May 15, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers power forward David West (21) is pressured by Miami Heat small forward Shane Battier (31) during the second half in game two of the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
The Indiana Pacers started winning more games right after Frank Vogel took over control of the team midway through the 2010-11 season. Jim O'Brien had lost his team and Vogel breathed new life into the team with a variety of positive reinforcement tactics and a different style of play.
Vogel introduced his "smashmouth" approach that the team bought into quickly which was a drastic change from the push-the-pace, launch-the-three approach JOB preferred for his team. So as we wait to head into Vogel's first full (really full, like 82 games full) season as coach with training camp an everything, I thought I'd look back at the numbers that expose the change in approach Vogel implemented.
With a few roster changes to the bench, Vogel has the personnel to continue to build on the team's success since he took over the team. Hard to believe it was just three seasons ago that the style of play was so drastically different. I know this isn't news to any Pacers fans, but I found the basic numbers interesting.
In Jim O'Brien's final full season in 2009-10 (thanks Basketball-Reference), the Pacers ranked second in the league in Pace at 97.1 (number of possessions per 48 minutes). They ranked third in the league in 3-point attempts despite ranking 18th in 3-pt%. Still, the personnel made the strategy a little more logical and I'm understand there may be some debate on whether the personnel dictated the strategy or the strategy determined the personnel. Regardless, the Pacers had four players launch over 200 3-balls and that included Brandon Rush squeezing of 302 shots from behind the arc and leading the team in 3-pt% by making 41% of his long balls. Danny Granger shot 478 threes which was good for fourth in the league in 3-ball attempts.
The following season, the Pacers swapped out Troy Murphy for Darren Collison and eventually Jim O'Brien for Frank Vogel. As the interim coach, Vogel changed the teams approach for the 38 games he coached along with the games against Chicago in the first round of the playoffs. Still, the 2010-11 team ranked sixth in pace at 94.7. Three pointers were down but the Pacers still had four players shoot in excess of 200 threes, led by Danny Granger with 407. The team ranked ninth in the league in 3-ball attempts and n16th in 3-pt%.
So in the strike-shortened we get a better picture of how Frank Vogel prefers his team to play. With similar personnel to the prior season with the big change being the addition of David West and the subtraction of 200-plus 3-pt shooter James Posey. Still, smashmouth basketball preached by Vogel is apparent in the drastic changes from behind the arc compared to the JOB era.
Last season, the Pacers ranked 19th in the league in Pace at 90.7 possessions per game while checking in at 22nd in the league in 3-point attemts. 22nd! While shooting far fewer (and presumably better) 3-point looks, the Pacers shot 36.8% which ranked sixth in the league.
So heading into a full season, following a year with only two players shooting more than 200 threes, and only three players shooting more than 100, the Pacers are better positioned to take a balanced approach with more post depth and comparable perimeter players that should see the team maintain similar numbers, with the one difference being Gerald Green who made over 39% of his 110 3-point attempts in just 31 games last season.
But Green will earn his minutes off the bench with defense and effort a priority over his long-distance shooting. This Pacers team has a size and strength advantage over opponents in the East and working to exploit that advantage is the way Vogel expects his team to have the best chance to win games.
And winning games is all that matters.