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Mark's Mailbag: More Minutes for Holiday and Leaf?

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

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.

Editor's Note: Some Mailbag questions have been edited for clarity and length.


Q: Has anyone measured Myles Turner lately? When he stands next to Domas he seems taller and they're both listed as 6-11.

— Michael

A. I checked their pre-draft measurements, which tend to be the most accurate. Turner was measured at 6-11 1/2 in shoes and Sabonis at 6-10 when they entered the draft a year apart. It's possible that Sabonis has grown an inch since then, but I don't know. Turner is probably at least a half-inch taller.

Turner also has a longer wingspan at 7-3 3/4, which might make him appear taller. The wingspan for Sabonis was listed at 6-10 1/2. That's why Turner is a much better shot-blocker, and one of the areas in which Sabonis was downgraded in the draft. Length, which is essentially the combination of height and arm length, is a valued commodity.

Oklahoma City might have taken that into consideration when making the trade with the Pacers for Paul George. It already had an established center in Steven Adams and didn't see Sabonis as a suitable power forward for its playing style. For that, Pacers fans should be grateful.

Q. Has the emergence of Holiday elevated Collison's game? Has Leaf shown enough flashes to get more minutes?

— Jake

A. I don't think there's a link between Collison's play the past two games and Holiday's "emergence."

Collison was really upset with himself after the loss to San Antonio. I think professional pride got him back on track against Utah and Phoenix. He totaled 19 points, 22 assists, five steals and three turnovers in those two games. He should have had two more points, but missed both foul shots after the victory at Phoenix was locked up, after hitting two crucial ones moments earlier.

Holiday, meanwhile, is coming back to rookie reality. After playing so well against Atlanta and Utah in his "debuts," he struggled more in the next four games against Charlotte, San Antonio, Utah, and Phoenix. In those four games he's averaged 9 points on 38 percent shooting and has hit just 1-of-15 3-point shots. Still, he's showing promise and looks like a savvy draft pick for where the Pacers got him.

Leaf has played well recently in the short bursts he's been awarded, averaging 3.8 points on 54 percent shooting in 6.5 minutes over the past four games. Nate McMillan tries to work him in when he can, but it's difficult with more established players ahead of him.

Leaf is only 21 years old. He's always been a great shooter when playing regular minutes and is more agile than many people assume. I can understand why, lately at least, fans want to see him play more, but at whose expense?

Q. Think the Pacers will ever start Sabonis and Turner together?

— Doc

A. Ah, the question of the season for the Pacers. Last season, too.

I believe it will have to be given a realistic chance at some point. I have little doubt the Pacers will sign Sabonis to an extension next summer. The money will be available and they're not going to just let him walk away. But it's also difficult to imagine the current scenario continuing beyond this season. Sabonis is fine coming off the bench, which is a great compliment to his attitude, but I doubt he's OK with it for the rest of his career. And, I doubt Turner would be satisfied going to the bench after starting since midway through his rookie season.

Kevin Pritchard made the comment after last season that Sabonis was too good not to be playing 30 minutes per game. He's averaging 24.6 minutes now, virtually the same as last season. He and Turner have become an outstanding center tandem, giving the Pacers All-Star caliber production at the position, but they'll want to get more out of him in the future.

Sabonis currently ranks fourth in the league in "player impact," behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid and ahead of LeBron James and Kevin Durant. That stat measures a player's impact on each game relative to the stats of the other players in the game, thus eliminating style of play and other factors outside a player's control.

You want that guy on the court as often as possible.

If Turner and he can thrive together, that gives the Pacers their best opportunity to become a championship contender. For that to happen, though, they'll have to prove they can pose more problems for opponents than they'll create trying to guard smaller players on the perimeter.

Q. Why do some fans not like Myles Turner? I really don't get it. He is a solid player. One of the complaints I've seen is that he doesn't get a lot of rebounds but the numbers are pretty close to Rik Smits rebounding numbers. He has one of the smoothest jump shots I have seen from a big man and when he gets it going he rarely misses. Smits had Dale Davis and Antonio Davis doing most of the dirty work down low and I don't remember people complaining about his rebounding numbers. Turner is also an outstanding defender and he's fourth in the league in blocked shots.

