrating. Not many teams get as close to an NBA title as the Pacers did last year, and they are no doubt still trying to figure out what went wrong in Game 7.
Indiana has done a lot right, but they still need to try to put together the final pieces to the puzzle. Even though the Pacers got to the final game against the Heat, the last three quarters of that game tell me they still have quite a bit of ground to make up to catch up to Miami. Let’s take a look at what needs to be done in Indiana.
Improved Play from the Bench
Indiana had one of the best Starting 5s in all of basketball last year, but the Pacers definitely need some more productivity from the bench. Pacers fans could vouch for the fact that the backups came in on multiple occasions and quickly blew leads that the first five had spent the majority of the game building up.
The Indiana bench averaged just 24.1 points per game, which was second-worst in the NBA during the 2012-13 season. The Pacers bench was dead last in the league in field goal percentage. Indiana’s bench players combined to shoot only 39.3 percent from the floor for the year.
Indiana’s bench played the fourth fewest minutes of any bench in the NBA last season. Despite the fact that the Pacers have a very good Starting 5, the team really needs to develop a rotation off the bench that can take some of the pressure off the team’s starters. In the long run, overusing star players has an obvious downside.
Better Ball Handling
What was the biggest problem for the Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals? Miami’s pressure defense forced the Pacers into a ton of silly mistakes. There was a stretch in that game where it seemed next to impossible for the Pacers to get the ball up the court. Indiana isn’t necessarily lacking playmakers in the backcourt, but they are lacking a primary ball handler. George Hill isn’t a true point guard, but he is forced into that position many times for this team. Lance Stephenson did a lot for this team in their playoff run, but he is totally out of position when he is handling the ball at the top of the key against quality defenders.
Indiana averaged 15.7 turnovers per game this past season, which ranked fourth worst in the NBA. Miami averaged only 13.1 turnovers per game, which was good enough for fourth best in the NBA. In the grand scheme of things, a 2.6 turnover per game differential might not sound like a lot, but losing that many possessions in games that are tightly contested can be impossible to overcome.
It’s hard to imagine the Pacers ever getting over the hump unless they get a true point guard who can handle the ball and set up the offense on a consistent basis.
Offseason Moves Thus Far
The Pacers have been pretty active so far during the NBA offseason. Resigning David West was a great move, and I believe he is part of the heart and soul of this frontcourt. Trading for Luis Scola was the team’s biggest acquisition of the offseason. Scola will probably come off the bench, and he’ll instantly make the second team much better.
The Pacers drafted Solomon Hill with their first-round pick in this year’s draft. Hill is a talented player, but I’m not sure they addressed any of their problems with that pick. Point guard C.J. Watson was signed to improve depth in the backcourt. Watson will help the team a bit, but I don’t think he is the answer to their ball handling issues.
NBA Picks: Indiana Pacers Futures
Indiana has a lot of nice pieces to the puzzle, but they are still missing a couple crucial pieces that could put them over the top. Look for the Pacers to spend a lot of time this offseason looking to pick up a primary ball handler as well some more high quality backups. If they are unable to address these areas, the Pacers are unlikely to get as far as they did in the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
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