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Pacers Free Agency Target: Andrew Nicholson

The Pacers need to build a versatile and deep bench to maximise the ceiling of the 'pace and space' experiment, would Andrew Nicholson be a good fit?

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Nicholson is an extremely talented basketball player who has sadly been caught up in the roster logjam at the Orlando Magic. They have had too many players for the last couple of years and they have not managed to find a suitable role for Nicholson. He was effectively replaced by the versatile Jason Smith last summer and became a bit part player in the Magic’s confusing rotation. A few days ago the Magic declined his option which makes perfect sense after the addition of Serge Ibaka, the Pacers are one of many teams that should consider swooping for him.

Nicholson started last season really well for Orlando, he was consistently one of their best defenders and he was shooting around 45% from the field and 41% from three on two attempts per game from deep. He was consistently a good rebounder as in his 17 minutes per game he averaged around five rebounds. He was versatile and did what Orlando needed him to but in January he saw his minutes restricted to around 11 per game and by February he had been completely yanked from the Magic rotation. Most of the moves Scott Skiles has made as a Head Coach have baffled everyone but this was such a strange one as Nicholson appeared to be a perfect role player in his up-tempo system based on jump shooting.

Their loss could be our gain, he has a lot of talent and is a versatile offensive player and you need that in a deep rotation. He ranked in the 78th percentile on 123 post ups last season which is an incredible number when you consider he only played in 50 games. He has a vast array of post moves and can be both powerful and elegant around the rim. Post ups aren’t often something you would associate with an up-tempo offense, but if the floor is spaced adequately then he could become a potent scorer in an NBA bench unit.

Nicholson also ranked in the 84th percentile as a spot up shooter and he became a reliable option for the likes of Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton to pass to. He has smart off the ball movement and has a relatively quick release for a big man which means he can punish slow switches by the opposition defense. His numbers are so impressive that he ranks above other free agent spot up shooting forwards such as Luis Scola, Darrell Arthur and Meyers Leonard. His shot chart is pretty impressive considering Orlando weren’t a team blessed with floor spacing for a lot of the season, he made the most of his opportunities but Scott Skiles ignored his good performances.

One thing Andrew Nicholson struggles at is being the roll man in the pick and roll, he ranked in the 20th percentile and he often appears clumsy when he drives to the paint. This may put some people off but building a bench is about building versatility and due to his rare combination of effective post moves and good spot up shooting he is a unique talent for General Managers to consider.

He also plays stellar defense which makes Skiles’ decision to bench him even more baffling. Over the course of last season, the Magic were EIGHT points better off per 100 possessions when Nicholson was on the floor. He has the mobility to switch onto guards and he doesn’t get bullied in the post that often due to a decent amount of athleticism. He suits the Pacers defensive system as he is both aggressive and intelligent, Dan Burke would love to work with a guy like him.

One thing that Larry Bird and Pacers fans alike have to keep in mind is that you need a deep bench in order to run an up-tempo system for an entire basketball season. For example, the Nuggets team of 12-13 had a rotation that went ten deep but could go as far as twelve deep depending on what George Karl wanted to do in a game. That team had versatility and depth which meant Karl’s up-tempo system worked to the max (at least in the regular season). Indiana needs to look at adding effective and versatile role players to give Nate McMillan a realistic chance of running an up-tempo offence all year. If we don’t have enough depth then the experiment will fail badly. At the moment the bench has CJ Miles, LaVoy Allen and potentially Monta Ellis, this is a good start but more needs to be added. Adding Nicholson would be a fine start to what is a very important summer for Indiana and Larry Bird.