Shootaround: McMillan on Dallas, Tempo

October 26, 2016 - Ahead of opening night against the Dallas Mavericks, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan discussed the opponent and what it will take for the Pacers to establish their tempo.

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Shootaround: McMillan on Dallas, Tempo

October 26, 2016 - Ahead of opening night against the Dallas Mavericks, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan discussed the opponent and what it will take for the Pacers to establish their tempo.
Oct 26, 2016  |  02:23

Shootaround: Turner on His Second Season, Dallas

October 26, 2016 - Pacers center Myles Turner discussed his excitement for his second NBA campaign, as well as facing the Dallas Mavericks.
Oct 26, 2016  |  01:37

Practice: PG on New Season, Matchup with Dallas

October 25, 2016 - Pacers All-Star forward Paul George discusses the state of the team heading into Wednesday's season opener against the Dallas Mavericks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Oct 25, 2016  |  03:03

Practice: Thad Young on Excitement for Opening Night

October 25, 2016 - Pacers forward Thaddeus Young talked with reporters after practice on Tuesday about the team's progress on defense, and his excitement for the first game of the NBA season.
Oct 25, 2016  |  02:41

McMillan: "I Think These Guys are Ready to Play for Real"

October 25, 2016 - Pacers head Nate McMillan discusses Wednesday's season opener against the Dallas Mavericks following Tuesday's practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Oct 25, 2016  |  03:14

Practice: Turner on the Season Opener, His Development

October 24, 2016 - Ahead of the start of the regular season, Pacers center Myles Turner discussed the first game, as well as his development since his rookie season.
Oct 24, 2016  |  01:18

McMillan: "I Think Everyone's Looking Forward to Wednesday Night"

October 24, 2016 - Pacers head coach discussed the end of the preseason, as well as his new look team and system.
Oct 24, 2016  |  02:19

Practice: Paul George on the Start of the Regular Season

October 24, 2016 - Pacers forward Paul George shared his thoughts on his development as a player and how the team is approaching the start of the regular season.
Oct 24, 2016  |  03:31

Practice: Thad Young on Opening Night, Mavericks

October 24, 2016 - Pacers forward Thaddeus Young discusses getting ready for Wednesday's season opener against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.
Oct 24, 2016  |  02:24

Mark's Mailbag: Thad Young Could be Vital to Pacers Success

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Q. After watching a little of the preseason games and hearing what Paul George and Nate McMillan have been saying in interviews, I'm already worried about the defense, even though it's pre-season. Defense and rebounding are what they've been able to hang their hat on for years now. I keep hearing everyone say they have Dan Burke who is the defensive specialist, but I can sense there are going to be some problems this year on that end of the floor.

Do you think Bird/Nate have stressed tempo too much? They're naturally going to play faster since Jeff Teague plays with more tempo than George Hill, Thad Young is a quicker/faster power forward, plus that's Monta's style along with George and Myles Turner.

If you play top level defense and you rebound, you can play with anyone, right? That's how the Pacers have been so successful these last few years. Shouldn't defense be their No. 1 priority? They say defense wins championships. I know that they don't have the defensive players they once had, but in your opinion do you believe they can still be really good on that end? About three years ago, I loved when they held teams to only scoring in the 90s. Now it looks like they'll be giving up well over 100 points a game. Their offense will be better, but still I think defense is what separates you from other teams and you'll need it to get past the other Eastern Conference teams in the playoffs in order to face LeBron and the Cavs.

-Russell

A. It is interesting to see a team shift its approach so drastically, isn't it?

Just a few years ago I was writing how the Pacers not only had the best defense in the NBA, but one that could prove to be historically good. And now all of a sudden the emphasis of all their transactions seems to be scoring. And you're right, we've always heard that defense wins championships, that it's the constant that will win games when shots aren't falling. It's one of the ultimate clichés in sports.

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We'll also have to admit, though, tha teams that win championships tend to be known more for offense than defense – such as the Boston teams Bird played for or the Showtime Lakers in the Eighties, or for that matter Cleveland and Golden State the past two seasons.

As I wrote on Monday, however, they are not giving up on defense. Nate McMillan is going to attempt to pull off the rare feat of playing an uptempo style without sacrificing much on defense. The players appear to have bought into it, but we'll have to see how it goes during the regular season.

I don't believe they'll give up well over 100 points. If so, they better be winning at a high rate. The three Pacers teams that won ABA titles allowed between 110-112 points per game, so it's not necessarily impossible to win that way, but I think they'll spend too much time working on it in practice to let that happen. McMillan made defense the emphasis of his first training camp practice and hasn't let up. It didn't look like it during some of the preseason games, but the feeling – or at least the hope – around the team is that the adjustment to a new offense and new teammates and the typical lack of intensity in preseason games dampened the defensive effort.

Paul George is one of the NBA's better defenders and is committed to it. Myles Turner should be an effective rim protector. That's a good place to start. It's difficult to maintain a fast pace and play stout-hearted defense, so McMillan will have to utilize his bench more to prevent the starters from wearing out. And, some of the starters will have to accept that.

Bottom line: You can't run for easy baskets if you're taking the ball out of the net. Defensive stops are the first steps toward an uptempo offense. They'll need to put effort into their defense, but won't necessarily have to live for it if their offense is good enough. Other teams have proven that.

