Will Small Ball Help Pacers Keep Up With Knicks?

Last season the Indiana Pacers were able to get a boost by playing Danny Granger at power forward in a small ball lineup that would also often include T.J. Ford and Earl Watson playing at the same time.

Jim O'Brien said yesterday he may revive the idea of moving Granger to the 4 spot to help give the offense a boost and also create minutes in the playing rotation for Paul George.

At some point, last season, there was a point of diminishing returns with the small ball group. It certainly seemed more effective in small doses for a quick change in momentum. Go with it too long, and opponents eventually adjust and find ways to expose the smaller group.

That may be why Mike Dunleavy raised the voice of reason when the topic of moving Granger to the power 4 spot was raised yesterday.

"It has the potential to be good offensively," Dunleavy said of using a wing-heavy lineup. "We have to maintain the defensive intensity. We improve a lot offensively, but we can't drop off defensively. It'll be like treading water. Time will tell how it works."

Personally, I think it is worth the risks Dunleavy raises because of the available players to utilize this season.

First of all, the Pacers have played plenty of supposed small ball this season whenever James Posey plays at the 4. According to 82 games, Posey has played 40% of the team's total minutes and 13% of those minutes have been at power forward. That actually seems low (as does his shot selection, with only 93% being jumpers) because a lot of those minutes include time on the court with Granger and it appears 82 games gives Granger the power forward minutes for those lineups.

Regardless, that confusion just underscores the point that the Pacers have played small this year, just not super small with two points guards as they did last year. Darren Collison and T.J. Ford have shared the court on rare occasion, but never on a regular basis.

The big difference this year, should the Pacers go small (hey, just because Jim O'Brien tells the media he might do something doesn't mean it will happen) they may not have to worry about being exposed as badly on defense. In fact, the key to minimizing Dunleavy's concern is to leave Dunleavy out of the small rotation and go with Brandon Rush, Paul George and Danny Granger with your choice of center and point guard. That group might actually improve the defense, although taking the "anemic" out of the offense will still require them to make shots.

The New York Knicks should offer a good opportunity for JOB to tinker with his lineups and try so smaller options considering they play Amare Stoudemire at center and run with a relatively small lineup themselves. In fact, in the Knicks game against Orlando on Thursday, Shawne Williams was essentially playing center having his hands full with Dwight Howard.

So what tinkering will JOB really do with his playing rotation? Which players will emerge for minute and whom will JOB leave on to the bench? Ringing in the New Year with new rotations offers a new storyline to follow as the Pacers head into a touch stretch of the schedule to begin January.

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