Player Review: Travis Diener
Stats: 6.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 3.8 apg
Stats/36: 12.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 6.7 apg
How did he surprise?
Travis Diener was a low-risk signing last summer as the Pacers were grasping for ways to shore up their point guard situation. Everyone knew Diener could shoot it, but how much he could help was unknown. Was he quick enough to make up for his size when defending? Could he run an NBA offense or was he just a shooter in a point guard's body? As the season began to unfold, it appeared the search for answers about Travis would end on the bench. The problem was, the dead-eye shooter we remembered from Marquette had a Jasikevisius-ian start to the season, missing far more open shots than he made. If he couldn't make shots, could he make it in the L? Andre Owens had surpassed Travis on the depth chart, forcing us to wonder just what the Pacers would do with Travis for the remaining three years on his contract.
To his credit, Travis remained a team guy and kept working. Stories of his impact on the locker room culture began to emerge and JOB never gave up on him. As the season wore on and injuries started to impact the roster, Travis was given heaping helpings of minutes and showed he has plenty of game to go along with his shot. Yes, the shot improved and at times was huge, but Travis showed he could impact a game without hitting a shot. He did a great job of pushing the ball up the court and putting it the hands of other playmakers. Plus, he took care of the ball. Rare was the game when Travis would spit up turnovers from careless play. In fact, at season's end, Travis ranked fourth in the NBA in Assist-to-Turnover ratio at 4.56, just behind New Orleans Hornets' wunder-point, Chris Paul.
Travis Diener isn't THE answer to the Pacers' point guard situation, but he can handle the rock off the bench and the pressure down the stretch of a game, if needed.
How did he disappoint?
Hard to be too disappointed with Travis this year, since he left his guts on the floor whenever he played. The fact that his shot was so streaky was disappointing, as he finished the year only shooting 32% from 3-land. I do think that hard work and confidence can raise that number closer to 40% in the future. Defensively, Travis struggled against more athletic PGs and really needs good defenders around him to succeed in a system defensive scheme. Not really a surprise, but depending on the matchup, defense is certainly an issue that could limit Diener's playing time next year.
While there's not much to complain about with Travis on the court, he definitely needs to raise his blogging game. Diener's blog at Pacers.com was light on the posts throughout the year and he kept the good stuff under wraps. He did reveal the nicknames he tagged teammates with, but even that seemed to leave too much info inside the locker room. I understand how it is when you start trying to open up, then you read the words and think, hmm, maybe I shouldn't say that. Before you know it you're cuffed by not trying to step on anyone's toes and we're left begging for more. I'd suggest a couple of Leinie's to get the blogging neurons firing or if that doesn't work, I'd be happy to ghost-write some embellishments for the modest point guard. The potential greatness is there, we hear it in every interview. Trust that voice, Travis!
Travis is under contract for next year with a player option for 2009-10. As a known commodity on the court and a valuable asset as a glue guy in the locker room, I expect Travis to be with the Pacers next year. Now, who will join him on the PG depth chart is anyone's guess. One thing is for sure, Travis can continue working this summer with the experience of some real, live NBA minutes under his belt. I have no doubt Travis will work on his weaknesses and build on his strengths to make himself ready when called on next year.