Are the Pacers getting more out of their talent than any other team in the NBA?
John Hollinger's Playoff Odds have the Pacers finishing at 41-41 and earning the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference, as of Dec. 6th. The daily odds are based on a computer program that plays all of the games remaining in the season 5,000 times. The averages of those results set the odds. So, the results give the Pacers a 93.4% chance of making the playoffs and a .01% chance of making the NBA Finals. Those should be interesting numbers to follow throughout the season.
While checking out the odds I jumped over to Hollinger's PER rankings to see where the top Pacer stacked up. Hollinger defines PER as: Player Efficiency Rating is my overall rating of a player's per-minute statistical production. The league average is 15.00 every season.
At the top of the PER list is LeBron James, leading the league at 32.76. The top Pacer is Mike Dunleavy at 17.5, ranked 69th overall. I was stunned to see that EVERY team in the NBA has at least one player ranked higher than the Pacers' best.
So, how are the Pacers able to win games with "less valuable" players? Looking over the numbers for the top eight Pacers I found the remaining seven players have PER numbers between 14 and 16. Those numbers indicate that the Pacers are spreading the wealth and giving a true team effort in their games.
It also suggest some inconsistency among the top players, which is certainly true. Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy throw in a clunker game occasionally which keeps their numbers down. But with so many other options able to fill in the gap, the Pacers have been able to compete for a win nearly every night they play.
Advanced stats are fun to play around with, but they can't tell the whole story. Jim O'Brien has his team focusing on a system that doesn't have to run through one player. Play together on defense and share the ball on offense. Find the open man and the open man better shoot it. When those expectations are shared by everyone on the court the numbers level out. Success isn't reliant on one or two players every night. As O'B's system continues to transform the Pacers, the sum of all of those "average" players will add up to above average results.
In the East, those type of results mean playoffs. No, I'm not crazy and neither are you. Go ahead, don't be afraid, you can use "Pacers" and "playoffs" in the same sentence. It's natrual, it flows off the lips, and it's going to happen if the Pacers keep playing together.