Kyle O'Quinn on Signing with the Pacers

July 9, 2018 - Fresh off signing with the Pacers, forward Kyle O'Quinn discussed coming to Indiana with

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Kyle O'Quinn on Signing with the Pacers

July 9, 2018 - Fresh off signing with the Pacers, forward Kyle O'Quinn discussed coming to Indiana with
Jul 9, 2018  |  03:41

O'Quinn Brings Personality, Analytics

by Mark Montieth Writer

For personality, think Victor Oladipo. For stats, think Al Jefferson.

Kyle O'Quinn, the latest Pacers free agent signee, and likely the last of the summer, was walking across the practice court at St. Vincent Center toward awaiting media members on Monday and didn't wait to be greeted.

"Hello, everybody!" he shouted.

When the greeting was returned he said, "What a warm welcome," as he settled into his interview position.

It was reminiscent of Oladipo, who called out a similar greeting to a much larger audience as he walked onto the same court a couple of weeks ago to be interviewed for winning the Most Improved Player award. O'Quinn and Oladipo happen to have been teammates previously in Orlando.

O'Quinn's upbeat and outgoing nature was one of the reasons Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard offered the one-year contract that became official on Monday, but hardly the only one. O'Quinn can play, too, as the numbers show — not the obvious, superficial numbers you see in a box score, but the ones team executives analyze before committing millions of dollars to a player.

"His analytics are off the charts," Pritchard said last Friday while discussing the impending signing of the former Knicks power forward and center.

Any fool could see the personality part of O'Quinn's appeal. Just sit back and count the smiles. He joked easily with the assembled reporters he was meeting for the first time, and by the time he was finished he was comfortable enough to slap Pacers sideline reporter Pat Boylan on the behind as he exited.

As for what he brings to a game, the 6-11, 250-pound veteran of six NBA seasons prefers to let the video speak for him.

"Go to www-dot-YouTube-dot-com," he said. "You can see as many highlights as you like.

"It's kind of hard to explain your game. I have a game where you have to see it. I help guys out. I'm a pure teammate. I like to get down and dirty. YouTube will get you everything you need to see."

One particular YouTube video reveals much of what O'Quinn does, along with his demeanor. He's a physical inside presence with a decent mid-range game, a respectable shot-blocker and an outstanding passer. Compared to Jefferson, whose role he will assume on the Pacers roster, O'Quinn lacks the arsenal of stockpiled post moves Jefferson displayed in his two seasons with the Pacers but is an inch taller, more nimble on the perimeter, and a better shot blocker and passer. He's five years younger, too.

A deep dive into the analytics to which Pritchard referred offer an even positive reflection than highlights. O'Quinn's Player Efficiency Rating (PER), which measures overall production on a per-minute basis, was 20 last season, trailing only Enes Kanter (24) and Kristaps Porzingis (20.4). The league average is 15. Jefferson's PER was 20.2, second only to Victor Oladipo's 23.1 among the Pacers.
O'Quinn's win share per 48 minutes, which measures the number of wins a player contributes to his team over 48 minutes, was .166, second on the Knicks to Enes Kanter. Jefferson's was .158, best of all the Pacers who played a meaningful role on the team.

"The game's about numbers nowadays; you can't run away from it," O'Quinn said. "When people start bringing the PER-36 and things like that, those are appreciated stats by people making decisions. You go out there and try to do as much as you can in the time you have, because you know later down the line those will be brought up again.

"It's also appreciated somebody digging into those stats. You can look at a game I have where I played nine or 10 minutes. I may only give you four points and six boards, but going deeper into it may make the decision whether he's on the team or not. That's much appreciated.

"But everything's appreciated, man."

Oladipo's first NBA game, on Oct. 29, 2103 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, serves as an example. He was the focus of attention as the former Indiana University star returning to begin his NBA career in Indiana, and finished with 12 points in 22 1/2 minutes. Nobody noticed O'Quinn, who scored six points, grabbed four rebounds, and blocked three shots in 14 1/2 minutes. O'Quinn's plus-minus for that game was +10, while Oladipo's was -11.

O'Quinn has started just 60 of his 398 NBA games, and has averaged 18 minutes over his six NBA seasons. Indications are that he can handle greater workloads, however. In the only game he's played more than 40 minutes, as a rookie in Orlando against Charlotte, he finished with 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting, 11 rebounds, six assists, and no turnovers. In the seven games he has played 30-39 minutes, he's averaged 12.9 points on 51 percent shooting and 11.7 rebounds.

Jefferson was widely praised for his locker room influence last season. He was an accomplished veteran who produced when called upon but didn't complain when not, and never hesitated to mentor the young centers ahead of him in the rotation. O'Quinn, though, appears to be a similarly positive influence behind closed doors.

"The thing I've learned in my 20 years in this league, sometimes the guy who's good enough to play but doesn't and brings a positive influence, that guy is critical to what we do," Pritchard said on Friday. "We feel we have one earmarked (O'Quinn) and we feel he's going to be perfect for that role."

Oladipo no doubt would endorse that notion. He was a teammate of O'Quinn's during his (own) first two seasons in Orlando, and they have remained friends. When word got out of O'Quinn's commitment to the Pacers, O'Quinn's first congratulatory phone call came from Oladipo.

Doug McDermott is on board as well. He was a teammate of O'Quinn's for only 55 games last season, before being traded to Dallas, but that was long enough to form a close bond and for O'Quinn to have awarded the nickname "Dougie Fresh." They related to one another as mid-major players (O'Quinn from Norfolk State and McDermott from Creighton) and immersed themselves in long conversations on the bus and airplane rides.

When McDermott's contract with the Pacers was announced, his first phone call came from O'Quinn.

"He's the best locker room guy I've been around," McDermott said on Friday. "He's one of those guys who can make anything funny at any time. He's a great guy."

O'Quinn, a native of Jamaica, Queens in New York, opted out of the final year of his Knicks contract after last season to test the free agent marketplace. He said he had four or five offers to choose from, and New York newspapers reported the Knicks wanted to re-sign him because, according to one story, they "liked O'Quinn's outsized personality in keeping players loose."

His conversation with Pacers executives in Indianapolis turned out to be a mutual recruitment. O'Quinn toured the St. Vincent practice facility and was impressed, but was looking for a winning culture more than anything. According to Pritchard, O'Quinn made it clear he would sign as long as the Pacers' offer was in the ballpark of the others. According to O'Quinn, negotiation was minimal.

"I didn't pick it off practice facilities, I picked it off the culture of the team and the opportunity to team up with players I've played with before," he said.

"I was just as excited as those guys were — to the point we didn't go back and forth about the salary too long."

It wasn't just the team culture that attracted O'Quinn, however. It was the basketball culture he witnessed on his trips to Indianapolis as an opposing player.

"You feel it every time you step on the floor," he said. "You come and play here, (you see it) from shootaround to when they announce, 'There's 60 minutes on the clock, the doors have opened.' You see the people running down trying to get courtside. You just feel the energy. It's always been a tough place to play. It's a basketball city, a basketball state, and all the history. I just want to somewhat be a part of that.

"It just made a lot of sense for me to be here to talk with you."

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