Getting into the 2013 Season – Pacer Hot and Cold Spots
Last year, we took a look at where the Pacers took their shots as a way to prep for the season This year, we’re going to leverage stats provided by the NBA to do the same exercise. First, let’s take a look at the team’s overall shooting in 2012:
At 43.8%, the Pacers ranked towards the bottom of the league in shooting – 24th, to be exact. As you can see, Indiana was either below or well below average from all shooting zones but one. Their struggles inside 8 feet were especially damaging to the overall percentage. Only six teams took more shots in this area, but only one team (Cleveland – 51%) shot worse than the Pacers’ 52%. Had Indiana been able to convert at the league average of 55.2% in this range, it would have moved their overall shooting percentage over 45%, raising them to 12th in the league overall.
Another interesting find can be made by looking at the shot distribution:
The floor balance here is impressive. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of the Pacers’ attempts came up the middle, while 21% came from the right side, and 21% from the left. Over the 66 regular season games last season, Indiana only took 11 more attempts from the right side than the left. The Pacers hit almost 49% of their shots up the middle – .500 eFG% – but that was buoyed by the shots inside 8 feet. Removing that gives the Pacers an eFG% of .433 up the middle. They were slightly stronger from the right (.443), and much weaker from the left (.390).
This kind of balance carried on into the playoffs:
Once again, the Pacers lived on the centerline – 53% of their shots coming up the middle – while their use of each side was virtually identical with the other. Of the 409 “side” shots attempted, 205 came from the right and 204 from the right.
While the 42.4% shooting is worse than the regular season, it’s actually good for middle of the pack (8th of 16) in the playoffs. This time, they were below or well below average in every shooting zone. They still weren’t great inside 8 feet, but their 53.5% was just a tick below the 53.8% average in the playoffs. What killed the Pacers was dropping from over 37% three-point shooting in the regular season – 5th in the NBA – to 32% in the playoffs.
There’s not a lot of reason to believe there will be significant changes in the Pacer offense this season, so it will be interesting to see if they can improve their accuracy inside, and stabilize their shooting touch from beyond the arc. Both will be crucial to Indy’s success in 2013.
Now, let’s take a look at the individual players.
The 2012 regular season was Granger’s worst shooting performance of his career, posting lows in both FG% (.416) and eFG% (.481). However, it truly was a tale of two seasons: before the All Star break vs. after the All Star break.
The start of the 2012 season was something that Granger would just as soon forget, with his 38% FG% at the All Star break as testament to his struggles. Too many red splotches on that diagram, highlighted by his poor performance in the paint. Many of his shots were forced, regardless of location. But, oh, what a difference the All Star break made.
After the break, Danny came pretty close to replicating his performance during his 2009 All Star year. Check the chart below:
While the Pacers have added plenty of talent around Danny since that breakout season, he remains their most dangerous scorer. He will need to be healthy and effective this year, if Indiana hopes to improve on – or even match – last year’s performance.
I find Roy Hibbert’s shot chart interesting, because I think it shows both why he is such a desirable target offensively, and why he currently has a ceiling on his offensive opportunities. Over 72% of his shots came from inside of 8 feet.
The chart above is pretty self evident, but it’s even more obvious when you layer in the actual shots.
Basically, more than 90% of Hibbert’s shots came from below the blocks. In terms of action, about 73% of the Georgetown product’s shots come out of post up or offensive rebounds. Of course, that’s where you want your 7’2″ Center to get his shots. The problem is that it’s tough for the offense to consistently generate shots in that zone. Because of the predictability, it makes it easier for the defense to take Hibbert away.
If Hibbert is to become a more effective offensive option, he’s going to need to become an effective threat through other action. The most obvious area of opportunity is in the PnR. He has shown the ability to hit mid-range jumpers, but he needs to become much more fluid in his footwork coming out of the screen. He is still too slow too roll or pop, and he does a poor job of “staying alive” on the roll – often turning his back on the ballhandler, putting his head down, and moving to what he believes his next spot is supposed to be.
The purpose here isn’t to substitute jumpers for post ups. It’s to add 3-to-4 additional looks per game by adding another action where he is effective. As long as Hibbert remains slaved to the post, the team will have trouble getting him the ball, and he’ll have trouble averaging more than 13-14 points per night.
