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Pacers’ rumored interest in Lopez, Okafor further emphasizes their lack of identity

Targeting centers doesn’t make sense and seems a little desperate.

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NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Brooklyn Nets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It is anyone’s guess what type of team the Indiana Pacers want to be. They don’t attempt 3-pointers at a record pace. Their roster redundancy prevents them from being particularly versatile, they hold the ball too much, they routinely fall in and out of trust with each other, and their defense waxes and wanes. Making matters worse, their speed hasn’t been able to consistently compensate for any of these shortcomings. Instead, on the season, the Pacers are averaging a measly 0.07 more possessions than they did last season. Over the last six games, they’re averaging 4.27 less.

Further confounding their identity crisis is the team’s rumored interest in Brook Lopez and Jahlil Okafor. Not shooters. Not interchangeable forwards. Centers. Not mobile rim protecting centers, either. Scoring centers.

This is all just very... strange.

Moving Myles Turner to power forward made sense last season. They were too small and erratic with C.J. Miles, who was beaten up and bruised from switching positions, at four, and they played at a snail’s pace and got abused by opposing power fauxwards with Lavoy Allen acting as reliever. Turner, with Ian Mahinmi hovering closely behind him to clean up his rookie mistakes, was the happy middle.

Advanced stats indicate that the same results should not be expected of a potential Turner-Lopez or Turner-Okafor pairing.

Stats are per 100 possessions.

Cross-comparing defensive impact across rosters and playing styles is an imperfect science, but it is telling that opponents score fewer points in the paint and grab fewer second chance points with Turner, who has an intermittent tendency to play small against more imposing frames, on the floor than with Lopez or Okafor.

Admittedly, Turner still needs to get a better handle on whether to hedge or use soft coverage as the team’s defensive anchor, but pulling him away from the rim would diminish his greatest skill as a defender — his impeccable timing as a shot blocker — while further weakening the team’s ability to run opponents off the three-point line. It’s a lose-lose.

Pursuing either player with the intention of boosting the team’s offense is equally confusing. Granted, Lopez is taking and making more threes than he ever has in his career, but he (34.4%) hasn’t been as accurate as Thaddeus Young (39.6%), the player he would likely push out of the starting lineup.

As for Okafor, he spends more of his possessions posting up (35.4%) than any player in the league other than Al Jefferson (47.0%), and he does it less efficiently, placing in the 45th percentile. Perhaps even more ominous, though, is that in the 70 minutes his big body has spent parked beside Joel Embiid on the opposing block this season, the Sixers have been outscored by a mammoth 24.4 points per 100 possessions. All of which is to say that it is possible that Philadelphia’s sophomore may not be able to draw the same degree of gravity as Al Jefferson while simultaneously weighing down Myles Turner.

Even if either target was amenable to a bench role, the fit would not be particularly clean. Lopez’s shooting could potentially spread the floor for Indiana’s glut of ball-dominant guards, but his and Okafor’s lack of mobility would not do much in the way to solve the bench’s season-long struggle to go small against opposing spread lineups.

“We’re losing the same way every game,” Paul George told the Indy Star’s Nate Taylor after his team allowed the Wizards to make 15 three-pointers. “We’re allowing shooters to get off in these pick-and-roll sets. I think we’re just not adapting to the new NBA. We’re getting a lot of unsureness again, guys not knowing where to go or rotate. We’ve got a lot of slippage in that area.”

Indiana’s 29-28 record should serve as evidence that the team’s formula of disregarding fit in the name of accumulating players they hope can get enough buckets to compensate for erratic shooting and leaky defense isn’t an effective means to maximize Paul George’s talent, it’s desperate.

NBA trade season is upon us and the Pacers have needs. Can they flip a veteran asset or two to fill a need or two?

Опубліковано Indy Cornrows 13 січня 2017 р.