clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pacers rotations part 2: Everyone really wants this to work.

Welcome to a breakdown series on rotations the Pacers could use in the 2018-19 season. The series will be ongoing with no apparent ending. Just kidding. I don’t know how many parts it will be in, how many posts it will include or how long it will take, but enjoy this second post.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) battles for a ball with Indiana Pacers center Domantas Sabonis (11) and Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) during the third quarter at Air Canada Centre. Credit: Nick Turchiaro
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

PG: Darren Collison

SG: Victor Oladipo

SF: Bojan Bogdanovic

PF: Myles Turner

C: Domantas Sabonis

Imagine taking the best parts of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and putting them into one player. Combine Turner’s three-point shooting and rim protection with Sabonis’ decision making and post-play and you end up with the best center in the NBA.

If only that was possible.

Unfortunately our society hasn’t invented something that allows the Pacers to do that, so they’re stuck with two options: trade one or make them play together.

On paper it would seem Indiana should lean towards defense, since either Sabonis or Turner will be out of position on that end of the floor, forced to guard stretch-fours.

Turner is slotted at the power forward and Sabonis at center for offensive purposes. Turner will stretch the floor with his shooting and Sabonis will play in the post.

Indiana should flip the two on the other end of the floor because of his rim protection. The Pacers doesn’t want stretch four’s dragging Turner away from the rim, where he’s most effective as a defender.

The point guard matters for both centers and Indiana has to choose between playing Darren Collison or Cory Joseph. Both bring value for a different reason: Collison on the offensive end and Joseph on the defensive.

But the Collision option has a higher net rating in the limited sample size of both lineups. The lineup with Collison has a positive net rating of 17.8 over 19 minutes, versus the 24 minutes and 15.5 rating of the lineup with Joseph.

When you isolate it down into both Turner and Sabonis and either Collison or Joseph, the stats still favor Collison by almost 15 net rating points. However, remember that Lance Stephenson played a good chunk of the Joseph-Sabonis-Turner lineup.

Stephenson had one of the lowest net ratings of the Indiana starters. When he was on the court the Pacers had a -3.8 rating; off the court, the team’s rating was 5.0.

Ideally, Nate McMillan would use Oladipo and Bogdanovic in this lineup because this could be Indiana’s starting five in 2020.

Oladipo is the ideal pick and roll or pick and pop player for both,

Bogdanovic spreads the floor, allowing both players more space and one-on-one matchups in the post.

A flaw in this lineup would be putting Turner in the corner, where his three-point percentage the past two seasons has been just 21 percent. The sample size is small and as Turner is given more freedom with his shot it might get better, but there were times last season it felt like his corner three was just...off.

The key to this lineup’s success is Sabonis becoming a solid defender on the perimeter and developing a consistent three-point shot. During the Cleveland series, Sabonis was up and down on both ends of the floor but showed flashes of being a decent perimeter defender when up against Lebron James.

Teams could exploit both Sabonis and Turner with picks and switches if they’re unable to guard the perimeter. Turner’s rim protection allows him to stay on the court but Sabonis rarely sees positive outcomes in this situation (unless he’s hitting 75 percent of his shots).

Ironically Sabonis shot that necessary 75 percent or higher on seven or more shots four times last season. It’s those shots that allowed him to stay on the floor in game five of the Cleveland series.

Sabonis’ three-point shooting is still up in the air -- he’s only taken 44 threes all year. If he develops both skills adequately he should be able to play next to Turner in a similar role Young currently holds, except with more height.

Together Sabonis and Turner are kind of clunky but they could learn how to coexist on the floor together for 20-25 minutes again. No matter what, though, the ability to both stagger and bring a starting level center off the bench would make Indiana better and more adaptable to different playing styles.