We Need Defense

In thinking about Levy2725's post about ways to go about changing the Pacers in a more reasonable way other than "blowing up the team" or "getting lucky" in the draft, a few thoughts came to mind.

Jim O'Brien is an offensive-minded, shoot the 3 to set up the post, get as many attempts as possible kind of a coach.  He's all about fast play.  Under O'Brien, the Pacers have consistently been in the top of the league in offensive pace.  This season, they are getting more attempts at shots than all but one team (Golden State) in the league at exactly 100 attempts per game.  However, their offensive efficiency (number of points scored per 100 possessions) is near the bottom of the league (28 of 30).  They get off more shots but aren't converting them.  What that says is they are taking way too many ill-advised (low %) shots (i.e. they aren't making wise decisions).

Of the top 10 teams in pace (Golden State, Indiana, Phoenix, Minnesota, Denver, Sacramento, LA Lakers, New York, Memphis, and Toronto), only four of them are current playoff teams.  On the contrary, of the bottom 10 teams in pace (Portland, Detroit, Miami, Cleveland, Charlotte, Atlanta, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Boston, and Dallas), seven of them are current playoff teams.

So, does that mean we need more players who take smarter shots, or do we need a coach who puts the already-intelligent players on the Pacers' roster in more successful situations?  Only Bird and Morway can answer that question.

Speaking of defense: If I recall, the Pacers' number one goal over the off season was to focus on defense.  They signed Dahntay Jones and Earl Watson for this very reason.  Yet, I don't see anything close to an improvement.  Last season, they gave up 106 points per game.  This season, they've "improved" by only giving up 104 points per game.  That doesn't show improvement.

Is it fair to ask a team to push the tempo on offense, but then stop an opponent from scoring on defense?  It doesn't seem realistic to ask the team to be successful at both.  The only way this is possible is if a team has a superstar.  The teams at the top of the league in pace who are still playoff teams (mentioned above), all have one thing in common: they have an elite NBA player (Phoenix - Amare Stoudemire, Denver - Carmelo Anthony, LA Lakers - Kobe Bryant, Toronto - Chris Bosh).  They are exceptions.  They can get away with pushing the pace when they have elite talent.  The Pacer do not.

So, we have to ask ourselves: Shouldn't a team without a superstar focus more on playing defense?  The Pacers can fix that in three ways: through the draft, through smart trades, and coaching.  The easiest thing to control is coaching.  Should the Pacers find the right defensive-minded coach (Avery Johnson), it would begin the process of changing this team from a high-paced, shoot quick team that has shown more inconsistencies than a Kindergarten debate team into a defense-first team.  They have the players on this team who have shown an ability to score.  That's not the problem.  When the Pacers were at their best was when they were dedicated to defense.

After all, doesn't the cliche go: defense wins championships!
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