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The Pacers finally have an identity developing

The Pacers are 4-3 without Myles Turner in the lineup and 3-5 with him in the lineup. But their struggles with him on the floor isn’t his fault.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Memphis Grizzlies
Grizzlies guard Tyreke Evans (12) dribbles as Indiana Pacers forward Myles Turner (33) defends at FedExForum. Indiana won 116-113. Credit: Nelson Chenault
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

We’re 15 games into the season and despite being 7-8, the Pacers are looking better than last year because they finally have an identity - they’re playing really fast. Their offense is ninth in pace of play, averaging 102 possessions per game versus just 99.8 last season.

Indiana had tried to do this last season, failing spectacularly due to a lack of chemistry. But this season its been different. Nate McMillan got the Pacers to play a style that completely opened up the transition offense. Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic are the two biggest beneficiaries of the up-tempo because neither one is particularly great in the half court.

Bogdanovic is shooting a career high 44 percent from the three-point range this season. He’s one of Indiana’s best knock-down three-point shooters.

Here Bogdanovic is in a similar situation against the Pelicans.

Darren Collison, on the other hand, thrives in transition because he’s quick and he’s fantastic at attacking the rim when defenders aren’t set.

Watch how he goes at the rim even though it's two on four.

Despite the opening of a transition offense, the Pacers are not perfect. At times the high-speed identity fades late in games or when the bench unit is on the floor. Indiana struggles to maintain leads between the six-minute mark of the third quarter and the six-minute mark of the fourth.

That’s why Indiana should play a bench lineup built around Myles Turner. Turner has really struggled on the offensive when out there with the starting lineup. But it's not his fault because the success of a center relies heavily on the guard play.

Domantas Sabonis played at an elite level in Turner's absence - not because the offense was built around him, but because he made intelligent plays. A lot of Sabonis’ success was created by his ability to be in the right spot at the right time.

Sabonis also had a perfect shooting record in three of his first eight games (going 7-7 in one and 9-9 in the other two). It was completely unexpected, and honestly, an outlier. But for all of Sabonis’ success, Turner hasn’t been able to match Sabonis’ production when he’s on the floor.

Turner’s play style is the opposite of Sabonis. He stretches the floor with the ability to guard the three, protects the rim and can be given isolated touches on offense. It’s been a weird adjustment for players like Bogdanovic and Oladipo, who feel like they created Indiana’s new fast identity during Turner’s absence and don’t want to make adjustments to reintegrate him.

But after the Grizzlies game on Wednesday it's clear that even if Turner can’t replicate Sabonis’ offensive impact, his defensive impact is important for the Pacers at the end of games. Turner’s defensive rating is 104 - by far the best of any Pacer who plays significant minutes.

Offensively though, it does seem like Turner would fit better with the bench unit in a role similar to Al Jefferson. The Pacers rarely run ISO or post-ups for Turner, but have no problem letting Jefferson do it.

When Turner and Sabonis are healthy, Jefferson’s minutes diminish because he lacks the speed and defensive skill on the court. The Pacers also rarely use Turner in the bench even though he could seamlessly fit into Jefferson’s role.

The Pacers clearly have no issue at the start of games. They are averaging 57.4 points in the first half of games versus just 51.2 points in second half. Sabonis is an awkward fit with the bench unit but Turner wouldn’t be. Subbing Turner out around the six minute mark in the first and third quarters, then letting him play most of the second and fourth quarters, would be an easy way to get him more offensive touches while still letting him play the end of games.His defensive skill is clearly needed towards the end of games and offensively he might be able to boost the bench unit.

Indiana’s best quarter is the first where they are plus three; their worst is the fourth quarter where they are a minus 2.6. If Turner is able to play the entire fourth quarter he can boost the offensive production at the beginning of games and then become the defensive presence Indiana needs at the end of games.