Q. Will Paul George play at the two position, as that would allow him to make more plays?

-Bob

A. I think the "two" and "three" positions are interchangeable these days. The difference usually only means something on defense, where a smaller "two" might have difficulty dealing with a taller "three."

If the Pacers run their offense correctly, the number assigned to George's position shouldn't matter much. They'll be trying to get easy shots in transition, with George running ahead for a layup or filling a lane on a fastbreak. In those cases, assigned positions are meaningless. Even in the halfcourt he can make plays from his current position, as he's been doing for a few years now.

I can, however, see George playing more of a "two" position in certain matchups. And I can certainly see him defending that position if the opponent has a serious scoring threat there, with someone else defending the small forward if that player isn't a scorer.

Q. Do you think with our smaller backcourt we'll see more gambling on steals etc., knowing Myles is protecting the rim?

-Dennis

A. I do not. The Pacers are coached to play fundamental defense, to move their feet and stay in front of the man they're guarding. Having Turner around the basket should provide some comfort, but I don't think the guards will be allowed to gamble too much.

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Teague and Ellis, however, will no doubt take chances now and then. They're quick enough to get in passing lanes and they have a knack for coming up with the ball. Teague averaged 1.7 steals two seasons ago when he was an All-Star, and Ellis averaged 1.9 last season with the Pacers. As long as they don't stray too far from fundamental defense they'll get their share of steals.

Q. What do you think about the Ben Bentil signing?

-Anthony

Bentil was signed, then waived on Monday, with the eventual plan to place him on the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. That was the plan all along, rather than keeping him on the NBA roster and releasing someone else.

It seems a low-risk move that can't cause any damage. Bentil was drafted 51st by Boston last June, right after the Pacers took Georges Niang. Most mock drafts had him going higher than that. He's a first-round offensive talent, but his lack of defense in college dropped him into the second round. If he can put effort into that and rebound aggressively, he should last awhile in the NBA.

Q. Julyan Stone and Jeremy Evans are cut off the roster. Do you think this is the right decision? Or should you cut someone else?

-Pierre

A. This is what I expected. Stone was brought in to play on the D League team in Fort Wayne; he didn't have an NBA contract. Evans did, but the Pacers had been compensated by Dallas to take him, so there was no risk there. Evans doesn't appear to have a position defensively because of his lack of bulk and strength. He runs and jumps well, but will need to round out his game to have a chance to stick.

Stone has played games in the NBA and impressed the Pacers coaches with his defense, but will have to earn his way back into the league through the D League.

Q. Has Glenn Robinson III done enough to crack the nine-man rotation?

-ISPN Pacers

A. Yes, but so has C.J. Miles – not this preseason, but over the course of his career.

That's going to be a dilemma for McMillan, who probably won't be able to work both Robinson and Miles into the rotation in every game. He might be able to do so occasionally when matchups make it feasible to go with a smaller lineup, but not every game.

Injuries will alleviate the congestion on the Pacers' bench at various points of the season, but until then someone might have to swallow his pride now and then. Robinson has played too well to be left out of the rotation entirely, and Miles hasn't done anything to lose his spot other than come down with a sore knee.

One way or another, I expect Robinson to get consistent playing time this season if he gets off to a good start. He'll need to stay aggressive, hit open shots and go all out on defense. It's not inconceivable to me that he could wind up a starting two guard down the road.

Q. Do you think 3-point line (lack of spacing) could be Pacers' Kryptonite? Hearing a lot of analysts talking about this.

-Francisco

A. The Pacers don't have anyone you might consider a great 3-point shooter, but they have plenty of good ones – enough to keep defenses honest, at least.

George, Teague, Miles and Robinson all should hit between 37 and 40 percent from the 3-point line, based on recent history. Stuckey shot poorly last season while battling ankle injuries, but hit 39 percent two years ago and hit 70 percent in the preseason. Thad Young has been erratic throughout his career, but hit 37.5 percent in the preseason and should thrive in an offense that provides a green light for him.

They also have Georges Niang, who is unproven as a professional 3-point shooter, but hit better than 40 percent of his limited attempts in the preseason and won the 3-point shooting contest at Fan Jam, for what that's worth. And, I expect Myles Turner to be a legitimate 3-point threat as his confidence from there grows. He's got the shooting touch to make the shot consistently.

Keep in mind, spreading the floor isn't about taking 3-point shots as much as it's for opening the foul lane for penetration. The Pacers have a starting lineup built for that.

Q. Do you think this team needs a wing defender to go with George? Monta is too small. Somebody needs to help George guard the best players.

-Vino

A. Glenn Robinson III should be able to fill that role. He's listed at 6-foot-7 and athletic enough to defend most players. He's got the mindset for it as well.

I also think Stuckey and Miles are adequate as defenders on the wing. Then again, so is Ellis as long as he doesn't gamble too much.

Q. Which Pacers player will have the biggest impact this season, besides Turner and Paul George?

-Riley

A. They have a balanced team, so it's difficult to pick out one. Teague, Young and Ellis all are capable of having big games, and will on occasion, and others will have an impact off the bench.

If forced to pick one, I'd go with Young. He's solid in all areas, and his mere presence puts the pieces in place in the starting lineup. He's a natural "four," along the lines of David West, which means nobody else has to be shoehorned into that position. His maturity and demeanor also should have a positive impact in the locker room.


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

Some mailbag questions have been edited for length and clarity.