NBA.com's John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2016-17 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Indiana Pacers, who got stops by playing big.
The Indiana Pacers had the league's two best defensive lineups among the 26 that played at least 300 minutes together last season.
The Pacers allowed just 95.1 points per 100 possessions in 785 total minutes with George Hill, Monta Ellis, Paul George and Ian Mahinmi on the floor with either Lavoy Allen or Myles Turner at power forward. That's a rate lower than the San Antonio Spurs' season-long, league-leading number (96.6).
Indiana went into last season with the intent of playing small and spreading the floor. But that same starting group with C.J. Miles at power forward allowed 107.2 points per 100 possessions in 333 minutes and was the league's worst rebounding lineup among those that played at least 200 minutes.
Former coach Frank Vogel barely played that lineup after Christmas and the Pacers went back to playing big. For the season, they allowed 98.1 points per 100 possessions in 2,363 minutes with two bigs on the floor and 103.1 in 1,573 minutes with one big on the floor.
The Pacers still have the ability to play big. And they still have George, one of the two or three best perimeter defenders in the league. But swapping out Hill (traded to the Utah Jazz) for Jeff Teague and Mahinmi (signed as a free agent by the Washington Wizards) for Al Jefferson will hurt their defense. The departure of Vogel should have an adverse affect on that end of the floor as well.
The hope is that more speed and versatility (from Teague and power forward Thaddeus Young) will help the Pacers offensively. Though they saw the league's fourth biggest increase in pace last season, they're looking to play even faster this year. Either way, the development of Turner on both ends of the floor will determine their ceiling.
Though his previous teams played slow, new coach Nate McMillan has had five top-10 offenses in his 10 full seasons as a coach. They tried last season, but this may finally be the year the Pacers change their identity from a big team with elite defense to one that's more balanced.
10 MORE PACERS NOTES
- Indiana had the biggest increase in opponent turnover rate, from 13.2 per 100 possessions (25th in the league) in 2014-15 to 15.8 (seventh) in '15-16. They led the league with 18.9 points off turnovers per game. George and Ellis ranked ninth and 10th with 1.9 steals per game apiece.
- The Pacers played 52 games that were within five points in the last five minutes, tied (with Denver) for the most in the league.
- One of two teams (the Miami Heat was the other) that was at least 3.0 points per 100 possessions better offensively (plus-3.8) and 3.0 points per 100 possessions better defensively (minus-3.6) with at least one day of rest than they were in the second game of a back-to-back. They were 38-27 with the league's ninth best NetRtg (plus-3.7) with at least one day of rest.
- 10-8 vs. the other East playoff teams before the All-Star break and 2-7 after it. One of the two post-break wins was vs. the LeBron James-less Cavs on April 6.
- Thaddeus Young grabbed 22.7 percent of available defensive rebounds and 15.6 percent of all rebounds while he was on the floor last season, up from 13.6 percent and 9.6 percent in 2014-15. Those were the biggest increases in defensive rebounding percentage and rebounding percentage among players that played at least 1,000 minutes both seasons. He also had the fourth biggest increase in offensive rebounding percentage (+2.5%).
- According to SportVU, Teague had an effective field goal percentage of 72.5 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers and 41.3 percent on pull-up jumpers last season. That was the biggest difference among players with at least 100 attempts of each.
- Rodney Stuckey had an effective field goal percentage of 37.9 percent at home and 48.7 percent on the road. Only one other player (Marcus Smart -- 13.1 percent) who took at least 200 shots in both locations had a bigger differential where they shot better at home than on the road.
- In the playoffs, they were 40.4 points per 100 possessions better with George on the floor (plus-12.0) than with him on the bench (minus-28.4). That was the second biggest on-off differential among players who played at least 100 playoff minutes.
- George led the playoffs in free throw percentage (95.3 percent) among players with at least 50 attempts. He ranked second in true shooting percentage among players who took at least 100 shots in the playoffs.
- George has an effective field goal percentage of just 18.9 percent in the last minute of fourth quarter or overtime with the score within three over the last five years, the worst mark among 23 players with at least 65 such field goal attempts.
NBA TV's Pacers preview premieres at 6 p.m. ET on Monday, Oct. 10.
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