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View Full Version : ESPN: Hollinger Analysis of 2006 Pacers



docpaul
10-03-2006, 07:38 PM
I know, I know.. it's Insider, but the content is the meatiest analysis I've seen on the "new" Pacers in quite some time. Enjoy.

http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/trainingcamp06/insider/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&page=Pacers0607
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It was a season of transition for the Pacers, as they finally gave up on the hopes that an Artest-O'Neal-Tinsley combination could make a championship run and began building toward something different.
Of course, this wasn't by design -- rather, it was forced on them by the continued insanity of Ron Artest (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3339) and the physical demise of Jamaal Tinsley (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3528). The Pacers had shown unswerving loyalty to Artest despite his season-ruining suspension the season before for his role in the infamous fight in Detroit, and they expected to return to prominence with his return to the lineup.


http://espn-ak.starwave.com/media/nba/2005/1207/photo/g_oneal_195.jpg
David Sherman/Getty Images
The injury bug hit Jermaine O'Neal and the Pacers hard.

Instead, Artest lasted only 16 games before complaining about his role and asking to be traded. The Pacers immediately put him on the inactive list and left him in exile for two months while they looked for a decent trade, finally shipping him off to Sacramento for Peja Stojakovic (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3119). While Stojakovic played fairly well as a Pacer, the saga as a whole was a crushing disappointment for the Pacers. Their title hopes were predicated on getting an All-Star-caliber performance from Artest at both ends of the floor, and that went out the window once the deal was made.

Indiana struggled further thanks to its ongoing battle with injuries. Star forward Jermaine O'Neal (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3120) missed two months with a groin injury, but at least he was able to play at his normal level of effectiveness when in the lineup. The same couldn't be said of Tinsley, whose demise was the second major factor in the team's decline. Tinsley had always missed games, but in previous seasons he'd been a very effective two-way player when healthy. That wasn't the case a season ago, as the injuries increased -- he missed 42 games -- and his effectiveness sharply diminished. And Indiana had another setback when promising forward Jonathan Bender (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3328) sat out (and was eventually forced to retire) due to recurrent knee problems.

Fortunately for the Pacers, their depth allowed them to keep their head above water despite all these problems. The Pacers had 12 quality players on the roster, so if one of them went out it wasn't as big a blow as it would be for some other teams. Nonetheless, having its three best players combine for only 109 games would take a bite out of any team, especially at the offensive end. Indiana ranked only 22nd in offensive efficiency, a key reason the Pacers couldn't get too far above .500.
The Indiana attack obviously suffered as a result of O'Neal's absence and Tinsley's decline, but shot selection also played a huge factor. Several Pacers were far too aggressive offensively given their skill levels, with Tinsley and shooting guard Stephen Jackson (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3210) leading the way. Several observers alluded to chemistry problems on the team, and that may have been related to the poor choices.
<!-- INLINE TABLE (BEGIN) -->
<table id="inlinetable" align="right" border="0" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="1" width="230"> <tbody><tr class="stathead"> <td colspan="2">Fewest free throws allowed, 2005-06</td> </tr> <tr class="colhead" valign="top"> <td width="90"> Team </td> <td width="140"> Opponent TS%, 2005-06 </td> </tr> <tr style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);" valign="top"> <td width="90"> San Antonio </td> <td width="90"> 50.1 </td> </tr> <tr style="background-color: rgb(236, 236, 236);" valign="top"> <td width="90"> Indiana </td> <td width="90"> 50.9 </td> </tr> <tr style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);" valign="top"> <td width="90"> Detroit </td> <td width="90"> 51.4 </td> </tr> <tr style="background-color: rgb(236, 236, 236);" valign="top"> <td width="90"> Memphis </td> <td width="90"> 51.6 </td> </tr> <tr style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);" valign="top"> <td width="90"> L.A. Clippers </td> <td width="90"> 51.6 </td> </tr><tr style="background-color: rgb(236, 236, 236);" valign="top"> <td width="90"> NBA avg. </td> <td width="90"> 53.6 </td> </tr> </tbody></table> <!-- INLINE TABLE (END) --> Indiana ran more than in previous seasons, finishing 19th in pace factor, but the offense still was very methodical in the halfcourt. Mostly they looked to pound the ball inside to O'Neal, and the crowds around him tended to result in turnovers. Indiana gave the ball away on 16.5 percent of its possessions, the fourth-worst rate in the league.
Whatever chemistry problems there might have been, it didn't affect the Pacers any on defense. The Pacers ranked fourth in defensive efficiency, enabling them to make the playoffs despite the disappointing offensive output. The Pacers cut off the 3-point line, permitting the third-lowest rate of 3s per shot attempt, and as a result their 50.9 opponent true shooting percentage was the league's second-best, trailing only San Antonio.

