Last-minute Christmas shopping isn't so bad when almost every gift can be found in one place. This is especially true at NBA.com/stats, where there aren't any crowded parking lots or ransacked shelves. Open 24-hours a day, 365 days a year (broadband permitting), advanced metrics make finding the sure-to-improve gift for every player on Indiana's roster a breeze.
Here is a personalized gift for each member of the Blue & Gold:
Lavoy Allen: Finishing touch. If you're the open roll-man, Monta Ellis will find you. Said roll-man just needs to finish, which is something Allen has really struggled with this season (6th percentile in terms of PPP). Improved touch around the rim would make Indiana's leader in Net Rating (11.5) even more valuable.
Chase Budinger: A breakout game. Adept at moving without the ball and leaking out in transition, Budinger leads the Blue & Gold in average speed (4.27 mph), minimum 15 minutes per game. Unfortunately, the numbers on the box score are not reflecting what it is he does for Indiana's offense. He's only scored 15 or more points once this season.
Rakeem Christmas: Consistency from mid-range. Due to his explosive first-step, opposing D-League frontcourts tend to give Indiana's rookie plenty of room to line up his shot from mid-range, where he is connecting on 31.8 percent of his shot attempts. Undersized for his position, being able to knock down shots from between 8-16 feet would not only keep defenders honest; it would allow him to use his quickness to beat opponents to the rim and could ease his transition back to the NBA.
Monta Ellis: DNP-rest. Having only missed two of his last 273 games, Ellis displays a warrior's mentality when it comes to playing through pain. But, at times, his durability may be more of a vice than a virtue. He drew the ire of the Mavericks when he, reportedly, unnecessarily played through a hip injury last season. Since being listed as "questionable" with knee soreness, the high-motor guard has been whirring, averaging seven points on 33 percent shooting. Taking the time to get his body right could go a long way toward lessening Paul George's burden.
Paul George: Patience. It's no secret that the two-time All-Star has struggled to contain his frustration with the guys dressed in gray this season, which is precisely why he should ask the big man in the red suit for some self-restraint this season. Between his six technical fouls and recurrent public criticism of officials, Indiana's leading star has paid the league $58,000 in fines this season. Averaging 0.2 technical fouls per game, George is on pace to rack up 17.6 techs this season, which would be suspension worthy. Even if he feels his dissatisfaction with the officials is warranted after spending nearly a year rehabilitating from a serious injury, George needs to realize that he is too important to the Blue & Gold to allow himself to be distracted or, worse, sidelined by his own emotions. (Stocking Stuffer: A running mate. Over the last 3 games, no other Pacer is averaging 15 or more points or using more than 25 percent of the team's offensive possessions while on the court.)
George Hill: Appreciation. Frank Vogel is absolutely correct: George Hill is one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA, and it never gets mentioned. Opponent ball-handlers shoot just 34.9 percent with Hill guarding them, third-lowest in the league among point guards (minimum 130 possessions). Relentlessly fighting over the top of screens and using the full length of his 6-foot-9 wingspan to hound passing lanes, the Broad Ripple product allows just 0.71 points per possession defending the pick-and-roll, the best mark of any Pacer (minimum 90 possessions). (Stocking Stuffer: 2014-15's FT%)
Jordan Hill: More double-doubles. The Pacers are 5-1 this season when the reserve the big man reaches double figures in points and rebounds. Over the last four games, Indiana has scored a team-best 113.5 points per 100 possessions when Hill has been on the court. When Hill is energized, so are the Pacers.
Solomon Hill: Positivity. After falling out of the team's 10-man rotation, last season's top minutes earner is the only Pacer, thus far, to have his name mentioned in trade rumors. With playing time outside of his control, staying focused on the little ways he can impact the game will be the key to making the most out of his sparse minutes.
Ian Mahinmi: Confidence at the free throw line. ESPN's Defense Real Plus-Minus metric ranks Ian Mahinmi (3.75) sixth among centers. Indiana's lone rim protector is too important to the Blue & Gold's defense to be victimized by Ma-hack-mi.
C.J. Miles: A hot hand. Since having knocked down 5-of-5 three-pointers last week against the Toronto Raptors, Indiana's streaky shooter connected on just 22 percent of his next 27 shots from beyond the arc. Unsurprisingly, the small-ball starting lineup has gotten outscored by 12.6 points per 100 possessions over that same span of time. When Miles heats up, driving lanes open up for George Hill and Monta Ellis, defenders second-guess overloading on Paul George, and catches are made easier for Ian Mahinmi in the paint.
Myles Turner: Health. It's been five weeks since Indiana's rookie underwent surgery to repair his fractured thumb. Following the procedure, six weeks was tentatively penciled in as his prognosis after the operation revealed that he had also suffered ligament damage. Per the Indy Star's Candace Buckner, Turner will be cleared to return to practice, if an X-Ray comes back negative at the end of the month. Having only appeared in eight games this season, here's hoping the New Year brings new beginnings for Indiana's 2015 first-round draft pick.
Glenn Robinson III: Readiness. Unless someone is injured, GRIII only sees the floor when the game is out of hand or out of reach. With such erratic minutes, the 21-year-old has to be the embodiment of Donald Sloan's regularly scheduled tweet, "I'm up" when his number is called. Thus far, the Pacers have basically broken even with Robinson III on the floor (Net Rating: -1.1).
Rodney Stuckey: 2014-15's three-point field-goal percentage. After shooting a career-high 39 percent from behind the arc last season, Stuckey's 3-point shooting has regressed to the mean this season. Well, actually, it's regressed below the mean. Shooting 23.3 percent from three, the 29-year-old NBA veteran is posting his worst mark from distance since his rookie season (18.8%). With Monta Ellis also shooting below 30 percent from long-range, how long will it be before opponents start sagging off the backcourt and clogging up the driving lanes? Thus far, the Pacers have outscored opponents by 4.1 points per 100 possessions when the Ellis-Stuckey tandem is on the floor.
Shayne Whittington: Shooting range. Averaging a team-high 5.1 3-point attempts per game, the second-year Pacer is working on extending his shooting range with the Mad Ants. Of course, developing a new skill has not been without its hills and valleys. On Opening Night, Whittington went 0-of-9 from behind the arc. One day later he connected on 44 percent of his shots from distance. At 6-foot-11, being able to consistently stretch the floor with his shooting could be a game changer when it comes to earning an NBA call-up.
Joe Young: Minutes. Indiana's second-round draft pick earned more playing time in two games (70) with the Mad Ants than he's earned all season (47) with the Pacers. To crack Indiana's 10-man rotation, Young, 6-foot-1, needs to refine his ball-handling skills and become a more capable passer. In order to achieve those objectives, the rookie needs to be where the minutes are. Game action in Fort Wayne is far preferable to game watching in Indy.