The Pacers have been alternating between their spread and more traditional lineups throughout the preseason getting a feel for the flexibility their current roster has to offer while also assessing what works best. In Chicago tonight, the Pacers will start with a traditional lineup for the first time with Lavoy Allen getting the nod at power forward with Paul George sliding down to the three.
The Pacers have found success with PG at the 4 but they also want to protect their star from undue physical duress when facing certain NBA lineups with big front lines that require defending. Chicago is one of the few teams in the NBA that presents a big front court that must be accounted for defensively. The various combinations of Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol along with Taj Gibson and rookie Bobby Portis is enough for Frank Vogel to want to see his big lineup start the game in Chicago.
Jordan Hill may be a better option to start in these situation since he has shown more offense than Allen, but Hill is out while tending to a tender back. This lineup will likely start the home opener against Memphis, as well but that doesn't mean Vogel will avoid going small with a spread lineup against Memphis or Chicago, even when they have their big lineups rolling.
Vogel discussed this type of situation recently while talking about his approach to matching up with Memphis, another team with a power forward threat in Zach Randolph that will have the Pacers starting big. That doesn't mean the Pacers won't go to the spread lineup even with Randolph in the game.
"It doesn't have to be Paul guarding him," Vogel said."You can put your small forward on him, on Zach Randolph, or make Paul George your small forward and put your other wing on him with the intent to raid the post, double the post and keep Paul on a perimeter player."
Matching big against big also allows the Pacers to then stagger their top spread lineup against the opponent's second unit. Big vs. big and then small vs. small and if that doesn't work, mix it up.
"The card you always have in your back pocket, if you get down by 15 to start the fourth quarter, then now you do go with your spread lineup against their big lineup," Vogel said. "See how they handle it. That's exciting."
The last point is where the spread lineup remains a topic of intrigue. The Bulls played last night without Pau Gasol, but were he to start tonight alongside Noah, it would be real interesting to see how they defended the Pacers spread attack, even if it might be painful to watch at the other end. As the season progresses, we will no doubt see such a situation as Vogel embraces his flexible lineup and the options to vary his attack regardless of the opponent's size.
So what do you think about the flexible starting lineup? Should the Pacers force bigger lineups to matchup? Are they keeping Paul George happy?