The Pacers unexploited offense

USA TODAY Sports

When an offense is struggling sometimes the best way to get it going is to think simple. What are the strengths of the individuals on the floor, and how can those be exploited? Identifying the strengths of the starting five is crucial for Indiana to get the offense back on track.

George Hill lacks the constant aggression that could make him a better scoring guard and help the Pacers snap out of ruts. But Indiana should look to use him off the ball more. He is a self-declared combo guard after all.

Fun fact: George Hill is the most efficient player in the NBA on cuts to the basket, per Synergy Sports. A George Hill cut is worth 1.71 points per possession.

The downside of that for Indiana is that he has only had 35 of those possessions all season. Now some cuts are missed by teammates, and defenses can usually take away cuts. But another explanation is Hill playing the point guard position. Indiana should look to use more of his off-ball cuts, like this one against Chicago, where Paul George brought the ball across half court.

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D.J. Augustin is defending Hill, but Augustin is concerned with the Paul George-David West pick and roll.

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As Carlos Boozer drops in the lane to help on Paul George, Augustin rotates up to help on West. Hill cuts behind him; George makes the correct read, and Hill finishes off a layup.

Another underutilized part of the Pacers backcourt is using Lance Stephenson for spot up jumpers. Per Synergy, Stephenson is the top 12 percentile of the NBA in efficiency on spot up opportunities. But Stephenson is only getting 2.3 spot up chances per game.

That’s a healthy number of chances per game, but it should go up. In the half court offense Stephenson is often one of the last options offensively. Defenses are more likely to help off him than any of the other starters, and this creates open shots.

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David West is posting up, while Rodney Stuckey is ready to help off of Stephenson. That gives Stephenson plenty of space to catch West’s pass and drill a three.

Now looking at this play and the George Hill cut above, the Pacers weren’t running complicated offensive sets, just a ball screen and a post up. But what they did to the defense is put an overload to one side and force the defense to help off of the lone defender on a certain side of the court.

There is no help for Augustine after Hill cuts, and there is no help for Stuckey. The Pacers got open looks from effective spacing.

On to Paul George. There isn’t much to complain about. He is really good on spot jumpers and coming off screens. But he is the Pacers top option, and defensive will look to take him away first.

The only real complaint might be too much pick and roll, which has accounted for 21 percent of his possessions. He’s only scoring .76 points per possession on pick and rolls, which is in the 51st percentile.

But for George to take the next step on offense, directing an effective pick and roll is a must. Paul George pick and rolls aren’t killing the offense, and he needs to get better at them. So, this isn’t a glaring issue.

David West has been utilized nearly perfectly. His top two play types on Synergy – post ups and being the roll man – are his two most efficient.

Here’s where it gets ugly with Roy Hibbert; he is in the 60th percentile on post ups, and those account for 43 percent of his possessions. But in every other play type, Synergy ranks him below the 50th percentile. He is below average at everything else, like putbacks, cuts, and being the roll man.

This doesn’t mean Hibbert should be ignored. It means Indiana should try and get him easier looks. Maybe it is Hibbert running the floor and his teammates finding him before the defense can get set. Maybe it is reversing a pick-the-picker play that Indiana has for Paul George to get threes, that instead gets Hibbert an uncontested layup. (Or maybe just less contested.)

But it is clear that calling for an isolated Hibbert post up. Hibbert failing to get deep position, then trying to attack from 12 feet out is not working.

There isn’t a quick fix to Indiana’s offense, but there are smaller fixes that can start to plug the holes of the sinking ship.

Note: Synergy isn't perfect, but it is a good indicator.

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