Why Can’t the Pacers Score? Breaking Down a Broke-Down Offense
Prelude: Brick by Brick (some background reading on Indiana’s offensive approach)
Part 1: Intro You Are About to Read
Part 2: Poor Spacing
Part 3: The Post-Entry Cut That Does More Harm Than Good
This week, the Pacers have edged out a win in Chicago and out-classed Portland at home to bring their record on the season above .500 for the first time since November 3. Given how depressing this team looked over its first 10 games of the year, that is actually a big step forward. But for a franchise that entered the season expecting to have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, this season has still been a disappointment.
I always tell everyone that November in the NBA is glorified preseason. New players are still meshing with the old guard, guys are recovering from injury, some players need to get into game shape, and the collective rust of the offseason must be shed.
Still, with 19 games of evidence, it’s officially fair to say it: the Pacers’ offense is horrible.
Everyone I talk to asks me why. Why can’t a team with four capable scorers in its starting lineup put any points on the board? How is that a team whose starting unit(s) produced some of the best numbers in the league last year (especially in the playoffs) get so, so, so very bad just by losing Danny Granger, who hasn’t made an All-Star team since 2009?
The short answer is: I don’t know. The longer answer is: I can identify some of the problems.
We’ll get to those soon.
First, just take a look at their game log so far this season in terms of the Four Factors. Cumulatively, the Pacers have put together the second-to-worst offense in the league this season (in front of only the Wizards). Somehow, it looks even worse if you break it down by game. They have finished only 4 games out of 19 that with an above-league-average offense.
The only reason they have 10 wins is because they have the league’s second best defense (and best in eFG% against). And more than that, the only way they have been able to eek out, let’s say, four of these wins is because excellent play down the stretch by David West and/or George Hill was enough to overcome 44 minutes of mundane, stagnant, ineffective offense.
To be fair, in most games, there have been a few stretches during which they look potent. That is encouraging, but it is also something you can say about almost all bad offenses. No team is horrible for 19 straight games, and few teams are even horrible for 48 minutes.
That said, we’ve identified several issues that have helped create this situation. Bad spacing, poor movement, ignoring what works, cuts that kill the offensive flow, Roy Hibbert being awful, and Paul George struggling.
We’ll start breaking down some of these in more detail in the hours and days to come and keep adding the links to all the component pieces here as they are published.