Indiana's defensive excellence was another manifestation of its depth, but coach Rick Carlisle also deserves a lot of credit here. Individually, the Pacers weren't a scary unit -- they didn't have any All-Defense performers, and O'Neal and Jeff Foster (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3344) were the only ones you'd call high-caliber defenders. But they had few weak links and a very strong team concept, and as a result were unusually difficult to score against.
The other piece of good news for Pacers fans is that they weren't nearly as bad as their record indicated. While Indiana finished only 41-41, the Pacers had 47.8 expected wins. Their minus-6.8 expected wins differential was the league's largest negative difference, meaning the Pacers were essentially the league's unluckiest team. The Pacers played 30 games decided by five points or less, which are essentially "50-50" games, but they won only eight, accounting for the difference. Had they gone 15-15 in those games, as one might expect, they would have finished 48-34 overall.
<!-- INLINE TABLE (BEGIN) -->
<table id="inlinetable" border="0" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="1" width="100%"> <tbody><tr class="stathead"> <td colspan="4">Biggest expected wins underachievers, 2005-06</td> </tr> <tr class="colhead" valign="top"> <td width="101"> Team </td> <td width="101"> Expected Wins </td> <td width="101"> Actual Wins </td> <td width="101"> Difference </td> </tr> <tr style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);" valign="top"> <td width="101"> Indiana </td> <td width="101"> 47.8 </td> <td width="101"> 41 </td> <td width="101"> -6.8 </td> </tr> <tr style="background-color: rgb(236, 236, 236);" valign="top"> <td width="101"> Memphis </td> <td width="101"> 54.3 </td> <td width="101"> 49 </td> <td width="101"> -5.3 </td> </tr> <tr style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);" valign="top"> <td width="101"> Washington </td> <td width="101"> 47.2 </td> <td width="101"> 42 </td> <td width="101"> -5.2 </td> </tr> <tr style="background-color: rgb(236, 236, 236);" valign="top"> <td width="101"> L.A. Lakers </td> <td width="101"> 49.5 </td> <td width="101"> 45 </td> <td width="101"> -4.5 </td> </tr> <tr style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);" valign="top"> <td width="101"> Toronto </td> <td width="101"> 31.3
</td> <td width="101"> 27 </td> <td width="101"> -4.3 </td> </tr> </tbody></table> <!-- INLINE TABLE (END) -->

Some might say this is because the team didn't "know how to win," but actually it's almost pure, unadulterated luck. We don't like to accept the idea that random chance can play a role in the outcomes of sporting events, but the evidence is overwhelming. The most obvious example is that the teams which overachieve and underachieve in expected wins are never the same from season to season, and in fact a team that is No. 1 one season sometimes is No. 30 the next (just last season, Washington went from the second-biggest overachiever to the third-biggest underachiever).
In other words, we have a pretty good idea the Pacers will be a top-five defense next season, and they'll play a slow pace and be below par in offensive efficiency … but in terms of wins vs. expected wins, they could be anywhere on the map, because this phenomenon is essentially random.
<hr>OFFSEASON MOVES
The Pacers' offseason focused on building the talent base for the near future and cleaning out any potential problems in the clubhouse. After all the wheeling and dealing, Indiana has 18 players on its roster heading into training camp and will have to make a few cuts before the season.

• Traded Austin Croshere (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3182) to Dallas for Marquis Daniels (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3764). An outstanding talent snatch on the part of the Pacers here; they converted Croshere's expiring contract into a quality wing player who may also be able to help out at the point. Indiana has several wings, but Daniels is the only one who is a natural shooting guard, and as a result he could play a big role this season.

• Traded Anthony Johnson (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3207) to Dallas for Darrell Armstrong (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3001), Rawle Marshall (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3991) and Josh Powell (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3774). Instead of "traded," read it as "exiled." None of the three acquired players have any value to the Pacers, and they didn't save that much money on the deal since Armstrong's contract is guaranteed. But Indiana wanted to improve its chemistry, and unloading the effective but chirpy Johnson was seen as one way to do that, especially in return for a great clubhouse guy like Armstrong.