West has spent his time in the NBA as the king of the mid-range, and he was pretty impressive last season, particularly from the right side of the floor. However, Pacer fans should know that this was only a so-so season when measured against his own career.
Hopefully, that Pick-and-Pop that is such a deadly part of his arsenal will be much more present this season for the Pacers.
Paul George is another player who will need to become much more effective in the mid-range, if he’s to become a consistent scoring threat. The shot chart that you see above is one of someone who isn’t a primary option in the offense. He was a meaningful offensive contributor during the regular season despite that, primarily because he was a consistent three-point shooter.
In the playoffs, however…
As George’s three-point shot failed him, he became a borderline liability, offensively. Because of injuries to Danny Granger, this year’s preseason offered Paul George a chance to assert himself offensively. It did not work out well. He averaged over 14 points per night, but shot only 37%.
Much has been discussed about his need to improve his ball-handling, but what last year’s postseason and this year’s preseason has shown is that George also needs to become much more consistent with his jumper. It’s probably the biggest obstacle to his offensive potential at the moment.
George Hill enters the season for the first time in his career as the unquestioned starter at the point, assuming the hip pointer that kept him out of most of the preseason doesn’t sideline him when the games count. His shooting and scoring will be just as important as his ability to run the offense. He’ll need to bring those reds up to yellows or greens to keep the floor open for the Pacer offense.
This is from Gerald Green’s brief stint with the New Jersey Nets, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who would be happy with a shooting performance chart that looks pretty much like this one for this season, too. I can’t remember the last time the Pacers had a bench scorer who is both efficient and potent.
The 2012 Regular Season provides a pretty small sample size. More importantly, the preseason showed that his role will be significantly different with the Pacers. Ideally, his 70% shooting is a precursor to a regular season where the Pacers can continue to run offense for the Center position, even when Roy Hibbert is off the floor.
Augustin – and his Bobcat teammates – suffered through one of the worst seasons in NBA history. There’s not a lot of hope in that chart above, but it can hopefully be discarded as Augustin embraces a new role with the Indiana Pacers. If his chart looks like this again, then both he and the Pacers will be in trouble.
After an apparent breakthrough in 2011, Tyler Hansbrough was nothing short of awful last season, as you can see from his particularly bloody shot chart above. Looking at his career isn’t any more comforting:
Most disturbing is his consistent inability to finish in the paint – not an attribute you like to see attached to one of your bigs. It’s getting harder and harder to see Tyler Hansbrough having a long shelf life in the NBA. This preseason showed improved activity on the glass, but he shot less than 33% from the floor. His hold on the backup 4 position still seems solid, but largely because Jeff Pendergraph doesn’t offer much challenge. The Pacers and Pacer fans alike have to be hoping to see a chart like this:
It doesn’t seem to be asking all that much. Not from an NBA-quality player.
…and the Rest
I do not have shot charts for Miles Plumlee, Orlando Johnson, or Ben Hansbrough, as they weren’t in the NBA last season.
Bonus – Shot Charts by Quarter
Oddly, the first quarter was the Pacers’ best shooting quarter, but not their most effective offensive quarter. In fact, the 102.3 their second worst, but it has less to do with shooting, and likely more to do with this being their worst rebounding quarter. They only grabbed 49.5% of the total rebounds, and 26.2% on their offensive glass. That hurts a team that relies on second chance points as a part of their offense.
The second quarter was by far their worst offensive quarter, scoring less than a point per possession (99.8). Shooting, as you can see above, was a big part of it, but really adding fuel to the fire was a TO% of 15.6%.
The Pacers were dominant in third quarters last year, posting an offensive efficiency of 106.8 while holding their opponents to under 98. While the first quarter was better from a shooting percentage perspective, the third had a higher True Shooting % (.543), indicating better success at getting to the line and converting. Also, the third was their best rebounding quarter (52.2%) and assist quarter (1.46 Ast-to-TO, 16.1 Assist Ratio).
Fourth quarters were the Pacers’ worst shooting quarters, and also when they got the lowest percentage of shots inside 8 feet (43%). However, it was their second best offensive quarter at over 104 points per 100. Fourth quarters in the NBA slow down significantly, and the shooting (.432) is a full percentage point worse than any other quarter, leaguewide. Where the Pacers were able to offset their poor shooting was by having their best quarter on the offensive glass (31.0%) and their lowest turnover quarter (14.2%).
Charts and Stats courtesy of the NBA.