George Hill, Frank Vogel, Joe Young
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Mark's Mailbag: Offseason Moves, Playing Rotation, and Positions

by Mark Montieth Writer

Q. I was reading your column regarding the Pacers' depth and Frank Vogel, going to a “10-man rotation.” I believe the Pacers should go 15-deep every game and train everybody to play whenever called on, whatever the situation.

Here's where Frank can continue to grow as a coach, in recognizing subtle changes within the flow of the game. Think about it - if you could run your starters at full blast for 15-20 minutes per game and then bring in 10 subs, 2 units that understand their specific roles, everyone would remain fresh over an 82 game schedule. I know this sounds impossible, but why not, if we're talking about everyone being an NBA caliber player?

The key issue with younger players is a lack of court time and exposing them to situations when the game is on the line. You cannot expect a player to perform in game situations when they simply don't have the experience. Just as teams are going to a game where everyone can run the court like a shooting guard, or small forward (Small Ball), everyone on the Pacers roster should be able to play this style of game.

— Maurice

Q. Another very solid move by the Pacers (signing Glenn Robinson III).

Would I be off when seeing Vogel play deep rotations with more full-court defensive pressure to go along with increased spacing and balanced scoring? I can see this team running the floor on both ends and rotating 12-14 deep. Might as well have as complete of a team as you can in this league. I love this idea of getting all this talent at a minimum cost while also staying competitive in salary cap. It seems like we're a very flexible team. We're going to have a lot of fun this year!

Oh yeah, I think the Hickory “pride” jerseys is a perfect idea. Maybe during those games, at halftime, there could be some tribute given to the overall game in regards to the high schools. Maybe one such presentation highlights all the Hoosiers in the NBA, all-time greats and even storied girls teams. Great personnel moves + great marketing moves + excited fan base + talent = chances for a special year.

— Kirk

A. Those are interesting takes regarding the playing rotation, but I think rather extreme.

I get the points you're both making about keeping players fresh and giving reserves experience in game situations, but you aren't going to win many NBA games with your “third string” guys going up against another team's starters, no matter how fresh the reserves are. You always want your best players on the court for as many minutes as possible – that obviously improves your chance of winning. Fatigue is a factor, of course, so players need a certain amount of rest.

Most teams include eight or nine players in their regular rotation. Frank Vogel says he wants to go 10 deep to account for the fatigue that will come from playing an increased tempo. I've never known a team that went deeper than that. With 15 players under contract, the Pacers likely will send a couple to the D League for part of the season, and a few will have to sit most games (you can only dress a maximum of 13 players for each game). But there will be injuries that create opportunities as well.

Another factor to consider: most “star” players aren't going to be happy playing 20-25 minutes per game.

It will be difficult enough to establish chemistry next season with seven new players and two or three new starters. Playing more than 10 per game only enhances that problem, probably.

Q. I’m not normally a pessimistic person and I’m always a look-at-the-bright-side Pacers fan when it comes to most things. I’ve really liked a lot of the off-season additions and I completely understand Larry Bird’s vision for this team. In fact, I am rather impressed that he was able to transform this team so drastically in one off-season. Yes, he had help with West opting out and a rather easy Hibbert deal, but it is impressive nonetheless.

The one thing that worries is me is the thin frontcourt. I have no problem with Paul George seeing a lot of minutes at the four spot, but what worries me is the lack of experience behind him. Lavoy and Whittington can shine at times – against second units – but can we truly consider them reliable options?

I guess my main concerns/questions are: We’re one injury in the frontcourt away from having very, very limited options and what do we do if this vision Larry has for this team fails?

We’re not in a position to start playing ‘Big’ again with this personnel.

— Sean

A. I agree, the frontcourt is a valid concern, but not for its size. Talent and experience will be the primary issues.

Larry Bird and Frank Vogel are committed to playing smaller and faster, so I don't see a retreat to halfcourt pound-it-into-the-post-at-any-cost basketball. Lack of size might be a problem defensively on occasion, but they hope to make up for that at the offensive end, with bigger players having to defend them on the perimeter.

It's difficult to project the frontcourt starters at this point. Jordan Hill probably gets first crack at it. He started 57 of the 70 games he played last season at center. Ian Mahinmi can defend well enough in the middle, but doesn't offer much offense. That's OK, probably, because there will be plenty of other scorers in the lineup. I'm a fan of role players, in fact. They tend to make offenses run more smoothly than when you have five players looking to score. A defensive-minded center could be a good thing.

Myles Turner's development will be a factor, obviously. If he can adapt quickly enough to get major minutes, whether it's as a starter or backup, that will help. I think he can, even at 19, because his shot-making will always be there and he's athletic enough to make up for some of his mental mistakes.

Mahinmi and Turner are each 6-11 and Hill is 6-10, so I think there's adequate size. Beyond them, you have a couple of 6-9 players in Lavoy Allen and Rakeem Christmas, who might struggle to defend bigger centers, but you can't expect too much from the far end of the bench.

Q. I have been a long time Pacers fan. I love all the signings that they have made. But the thing that interests me the most is the years on the contracts. It is nice to have so many players locked up for several years and some on one year prove it deals. Larry has become smarter with the contract signings.

I have two questions. One is regarding the upcoming salary bumps from T.V. deals in the next two years. Do you think the Pacers will go for adding an All-Star player with the higher cap-space? I know there is talk that a small market team like Indiana can't attract a big star, like New York would. But I think a winning small market team would do so. Case in point when we attracted David West in 2011.