• Traded a first-round pick to Atlanta for Al Harrington (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3268) and John Edwards (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3884); signed-and-traded Stojakovic to New Orleans/Oklahoma City. The Pacers saved their hides when they convinced the Hornets to ink Stojakovic as a sign-and-trade rather than getting him outright via free agency. As a result, the Pacers got a mammoth cap exception they were able to use in a swap with Atlanta for Harrington and Edwards. Edwards has no value, but Harrington is familiar with the system from his first tour in Indiana and gives them a combo forward whose production will come close to matching the departed Stojakovic's. And at $35.3 million over four years, he cost quite a bit less than Peja's deal with the Hornets.

• Signed Orien Greene (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3979) off waivers from Boston. Not sure what the point here was. The Pacers claimed Greene when Boston waived him, but the roster is so crowded that he'll rarely be in uniform on game nights.

• Drafted Shawne Williams (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4145), let Fred Jones (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3612) leave. The acquisition of Daniels and the drafting of Williams made Jones expendable, plus the Pacers didn't have much left under the luxury tax threshold anyway. Williams won't play much this season but has as much potential as anyone in the draft; look for him in a D-League city near you.

• Signed Maceo Baston (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3301), let Scot Pollard (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3189) leave. I'm a huge Baston fan based on the numbers he put up the past few years with Maccabi Tel Aviv, and I believe he'll be a productive NBA power forward. He came cheap, too, because he was understandably anxious to find a new employer once Hezbollah started firing rockets over the border. With three capable centers on hand already, Pollard won't be missed much.

<hr>BIGGEST STRENGTH

Depth. Indiana has had as many injuries as any team in basketball the past two seasons, but has made the playoffs in consecutive seasons because of its extraordinary depth. That should be the case again this season; the Pacers are at least two deep at every position. Point guard is the spot of greatest concern, because Tinsley is injury-prone, Sarunas Jasikevicius (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3996) struggled a season ago, and Daniels may not be able to handle playing there more than five or 10 minutes a night.
Things get better as the players get bigger. Daniels and Jackson give the team two solid shooting guards, while the club is absolutely loaded up front. Granger and Harrington can play either forward spot, Jackson is a capable small forward, and Williams also may be able to contribute there. At power forward, no team can match the daunting foursome of Granger, Harrington, Baston and O'Neal, and in the middle, Foster, O'Neal and third-season pro David Harrison (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3846) insulate the team against foul trouble.

<hr>BIGGEST WEAKNESS

Shooting. If the Pacers struggle this season, it will be because of all the bricks they're putting up from outside. Indiana was a poor shooting team a season ago, and lost two sharpshooters in Stojakovic and Croshere over the summer. As a result, O'Neal could be battling even more crowds than he saw last season. Of the projected starters, only Jackson and Harrington are decent outside shooters, and both are fairly erratic beyond the 3-point line. The picture doesn't get any better off the bench: Daniels and Granger are iffy propositions from outside, none of the centers can score away from the basket, and Williams and Baston aren't known for their long-range touch, either.
All that means there's a ton of pressure on Jasikevicius, the team's only truly threatening outside shooter. He struggled with the adjustment to NBA ball after playing for so long in Europe, but the Pacers are holding out hope that his second season is more successful than the first. They'd better hope so, because Tinsley's weak outside shot gives defenses even more latitude to hang back in soft zones and dare the Pacers to fire away. A strong season from the Lithuanian import would change that picture considerably.
<hr>http://espn-att.starwave.com/i/teamlogos/nba/med/trans/ind.gif (http://proxy.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=ind)

2006-07 OUTLOOK

The Pacers won't go 8-22 in close games again, and that alone should add several wins to their bottom line. Beyond that, however, there isn't any reason to think this season's edition of the Pacers will be better than the last two. O'Neal and Tinsley are major question marks due to their frequent injuries, and injuries could become a concern for Foster as well.
Beyond that, there's a serious lack of star power now that Artest is gone. Harrington is a quality player, but not somebody you'd expect to be the second-best player on a good team. (In fact, last season he was the second-best player on a horrible team.) Granger and Daniels are promising and vets like Jackson and Foster are solid players, but we're not talking about daunting talent here. Additionally, the point is a major question with Johnson's exile and Tinsley's injuries; Daniels may end up seeing significant time there.
Carlisle will get everybody playing defense and O'Neal will have enough 30-point nights to stem disaster at the offensive end, but this is a brave new world for the Pacers. The past few years they've gone into the season expecting to contend for the Eastern Conference title; this season the bar has been lowered dramatically. Look for another trip to the playoffs and a record a few games over .500, but don't hold your breath on anything beyond that.

rexnom
10-03-2006, 07:49 PM
I actually think that's a fairly decent analysis.

