This is gonna be a long one, boys and girls. So, sit down with your afternoon mocha lotte' and prepare to analyse this...
I wanted to start this thread on Saturday after that dreadful lose to the Heat, but decided against it. The wound was still too deep then. It's not much better today, but I figured I could discuss things with a more opened mind today than on Saturday evening.
After reading this article on IndyStar.com this morning, I began to think back to my original thoughts for this thread. It's interesting that some of the comments made were very much in-line with my initial thoughts some of which I'll share herein.
"For the Pacers, making a run in the standings will be considerably less difficult if they find a way to stop giving up runs within games. Their fast-paced, perimeter-based offense gives up points in waves when their shooting and defense falter simultaneously."
This goes back to that old basketball saying, "Live by the 3, Die by the 3!"
From the article, "We live and die by it," guard Kareem Rush said. "When it's going, it's the greatest thing in the world, but when it's not, everybody calls it a curse. But we're going to keep playing this way. We're still getting accustomed to it, but it's been effective."
"They (Pacers) are susceptible to stretches of cold shooting because they don't use a post-up threat, but O'Brien is committed to his 'small ball' approach for the rest of the season."
The above snipets from the article are very true. When their deep ball is falling, the Pacers are a threatening team because it's very difficult to cover 3-4 shooters. However, there in lies the problem. There are too many of them! There's no balance out there! Let me explain what I mean.
In order for the small-ball line-up to truly be effective, you have to have two additional elements to the game:
1) a dominate post-presence; and,
2) dribble penetration.
Currently, the Pacers have none of the first w/o JO and very little of the second. Or to put it more accurately, they don't use dribble penetration very effectively. Why? Consider the following...
How many players on this team can truly take their man off the dribble and not only get TO the basket, but finish?
Tinsley can back-post his man, but even he has a somewhat difficult time being a true finisher at the rim.
Rush has tried often, but he still sees himself as more of a jump shooter than a dribble penetrator. Though he can do it, he still has trouble getting through defenses and getting to the rim.
Dunleavy and Quis...forget about it! Both tend to turn the ball over on dribble penetration. But at least Dunleavy is effective at getting to the basket on back-door cuts. So, I'll give him that.
Travis Deiner is quick enough to get there and you'd think that his size would give him an advantage in that regard against larger defenders, but he doesn't try often enough, and in most cases he's going against taller PGs who are just as fast as he.
That leaves Granger and Andre Owens. Granger can take his man off the dribble and get to the basket, but he struggles to finish at the rim about as much as Dunleavy. But at least Granger can get there nearly any time he wants. I think Granger's starting to feel his way into the game alot more, but because his roles have once again changed so radically this year - SF to SG to PF - it's tough for him to figure out just what style of play to use at various positions in order to be more effective. Owens is the one player on this team who can get to the rim any time he wants. His problem is he's NOT a very good finisher.
Now, let's talk about the teams collective group of "shooters"....
Dunleavey, Granger, Rush, Murphy, Deiner, Owens, Williams and occasionally Tinsley, Quis and Graham whenever he's allowed to play . That's 10 of 15 players who have all been given the green light to shoot from the perimeter. Too many! Why? Because when you give this kind of freedom to players to take the 3-pt shot they tend to get shot happy and foget about the other parts of their game, i.e., dribble penetration, step-in 2-pt shots, curls and mid-range jump shots. Now, mind you I still believe that small-ball is the best way for this team to go as it is currently formed, BUT I think it's beyond time to sit players down and tell them "here is your role...this is what I want YOU to use as your primary weapon to score the ball". The philosophy of taking a wide open, uncontested "3" is a good one, but IMO only certain players should be taking that shot!
Shawne Williams, for example, is a SF. It's great that he can make that shot, but isn't he also suppose to have a post-up game? When was the last time anybody saw him post-up his man?
Troy Murphy, we all know, is a Center/PF who would rather play like SF/SG than stay in the post and bang w/the big boys.
Tinsley and Quis are too inconsistent to even allow them the opportunity to shoot from the perimeter. To that, I am happy to see that Tinsley has gotten the message since his disasterous display on Jan 9 against the Suns to be a distributor first, scorer second. But w/o his post-up play I think the team has gone a bit stagnet. He's the only other player besides JO who could slow the game down enough and be a threat in the post. That's the element to the game this team is truly missing. So, how do they fix things?
1) Identify the shooters! The primary three IMO are Dunleavy, Granger, Rush. This doesn't mean that others shouldn't take the shot. Just make it clear that they are to take the "open" shot only if no other scoring options present themselves, i.e., no trailer coming down the lane for a quick layup/dunk, they are not in transition for an uncontested perimeter shot, the shot clock is winding down. Otherwise, it's Dunleavy, Granger and Rush as the team's primary 3-point shooters.
2) Have everyone else use other aspects of their game to score, i.e., Deiner, Tinsley, Quis, Owens should all use dribble penetration as thier first means to score. Tinsley and Quis should continue to limit their 3-PAs to "shot clock" type situations. Owens and Deiner should take the 3-pt shot only under the conditions mentioned in item #1 above.
3) Williams should be using more of his athleticism to get to the basket instead of taking 3's. He's very capable of doing both, but as a Big (SF), he should be going baseline and posting up his defender more than merely taking jump shots.
4) I really wish Murphy would play more underneath the basket, but since he won't the team will continue to rely on Foster as a post-presence while JO is out. As much as I admire Foster's work ethic, he's just not a scoring threat down low. But he's one heck of a rebounder and off the ball defender.
Small ball can work for this team, but players have to be willing to use other aspects of their game in order to be effective. Again, it's about balance, and right now I don't think this team has much of it because just about everybody wants to be a jump shooter and very few want to penetrate the lanes and actually get to the basket. Fewer still are willing to pound underneath the basket. It's going to take every player rethinking his approach to the game, but IMO it's more about players knowing their roles than anything else. To that, I think JOB has to rethink his approach to the game just a little bit.
Sidenote: The biggest change JOB could make is to play Graham more. I think he's a more athletic player than Quis and plays stronger perimeter defense. Besides, the bench has struggled to keep scoring drives alive. I think this kid can help in that regard. If it's a matter of finding minutes, I'd say skim alittle off the top of Deiner and Quis' minutes...maybe even Rush's, too, since he's still playing with an injury.