Despite the All-Star Game in Los Angeles being more than a month away, the half-way point of the NBA season is essentially upon us. For the hometown Indiana Pacers, the first 38 games have provided little to be excited about.
At 16-22 this Pacers squad has shown to be a very mediocre team. Benefiting from a weak division, they are currently 2nd in the central and hold the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. However, as the grades in this mid season evaluation suggest, the Pacers are not an honor roll team. This particular report card is not pretty and is reflective of the season long unpredictability which has haunted the team.
Here are the grade breakdowns.
The most glaring factor related to the Pacers sub .500 record is their inconsistency on the offensive end. On November 9th they scored an eye-popping 144 points against the Nuggets, only to rack up a measly 73 versus the Bulls about a month later. The team is 21st of 30 teams in scoring while shooting the 3rd worst field goal percentage in the league at 43 percent.
A large reason for this can be attributed to team captain and former all-star Danny Granger, who is shooting a career low 42 percent from the field. His struggles alone have been devastating for the Pacers, who have lost 80 percent of their games this season when he shoots under 40 percent.
Their only legitimate low-post threat, Roy Hibbert, has also had troubles on the offensive end, especially as of late. Averaging over 12 points and 8 rebounds this season, Hibbert has yet to record double digits in either category over the past 5 games. To make matters worse, other front court mates Josh McRoberts (6.3 ppg) and Tyler Hansbrough (6.2 ppg) have had equally as difficult a time giving the offense some low-post scoring stability.
Finding consistent play at the shooting guard position has also been a challenge for the Pacers. Neither Brandon Rush nor Mike Dunleavy has been able to solidify a starting spot due to their hot-and-cold erratic shooting. Second year point guard Darren Collison serves as the sole bright spot for this offense (14 ppg, 4.7 assists).
Defensively, the Pacers are much improved this season. They rank 13th in points allowed and are only behind Eastern powers Miami and Chicago in opponent field goal percentage at 43.7 percent. Surprisingly, the lack of chemistry hasn't been an issue despite the revolving door at the shooting guard and power forward positions.
Their length at shooting guard, either with Dunleavy or Rush, and the pure size of center Roy Hibbert have proven to be vital components to their defensive success. The team's growing reliance on smaller lineups, however, has hurt their rebounding and allowed too many second change opportunities.
Due to the constant alteration of lineups Coach O'Brien has been making throughout the season, this grade is partially a reflection of the team in general. Nonetheless, the Pacers bench may be the most exciting aspect of the team, but not because of the reserves outstanding play.
The YouTube clip of 20 year-old rookie Paul George dunking over 7' 2" center Roy Hibbert is arguably the most popular Pacer-related story currently. The video has had almost 10 thousand more hits than the Pacers 27th ranked attendance average this season (14,032). George's production, on the other hand, has been about as reliable as the rest of the team.
Other notable reserves like T.J Ford, James Posey, A.J. Price, and Jeff Foster have also found their way onto the struggle bus. Ford in particular, averaging 11.5 points throughout his career, has seen his scoring numbers cut in half this season while shooting only 39 percent.
In light of the distorted success from their weak division and conference, the Pacers still have a strong chance of making the playoffs as the 7th or 8th seed. So even acknowledging the team's significant inconsistency issues and inability to find a reliable group of starters, the team as a whole is not quite failing. Still, Pacers fans and team management can't ignore the fact that their team is under .500 and can't shake their offensive woes.
Having Danny Granger back playing at an all-star level in the 2nd half of the season is paramount for this young team to have any chance of success. However, scoring will continue to be their Achilles' heel unless they discover a steady #2 scorer to complement him as well. Granger is currently the teams only 15+ points per game scorer, while the division leading Chicago Bulls have 3 players fit that category.
Aside from these short-term problems, the Pacers nonexistent improvement over the past half decade has to be their main concern. On par to finish with a similar record as their past 4 seasons, they epitomize a struggling, direction-less team that seems to be lost without a paddle. Their inconsistent shooting around the board and accumulating loses have forced Jim O'Brien to experiment with different lineups year after year.
This season the result has been a heavy reliance on smaller lineups, having Granger play the 4 with backup center Jeff Foster at the 5. Consequently, this approach has discouraged the youth movement that the Pacers so badly need. Whereas other sub .500 teams have switched their focus to developing their young players for the future, the Pacers can't seem to decide who they want to develop or even what direction they plan on going.
All things considered, until the Pacers find a better solution than musical chairs to cure their inconsistency on the offensive end, their downward spiral is only likely to continue. How the front office chooses to fix the problem in the second half of the season and improve these unimpressive mid season grades is really the point of much debate.
Do the Pacers pass the test?
At 16-22 this Pacers squad has shown to be a very mediocre team. Benefiting from a weak division, they are currently 2nd in the central and hold the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. However, as the grades in this mid season evaluation suggest, the Pacers are not an honor roll team.
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