The other question is how do the Pacers feel about signing old, experienced players? I remember the Pacers had Sam Perkins for a couple years and on the 2000 Finals team. He was in the twilight of his career, but still contributed in a veteran presence and play-making ability. I was hoping the Pacers would go after Andre Miller in free agency as a back up point guard.

— Ayden

A. I do believe the Pacers will go after “premier” players who fit their needs and style of play when the opportunity is there. I agree with you that the small market issue is not as great as it once was. Social media and network coverage of all NBA games has flattened the marketplace. If a player is looking for national recognition, or endorsements, he can get them in any NBA city. The only cities that have a built-in advantage now are those in warmer climates, but even then they have to win to attract the best free agents. The Lakers didn't get any of their top choices this summer, and the Knicks aren't exactly having to turn away stars.

David West is indeed an example. He wanted to come to the Pacers in 2011, passing up a better offer from Boston. And this year he wanted to go to San Antonio for an immediate shot at a championship, sacrificing a lot of money to leave the Pacers. Greg Monroe had plenty of offers this summer, too, but signed with Milwaukee because he liked their recent trend.

People forget, for a player with a family, or a player not accustomed to living in a big city, a smaller market is appealing. Living in Indianapolis is much simpler and less expensive than living in New York, L.A., Chicago, Houston, Dallas or Miami.

The Pacers have three players whose contracts expire after this season: Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger and Shayne Whittington. Solomon Hill could be a fourth, if the Pacers don't pick up the option on his rookie contract. That should leave room for generous offers in free agency.

As for the older free agents, I doubt Larry Bird would have a problem with it. You mentioned Sam Perkins. Chris Mullin was another valuable veteran on the bench in the 1999-2000 season. They have to be willing to sit out some games, though, and get limited minutes when they do play, and not all of them are able to swallow their pride.

I don't know if the Pacers had interest in Miller or not. He's 39 years old, so that's an extreme age for a point guard.

Q. Looks like this will be the last message prior to the start of the season for the Indiana Pacers. With today's move by picking up another athletic raw talent like Glenn Robinson III, this should shore up the Pacers 15-man roster.

I like this move because, like nearly every other player, Robinson III comes in with a great reputation and desire to improve. Tom Izzo mentioned that he is one of the most unselfish players and when listening to Glenn in interviews, he compares his game to that of Paul George.

It appears to me that Larry Bird and the front office has focused upon building a team filled with players with associations from being on the same college team with Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill, to cousins Paul George and Joseph Young to Myles Turner and Rakeem Christmas having the same agents and practicing together and so forth. I have a feeling that this team has an excellent opportunity to have great chemistry.

Oh how I wish I could see this team play more often, but being on the West Coast and a student, I'll have to hope that ESPN or FOX Sports will broadcast here or maybe the Pacers can develop a streaming game (even if delayed) that has commercials to offset the costs. Heck, if they provided that this year, they could just sell a ton of jerseys and Hickory/Pacers uniforms from thankful fans. We all know it's going to be a great marketing year.

If I was a shareholder, I would be accumulating Pacer's stock.

— Kirk

A. I don't believe there was a deliberate attempt to sign players who have existing connections. That's more coincidence than anything. I believe this team will have little or no chemistry issues off the court, but it remains to be seen what happens when the ball's in play.

You can watch or listen to every game if you're willing to pay for the League Pass subscription or for free on the FOX Sports Go app.

Q. Maybe it's my antiquated mindset and everyone just worries about players, not positions, but no true backup point or center?

— John

A. I think we're all going to have to update our mindsets about positioning. They're becoming blurred anyway as players enhance their skills and become more well-rounded, and it's even more true for the Pacers if they're going to spread the floor and rely on movement and passing.

I addressed the center position in an earlier question, but it will be interesting how it works out at point guard. I think Joe Young can step in and play quickly. He's 23, atypical for a rookie, and has the athleticism and skills to contribute. Rodney Stuckey has played it as well, although he's more of a scorer than distributor. The same is true for Monta Ellis.

If all they need is for someone to get the ball up the floor and make a pass to initiate an offense, it shouldn't be a problem. They're not going to be structured like the teams that featured Mark Jackson and Jamaal Tinsley at point guard. The ball won't be in any one players' hands that long – at least Vogel hopes that's the case.

Q. Where would you rank Monta signing among high profile Pacers FA signings? Mullin? West?

— Francisco (via Twitter)

A. We'll have to wait to get a definitive answer on that, of course. It all depends how well Ellis fits with the current group, and whether he enhances or detracts from team chemistry.

He has the potential to be one of the most significant free agents the Pacers have signed because of his scoring ability, but for now I'll rank David West first. As I've discussed in previous mailbags, his contributions in the locker room were probably overstated, but were understated on the court. He's admittedly an introvert by nature, so he's not the type to make speeches or pound his chest in front of his teammates. He had a presence, and his maturity and manhood rubbed off on younger teammates, but he was most influential on the court. He won games with clutch play, whether it was a basket, an assist, a deflection or a rebound.

Mullin wasn't a free agent signing. The Pacers traded Erick Dampier and Duane Ferrell for him in the 1997 offseason. The Pacers had drafted Dampier with the 10th pick in 1996 because there was concern about Rik Smits' future and they felt a need for a center. A year later it appeared Smits was going to be OK, there were doubts about Dampier's devotion and they needed a third scoring threat, so they traded Dampier for Mullin. It was a good move, as Mullin made significant contributions to Larry Bird's three teams, two as a starter and one as a backup.

It's kind of strange, the Pacers have made very few “significant” free agent signings in their history. That's primarily because they usually built winning teams with successful drafts and trades, and had no room, financially or in their lineup, for a premier free agent.

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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.

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