For the third-straight holiday season, the film room along with the virtual shelves of several advanced stats sites have been scoured in search of the perfect present for each player on Indiana’s roster in hopes that the impact soon will be near.
Unfortunately, most of last season’s gifts are collecting dust now that four players from the 2016-17 roster are on different teams and six are no longer in the league. However, Rodney Stuckey’s gently used “health” has been re-gifted to Glenn Robinson III, since the tag was left on it.
‘Tis the season for giving, so the backcourt is opening its presents early.
Victor Oladipo: Ball control against traps.
Despite having exploded for 47 points on 28 shots, including scoring eight of Indiana’s last 10 fourth quarter points, it surprisingly wasn’t until there was under 2:00 minutes to play in overtime that the Denver Nuggets fully committed to forcing the ball out of Oladipo’s hands.
When Trey Lyles did come out hard against him, the athletic guard almost immediately picked up his dribble and ended up throwing an errant pass.
Per Synergy, opposing teams have only trapped Oladipo on 12 of his pick-and-roll possessions this season, but he has a 41.7 percent turnover rate when they do.
As long as he continues to shoot above 40 percent on pull-up threes while occasionally beating his defenders to the rim even when they go under picks, the soon-to-be marked man should expect opponents to start overloading on him more regularly in the half court.
Being prepared to make plays for others is the next step, even if he already seems to have made the proverbial leap.
Glenn Robinson III: Health.
The reigning slam dunk champion has shed his walking boot after undergoing surgery on his left ankle, but he’s still more than a month away from demonstrating whether his rigorous offseason labor will bear fruit ahead of his impending free agency.
Assuming he can shake off the rust and show more flashes of being able to attack off the dribble and create separation when opponents crowd him out beyond the arc, his eventual return to play should solidify the 9-man rotation at the expense of T.J. Leaf, which theoretically would free up the rookie to earn steadier minutes with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. .
It’s difficult to imagine the starting lineup experiencing a shakeup, but having Robinson III available will at least afford Nate McMillan an additional stop-release on the nights when Bojan Bogdanovic is minus-24 in 26 minutes like he was against the Detroit Pistons last Friday.
Plus, more of the Croatian sharpshooter’s minutes could be redistributed to the four position in bench lineups, if need be. Overall, the Pacers have outscored opponents by 8.5 points per 100 possession in the 59 minutes that Bogdanovic has played at power fauxward beside Sabonis.
However, as long as the high-flying athlete remains sidelined, he might as well treat himself to a few more lucky gold metallic mirror ties so he can rotate them while on the road.
If this is a Hex Tie, which it appears that it is, then grabbing an extra one will only set him back by $77.00, down from $899.00 (!!!).
Clearly, that’s just too good of a deal to pass up.
Cory Joseph: More passes from Domantas Sabonis.
Per Synergy, the pesky defender is shooting 54.2 percent when he spots up off the ball.
Granted, Joseph has served as an effective stop-release for Darren Collison and Victor Oladipo out of the pick-and-roll, but he’s also benefited from the quick decision making skills of Domantas Sabonis.
Here, as soon as the lefty reserve center senses that he’s drawn double-coverage, Joseph reaps the rewards of receiving this one-handed pass out of the post directly in his shooting pocket.
He’s also been assisted by Sabonis keeping his head on a swivel on the middle of the floor after setting screens, as was highlighted by Michael D. Sykes, II of SB Nation.
On the season, Joseph has shot 9-of-15 (60%) from three off of passes from Sabonis.
Joe Young: Forced Turnovers.
The 25-year-old is still struggling to scrape together consistent minutes while shooting a rather pitiful nine (yes, nine) percent from three-point range, but he continues to play with an edge (when he plays) and no one in a comparative role gets quite as hype over the little things as he does.
For instance, note the time and lopsided score when the scrappy guard manages to pester Ramon Sessions into committing an offensive foul.
Now, observe as he engages in some petty self-congratulatory clapping.
Celebrate life’s small moments to the degree that Joe Young does when he forces a turnover during garbage time.
Lance Stephenson: Bankers Life Fieldhouse virtual reality headset.
Lance feeds off the crowd and the crowd feeds off Lance, as evidenced by the fact that he’s currently shooting only slightly better from three on the road (20.0%) than he did during his career-low, historically bad season in Charlotte (17.1%), while somehow shooting a respectable 36.2 percent at home.
Overall, the Pacers are getting outscored by 1.4 points per 100 possessions when Lance is on the floor, but there’s no denying that his competitive energy sparked the crowd when he twice scored 13 points during the fourth quarters of comeback wins against the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons.
Even if some magic can’t be explained, Lance needs to be able to conjure it inside other arenas.
Darren Collison: Containment.
Indiana’s offense is 7.4 points per 100 possessions better when the 30-year-old guard is on the floor compared to off partially because he makes smart reads out of the pick-and-roll and takes care of the ball without dominating it.
But, his porosity defending the point of attack has a tendency to put Myles Turner in some tough spots. Such was the case, here, when Spencer Dinwiddie blew past Collison and found Tyler Zeller for the easy lay-in when Turner was forced to stop the ball.
Tellingly, Indiana is holding opponents to 45.9 points in the paint per 100 possessions, a team-best mark, when Darren Collison is on the bench.