Let me start with this:
The Pacers should be ashamed of themselves pic.twitter.com/F51FfD2nWA— NBA Inside Stuff (@NBAInside_Stuff) December 27, 2016
Effort, size, whatever the reason may be, rebounding is perhaps the biggest need the Pacers must address this off-season. The Pacers averaged 42.0 RPG this past season, which was tied for 26th in the NBA according to Basketball Reference. Relative to previous years, the Pacers averaged 44.2 RPG (12th in the NBA) in 2015-16. Remember when the Pacers advanced to back to back Eastern Conference Finals with David West and Roy Hibbert? Those teams averaged 45.9 RPG (1st in the NBA) and 44.7 RPG (8th in the NBA) in 2012-13 and 2013-14, respectively.
Given the faster pace of today’s NBA, teams theoretically should be averaging more rebounds as pace and field goal attempts increase. However, the Pacers rebounding numbers have actually decreased as evidenced by the numbers above. This trend must change if the Pacers wish to be a contender.
Although Myles Turner will continue to grow in both strength and skill, he is nowhere near a dominant force on the glass. With a young center like Turner, the Pacers need help on the glass from the other four players on the floor. Yet, Thad Young – the starting power forward – averaged just 6.1 RPG. Together, the starting front court of Young and Turner combined for just 13.3 RPG. Hassan Whiteside, Andre Drummond, and DeAndre Jordan each average greater than that number individually.
On a positive note, Lance Stephenson was able to help the team’s rebounding. The Pacers averaged 1.8 more RPG in the last six games of the season when Lance returned to Indiana. During this stretch, the Pacers were the 13th best rebounding team in the NBA statistically.
This is a small sample size, and four of the six teams in these games were in the bottom half of the league in RPG. Even with a growing Myles Turner and surely increased playing time for Lance Stephenson, the Pacers will still need to address rebounding this offseason.
Though rebounding was a key issue, you could argue that the Pacers bench is what needs the most improvement. Per NBA.com, the Pacers bench had a -4.6 net rating on the season. This was the third worst bench net rating in the NBA.
Why? The redundancy of players in the second unit created a lack of spacing and versatility, not to mention their nightmarish defense.
No matter which combination of guards Coach Nate McMillan paired together, the bench’s backcourt was mismatched on the offensive and/or defensive end of the floor. For one, neither Aaron Brooks, Monta Ellis, Rodney Stuckey, nor Joe Young are known for their defensive abilities. Ellis and Stuckey are also poor perimeter scorers, and their defenders were able to take away their strengths by sagging off the ball.
The second unit’s front court had just as much redundancy. Nate McMillan tried multiple combinations of Lavoy Allen, Georges Niang, Kevin Seraphin, Al Jefferson, and Rakeem Christmas. Again, none of these players besides Niang - who hardly saw time on the court - could consistently stretch the floor. What they did do consistently was clog the lane for their guards who liked to attack the basket. On the defensive end, they had trouble guarding smaller, quicker power forwards.
Yet again, Lance Stephenson was a great help in this department. The Pacers bench posted a net rating of +2.0 in Stephenson’s six-game stint to end the regular season, which ranked 12th in the NBA during that time.
No matter if Lance starts or comes off the bench, the Pacers second unit has room to improve. Team President Kevin Pritchard will have his hands full this summer forming a unit with players who compliment each other.
The bench’s inability to spread the floor uncovered a third area in which the Pacers must improve: perimeter shooting.
The three point shot is as popular as it has ever been with the continued movement towards pace and space basketball. The Houston Rockets (40.3 3PA per game), Cleveland Cavaliers (33.9 3PA), Boston Celtics (33.4 3PA), and Golden State Warriors (31.2 3PA) ranked in the top five in 3PA per game during the regular season. Notice all four of those teams are still in the playoffs.
The Pacers shot just 23.0 3PA per game, which ranked 27th in the NBA.
Despite shooting the 27th most 3PA in the league, the Pacers were 4th in 3P%. This tells us they shoot well from three but do not have enough shooters. In fact, two-thirds of 3PA came from just three players: Paul George, CJ Miles, and Jeff Teague.
Three players who consistently shoot from the perimeter is not enough to spread the floor. However, the Pacers may not need to look outside the current roster to lessen the problem. Both Thad Young and Myles Turner have shown their ability to knock down shots from behind the arc.
Thaddeus Young shot well from three this past season at just above 38% - and he had a bum wrist for 15+ games. Yet, he averaged just 1.6 attempts per game. The Pacers will need Young to be a consistent threat from three in order to spread the floor.
Myles Turner, based on his trends so far, will continue to improve on his three point shot and confidence. Turner averaged just 1.4 3PA per game despite shooting at a 35% clip. I would like to see Turner in the 2.5-3.5 3PA per game range this upcoming season. For reference, Brook Lopez averaged 5.2 3PA per game to lead all NBA centers.
Look at how Turner’s ability to knock down the three can open the floor:
Look at the spacing here. This is how Turner should be utilized - out on the perimeter. Instead, only 1.6 3PA per game. Shooting 40% from 3. pic.twitter.com/W7X0GewUMl— Evan Morris (@EvanOnSBNation) January 5, 2017
Nevertheless, Kevin Pritchard will have to look outside the current roster to find guards to space the floor. Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey, both shooting guards ironically, were empty threats behind the arc. These two shot below 32% on the year.
With the threat of consistent three point shooters (and makers), the Pacers can stretch the floor to allow more space for running the offense.
If the Pacers wish to contend for the NBA Finals, new Team President Kevin Pritchard must address rebounding, the bench, and perimeter scoring. You have a lot of work ahead of you, Kevin.
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