Game Night: Pacers Travel to Atlanta Shrouded in a Cloud of Gloom
One of the worst offensive teams in the NBA so far this season just learned that they will be without the services of their best offensive player for the next three months. Which probably won’t help. It is somber, disheartening, potentially catastrophic news for anyone who expected the Pacers to be a formidable team this season.
After four games so far this season — playing against non-playoff teams from last year other than the offense-focused San Antonio Spurs, it must be noted — Indiana has the fourth-worst offense in the NBA. This is hopefully small-sample-size-theater doing its dirty tricks, but this doesn’t appear to be some statistical anomaly. They have look out of sorts in every game and really incapable of consistently creating movement, spacing or rhythm, let alone good looks at the hoop. Really, if it wasn’t for an other-worldly individual performance from David West in the opener to beat Toronto and a double-OT win against Sacramento, the team would be in full-blown panic mode. Instead, given that the ball bounced in Indiana’s favor on a few extra occasions, it is only half-blown panic time. But this season could get really, really ugly really, really quickly.
It’s not that Danny Granger is the best player on the planet. He may not even be the best player on this team.
It’s just that those who put together this team’s teams starting lineup did so in a way that prioritized creating a cohesive, effective unit more so than a finding a star or two to build around with lesser, complementary talents. That might make it seem like the loss of any one player would be less of disaster than if, say, Boston lost one of its Hall of Famers for an extended stretch. But, really, this team is so dependent on all five of its very-good-but-not-great players contributing to the whole. And losing Granger — particularly considering the production and offensive acumen of those on the roster who will replace him — disrupts that balance in a way that may result in a much larger drop-off than anticipated.
In short, it is very, very hard to see this team competing on any given night, let alone in a playoff series, against the top teams in this league unless a few of the other guys get their act together soon. Specifically, it would be nice to see one of the two guys who were handed a combined $100 million this offseason, Roy Hibbert and George Hill, start pulling their weight on offense.
Roy is yet to score 15 points and went 1-for-7 against the Spurs. Hill is shooting 36.0% on the season (21.1% from behind the arc), and is the floor general of an offense that is shooting a collective 40.1%. (League average last season was 44.8%, for reference.)
Not to be hyperbolic, but unless something changes soon, it might be a loooong season in Indianapolis. Because there isn’t anyone on this roster, other than probably West and Lance Stephenson, who has been doing much of anything with the ball. And the team sure hasn’t done anything — this season anyway — to convince anyone that the sum of the whole is greater than the parts.
(P.S. Atlanta is playing pretty well so far this year. Only two games, so can’t read too much into it, but they have the league’s fifth-best offense currently and they gave the Thunder the bizness the other evening. Particularly Jeff Teague.)