Except he seems to mix up James White and Shawne Williams and then forget about the other.

Hicks
10-03-2006, 08:33 PM
You need to add a link to the article, or else I will have to remove it. Thanks.

!Pacers-Fan!
10-03-2006, 09:42 PM
loong read, but it makes sense.
i think we should trade Tinsley and Foster.

JayRedd
10-03-2006, 09:56 PM
Pretty good actual basketball analysis from the stat head. I think he's starting to learn how to mix the two together...which is nice.

I can't believe we turned the ball over on 16.5% of possessions last year. That's once every six times down the floor. Gross. My highschool team never even coughed it up that much.

pizza guy
10-03-2006, 10:01 PM
That's a really good analysis of the Pacers. Hopefully they excede those expectations, though!

Kegboy
10-03-2006, 10:08 PM
I read to here:


Indiana ranked only 22nd in offensive efficiency

And then I remembered I was reading a John Hollinger article full of his made up stats.

ChicagoJ
10-03-2006, 10:09 PM
I saw "Hollinger" and I thought, "Oh, boy."

But its hard to argue with his points here. That's pretty balanced.

Its especially interesting to note, however, that he seems to be discounting "the new, faster-paced Pacers", and I'm sure that will have a lot of people crying "foul."

It will be interesting, indeed.

ajbry
10-03-2006, 10:20 PM
The only flaw I care to mention is how he says "vets like Jackson and Foster are solid players, but we're not talking about daunting talent here."

Jack is quite a bit better than Jeff. Not too happy with that little comparison.

He doesn't seem to be a fan of Al and Jack, and seems to like Sarunas. :rolleyes:

aero
10-03-2006, 10:38 PM
i cant wait to see all the guys in action though, sure you can sit and think about what they can do on paper but its another thing seeing them all in action and seeing what they can really do.

I hope to see some good things at the fan jam, during the preason and the upcoming regular season.

I soooo cant wait!

PacerMan
10-03-2006, 10:56 PM
loong read, but it makes sense.
i think we should trade Tinsley and Foster.

But then you like Stephen Jackson..........

3rdStrike
10-03-2006, 11:07 PM
Nice article, high praise for Williams, but no mention of James White?

DisplacedKnick
10-03-2006, 11:11 PM
His Pacer analysis was much better than the Knicks.

The only thing I'd argue a bit with is his "luck" comment. Now you'd have to watch the games to be sure, but that's the negative of having your go-to guy be a post player.

A perimeter player goes for a shot in the last minute and someone pushes, grabs or leans on him and they call a foul. When it's a post player it's just way too easy for the ref to swallow his whistle when someone gives him a forearm in the small of the back to throw him off balance.

bulldog
10-03-2006, 11:16 PM
Yea, the luck thing is pretty ridiculous. "..but in terms of wins vs. expected wins, they could be anywhere on the map, because this phenomenon is essentially random. " So what are they paying him for?

Eindar
10-03-2006, 11:17 PM
I also liked how he called Granger an "iffy proposition" from outside. He must have failed to notice that Granger shot 50% in the playoffs, and 32% overall from the 3, which is pretty good for a rookie. I fully expect Granger to be 35+% from 3 this year.

pizza guy
10-03-2006, 11:51 PM
Granger will definitely be a respected 3-pt threat this year. Not a volume shooter that will have high 3PTA, but a good % that teams will have to guard. A very effective double-team beater with JO and Al.

naptown
10-03-2006, 11:58 PM
I also liked how he called Granger an "iffy proposition" from outside. He must have failed to notice that Granger shot 50% in the playoffs, and 32% overall from the 3, which is pretty good for a rookie. I fully expect Granger to be 35+% from 3 this year.

And Danny is a very solid 18 foot and in shooter to boot. Not sure he watched too many Pacer games last year. Particularly the last 25 or so.

Lord Helmet
10-04-2006, 12:11 AM
The only flaw I care to mention is how he says "vets like Jackson and Foster are solid players, but we're not talking about daunting talent here."

Jack is quite a bit better than Jeff. Not too happy with that little comparison.

He doesn't seem to be a fan of Al and Jack, and seems to like Sarunas. :rolleyes:
What's so bad about Sarunas rather than him not living up to his high expectations?

No one on the Pacers roster lived up to their own expectations, except for Danny and AJ and a few others.

