Over the last six games, Paul George is averaging 29.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists while nearly putting forth a 50-40-90 effort, shooting 47.5 percent from the field, 47.5 percent from behind the arc, and 85.4 percent from the free throw line. But he does not have the team's highest plus-minus over that same span of time. Nor does he have the top on-court Net Rating (11.7).
Nope. That crown belongs to Lavoy Allen.
Comparatively, Allen is averaging 4.6 points and 6.8 rebounds on 34.5 percent shooting, and he's missing as many of his free throw attempts as he is making. All are significant drop-offs from the numbers he put up last season, yet Indiana has outscored opponents by a team-high 22.5 points per 100 possessions when the third-year Pacer has been on the court the last six games.
So, what gives?
Of his 186 total minutes played, Allen has spent just four playing in a five-man unit without a second big beside him. Playing almost exclusively in traditional lineups, his Net Rating (22.5) can loosely be used as a barometer for Indiana's two opposing styles.
For instance, the Pacers most effective lineup has been George Hill, Monta Ellis, and Paul George joined by Lavoy Allen and Ian Mahinmi. That group is scoring 120.1 points per 100 possessions and outscoring opponents by 22.1 points per 100 possessions. When Mahinmi is replaced by Jordan Hill, that unit has gone 4-1 against opponents in the five games they have seen court time together.
With both of these five-man units, one thing is constant: C.J. Miles is not playing the 4-spot.
This graphic produced by NBA.com's John Schumann further demonstrates how much better the Pacers have been when Paul George is playing alongside a traditional frontcourt.
Pacers playing much better (& slower) w/ 2 bigs on the floor w/ Paul George... pic.twitter.com/pzn0tb60tr— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) November 15, 2015
The reason for this stark contrast in efficiency likely has something to do with the fact that the spread lineup's running game still isn't compensating for that unit's declining rebounding rate.
Indiana's most-used small lineup is grabbing just 37.2 percent of the total rebounds available when they are on the floor together. When Allen replaces Miles, that number skyrockets to 63.4 percent.
Individually, Miles is doing his job as a stretch-four. By connecting on 42.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts, he's luring opposing power forwards away from the rim. But, collectively, the offense just hasn't been there for the Pacers when four ball handlers have shared the court at the same time. And because the streaky shooter has played zero minutes in traditional lineups, his on-court Net Rating is indicative of the spread lineup's struggles. Unlike Allen, the Pacers are losing by 2.7 points per 100 possessions when Miles is playing.
Some of this may be due to sample size. After all, none of these units have crossed the century-mark in minutes played, and C.J. Miles, due to an ankle injury and soreness, has only appeared in seven games for the Pacers.
Yet, consider this: Lavoy Allen's numbers are nearly all below his career averages, but the Pacers are better with him on the court. Conversely, the Pacers are worse playing C.J. Miles, and his averages are steady. The slower lineups with Allen represent the best of times. The uptempo lineup with Miles at the 4-spot, the worst (minimum 25 minutes played).
A tale of two teams.
Can familiarity change the narrative?
That's the question that still needs answering.