— Ron

A. I think it's fair to say Turner has not played up to expectations this season, although certainly not in the most recent games against Utah and Phoenix. His rebounding average is the lowest of his career on a per-minute basis and he has not shot well from 3-point range (23 percent).

You make an interesting comparison to Smits, however. Turner, in his fourth season, is averaging 11.5 points on 49 percent shooting and 5.7 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per game, along with 2.7 blocked shots. In his fourth season, Smits averaged 13.8 points on 51 percent shooting and 5.6 rebounds in 23.9 minutes per game, along with 1.4 blocks. The numbers are pretty comparable.

They are different kind of players, obviously, but their overall impact was similar at that point in their careers. Keep in mind, also, that Smits was 25 years old in his fourth season while Turner is 22.

Despite his slow start as a 3-point shooter, Turner is hitting 49 percent of his field goal attempts. He's taking just 9.5 shots per game, so it seems a good idea to get him more involved in the offense. That's a challenge with such a balanced and deep roster, but it can be done.

Q. Do you think Aaron Holiday will continue to see more minutes like he has been?

— Nick

A. This question came in before Tuesday's game at Phoenix, in which Holiday hit just 1-of-6 shots in 16 minutes. That one didn't help his cause, but I believe he'll stay in the mix for awhile.

He's averaging 19.7 minutes in the six games since he stepped out of the shadows and took everyone by surprise in the game against Atlanta. I believe that number is more likely to go down than up, especially after Oladipo returns, but Nate McMillan will look for opportunities to play him.

Holiday is in a similar position as last year's first-round draft pick, TJ Leaf. Both show promise but are difficult to work into the rotation this season unless an injury creates an opening.

Q. In high school and college basketball teams usually play the first half away from their bench and in front of the bench for the second half. I rarely see that done in the pros. Any reason for that or just coach's preference?

Randy

A. In the NBA, the visiting team has the option of choosing the end of the court to defend in the first half. Most choose to be on defense in front of their own bench in the second half (the Pacers included). The coaches seem to prefer being able to shout instructions to defenders at the end of games, and it's probably more difficult for opposing players to shoot in front of the opponent's bench.

This season, for some reason, I see more visiting teams at Bankers Life Fieldhouse choosing to start the game on offense in front of the Pacers' bench. San Antonio, for example. I don't know the thinking behind that; perhaps just to force the home team out of a small comfort zone.

Q. Seems the Pacers do well when they play the game their "way" - coming out active on defense, running in transition, and moving ball freely. They did it in San Antonio, against the Jazz at home and away, and the opener against Memphis. They seem to know what works - why do you think they have troubles consistently playing this way? Seems their depth is suitable for them to accomplish their playing style consistently and they seem sold on this team philosophy and playing style. Thoughts?

— Thomas

A. Other than the normal ebb and flow of the NBA season, in which all teams have off nights either because of fatigue or the law of averages, the Pacers have been pretty consistent on defense. They have not defended the 3-point line well, but overall are one of the league's better defensive teams.

Their inconsistency usually comes on offense. Some nights they move the ball well and some nights they don't. Correcting that is partly up to the coaches to construct a halfcourt system that enables – demands, even – movement. It also reflects Victor Oladipo's role. He averaged 20 field goal attempts in the 14 games before his knee issues arose. You've seen the Pacers move the ball better since then, and score more. In the previous six games in which Oladipo hasn't played, they've averaged 112 points, well above their scoring average while he played.

The ultimate Pacers team is the one in which Oladipo is healthy and defending as he did last season while limiting his shot attempts to keep teammates involved. He has the second-worst field goal percentage of all the starters, barely ahead of Collison, so it doesn't seem a good thing that he shoots nearly twice as often as his teammates.


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.

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