Naptown_Seth
10-04-2006, 02:08 AM
Pretty good actual basketball analysis from the stat head. I think he's starting to learn how to mix the two together...which is nice.

I can't believe we turned the ball over on 16.5% of possessions last year. That's once every six times down the floor. Gross. My highschool team never even coughed it up that much.
This is why Rick hates opening it up. The last 2 years they were forced to gimmick the offense half the time, including pushing or relying more on jumpers than they wanted too.

My only issue is his blame of the TO problems on passing into JO. JO gave it up 3 times a game, but Jack was pretty bad with the ball too, as was Tinsley. Just compare the TO's per game in FEB vs APR. In FEB with no JO play at all the TOs per game were 15.6, in April when JO was fully back and playing well they dropped to 13.8 despite JO having 3.6 per game himself. The FGAs were only 4 less in April with JO playing (80 vs 76) so it wasn't simply a case of a higher tempo.


In other words, he touched the ball a lot more but that structure in the offense improved their protection of the ball quite a bit. One bit of evidence on that is JO's assists at a very high (by PF standards) 3.7 per game, giving him an A/TO ratio over 1.00 in April.


If you don't like TOs then you won't like this season because that comes with the territory of going uptempo, especially with players that haven't done it much in previous seasons. Add to that the required defensive effort that RC will (for good reason) not back off of and you face some exhaustion and sloppiness at times.

The hope with going uptempo is that the offensive improvement (including player improvement with guys buying-in) outpaces the damage done to the defensive presence and increase in TOs.


Other than the apparent confusion of Williams with White and the ignoring of the other, I agree that the article is pretty solid. I was impressed with the defensive numbers the team put up last year, and I also really liked his analysis of "expected wins".

When you consider the luck involved there (and I can think of a couple games that did seem to involve bad breaks), how mad would fans have been if the Pacers had again put up 48 wins instead of just 41?

48-50 wins is about where I've been projecting them myself, so it seems to fit with his analysis.

Naptown_Seth
10-04-2006, 03:12 AM
They pay him to research into the expected wins stat vs actual wins and to see if there are any trends. He found that there don't appear to be any at all, with teams jumping drastically from season to season in the rankings. That's why he calls it luck.

If a team with a clutch player always did better than the expected wins total, then you would have a correlation and some proof, but according to him this just hasn't been the case for this stat. It jumps around at an apparent random level which justifies it being called luck.

What isn't luck is the expected wins number itself. That is the constant that roughly says how good a team is, with their actual wins then basing off that with a +/- of a small margin above or below that....pretty standard stuff for any statistical analysis actually.

The margin of error in regular stats can be called "luck" or "random" too. The key is getting the base number correct with a reasonably low margin of error. He's not saying 40 expected wins with a margin of error of +/- 40. He's saying around 45-46 wins with a +/- of 3-4.

rexnom
10-04-2006, 05:39 AM
For the record, I thought that this was the best piece of Hollinger to date.

ChicagoJ
10-04-2006, 10:01 AM
This is why Rick hates opening it up. The last 2 years they were forced to gimmick the offense half the time, including pushing or relying more on jumpers than they wanted too.

My only issue is his blame of the TO problems on passing into JO. JO gave it up 3 times a game, but Jack was pretty bad with the ball too, as was Tinsley.

I'd generally agree with everything in your post, but let's not create the mis-impression that Tinsley is prone to excessive amounts of turnovers.

The generally-accepted ATO ratio for a PG is 2:1. Tinsley's numbers:

last season, a career low (and plagued by injuries), Assists = 211, TO = 109. That's an ATO ratio of 1.94, so it just barely flunks.

Over his career, Assists = 1966, TO = 815. That's an ATO of 2.4. (And it goes up to 2.5 for his career playoff stats).

If your primary ballhandler is getting you eight assists per game, and keeps his TOs per game below four, you may not like the four turnovers but he's generally doing his job... aggressively initiating the offense.

For comparative purposes, Mark Jackson and Steve Nash have career ATO ratios of approximately 3.0. That's the difference between a top-ten PG like Tinsley and borderline HoF PG. (Although, Isiah Thomas is in the HoF with a career ATO of 2.4).

I'd like to think that if Tinsley took a little bit better care of the ball, that he'd get up to an ATO of 3.0, but I don't think that is going to translate to an improved W-L record.

rexnom
10-05-2006, 10:35 PM
Btw, back to back MVPs and him basically revitalizing the league in two years are sure to land Steve Nash in the Hall of Fame. No borderline about it.