Hi everyone...sorry I didnt make my normal Sunday posting, but Im making up for it now.
We currently are 9-9 as I sit and type this on Dec 4. We've shown improvement in some areas, but some steady and consistent problems have become apparent to all of us. Rather than point those out again, today i want to talk about what the coaches can do to solve them, at least as I see them.
Problem 1, as has been discussed alot on here, is our lack of defense at the point of attack. Our point guard defense is poor, and in my way of thinking thats the single biggest weakness we have on our team by far. Let me be clear: This is the single most important defensive position on the floor, by far. By not having a point guard who pressures the ball and forces the opposing guard to have to work to advance the ball, we are one of the easiest teams in the league to run half court offense against. Our extremely soft defense on the ball lets the opponents point guard run any play in the playbook they have, lets them easily make the first pass in whatever set they want to run, lets the opponents PG communicate with the opposing coach too easily, and lets them have extra time each possession to make an extra pass or screen that eventually leads to an easier shot. Our defense at the point of attack is horrid, no matter what any stats may say. The Pacers dont take anything away from the opponent defensively, all we do is react instead of dictate. This has been a huge factor in some of our blowout losses especially, and really in all of the games. A top point guard defender is a critical missing piece we have missing, maybe the most critical weakness of all.
So what is the solution to problem 1? I still say its playing Marquis at the point as a starter, with Tinsley seeing spot minutes against the opponents second unit. Yes I know how good JT is offensively, but him not picking up opposing guards until they near the 3 point line is driving me nuts....the Pacers defense on the perimeter is charmin soft, and JT is a main culprit. Armstrong cant handle big minutes, Sarunas actually has played decently at the 2 spot but isnt any better than JT at defending quick penetrating guards, and Greene is still raw and unproven. We desperately need someone who can pressure the ball in the backcourt, hound the opponents pg as they cross the center line and force them to struggle to initiate offense....this solution alone over the course of the game can have a cumalitive effect, and may help us completely change how the opponent's coaches have to strategize against us, from the plays they can run against us to how they have to substitute. No matter who plays, our point guards having to back so far off defensively as JT and Sarunas are forced to do due to their lack of athleticism is a huge problem thats got to be solved. Their offensive advantages arent outweighing their faults, at least to me. It pains me to say this because I enjoy Tinsley at the offensive end, but he is such a huge negative defensively that I dont think he is worth it at this point, playing the way he is currently.
Problem 2: Lack of ability to finish on the break. Like is mentioned in the fast break thread, the pacers are running more, but are extremely inefficient in converting. Our problem isnt starting the break, its running the lanes well enough with proper angles and spacing consistently enough to always get a good shot.
Solution to problem 2: Better coaching and teaching, and better, more fundamental play from our point guards. The Pacers dont run wide enough generally on the break, they run to much in a straight line to the rim. Even in younger levels of basketball players are taught to get wide and angle in toward the rim, but yet the Pacers seem to struggle with this for some reason. Our spacing typically is terrible. Maybe a coaching solution would be to run a numbered break, and actually control more of where guys are supposed to go than give them the freedom to read the situation on the fly, I dont know. Part of this problem in my view also lies in the hands of our point guards, who often (Tinsley mostly) who 90% gives the ball up too quickly and early on a 3 on 2 situation. Our point guards need to keep the ball until they reach the foul line area, make a jump stop, and feed the ball to a finisher at that point. Too often we end up making too many passes unnecessarily and it causes us problems. When JT gives the ball up near the half court line to a wing, it discimbobulates all the other lanes and angles, and causes us to have to improvise, which we arent very good at. We need to stick with the fundamentals more of how to run a 2 on 1 or 3 on 2 situation, instead of being so unconventional. I can explain this more in detail if need be.
Problem 3: We are among the worst in the league at fg percentage. Now, when a team struggles shooting, it can be for a number of reasons. Maybe they take bad shots, maybe they just have poor shooters, maybe their offense is easy to defend, maybe they dont fast break enough, or whatever. The bottom line is, we are a poor shooting team in general.
Solution to problem 3: Other than get better shooters to play for us, I dont think there is alot Carlisle can do to help us much here. Obviously, converting more fast break chances as in the above problem will help some, but the main solution he can control is to make a concerted effort for us to get to the line more. We arent the greatest foul shooting team either, but we need to figure out ways to shoot alot more foul shots than our opponents do in order to offset our shaky jump shooting. Coaching wise, that means RC has to convince guys like Daniels, Jackson, Granger, Harrington, and Oneal to not always settle for the easy open jumper, but instead to make the extra pass or to put it on the deck and take it hard to the rim. We also need to run some stuff offensively that creates chances to drive in a more open way. Possible, some "4 out 1 in" type scheme could at times help us. (That was for you Jay lol) Our main offensive weapons scheme wise have been alot of "flex" action and alot of isolations, which usually lend themselves to taking some midrange jumpers, which isnt our strength. I also think biting the bullet and playing Harrison some, in order to give us a big guy to run offense thru when JO isnt in the game would be helpful, even if its for limited minutes. Lastly, I wish RC would tell Foster to dunk the ball instead of laying it in and missing it, but thats another entire article lol.
Notice lastly that I didnt put rebounding as one of our 3 major weaknesses. We miss so many shots from the field, and defend so poorly sometimes, that it makes our rebounding look worse that it really is. When we ever can make 8 or so more shots a game, that is that many less defensive rebounds our opponent can get. Our lack of shooting and finishing baskets around the rim is making our rebounding numbers look worse sometimes than they really are. On the defensive end, if our point guard could defend better, we wouldnt have to cheat and rotate so much with our bigs, and they could "stay at home" more often, and that would help our defensive rebounding numbers, which would help our fast break chances, etc etc.
In summary, if we can solve our point guard defense, learn to finish the fast break better and more efficiently, and get to the line and convert more often, I think we have the framework to go on a run in the next few months and become a dangerous team. If we continue to miss chances to score, break even or worse at the line, and play horrible point of attack defense, then we will just go as far as our offense can take us, which will make us an inconsistent mediocre team. No matter what we do, I know we arent championship level yet, but we can be better than what we are so far, if we can solve these problems.
If you agree with my assessment of the problems, but disagree on my solutions, please lets discuss your ideas too and get a good dialogue going.
JMO, as always.