Who Are Indiana’s Turnover Culprits?
It’s no small secret that the Pacers turn the ball over too often. Only one team coughed it up at a higher rate than Indiana did last year and they ranked 24th this season at the start of this week. It’s a problem, and anyone who saw the beginning of the Heat game on Wednesday knows that this isn’t just a statistical issue. Just as they did last season in the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade were able to take the Pacers’ sloppiest and turn it into points the other way.
Clearly, this is a teamwide problem, but who are the biggest offenders?
Here’s how Indiana’s players rank in terms of turnovers per-36 minutes of on-court action.
Obviously, a team cannot expect to have zero turnovers in a game, nor can most guys who handle the ball extensively and are expected to make plays. If it happens in the wrong moment — like here, for example — even one is too many, but no risk, no reward. Defenses in this league are so good that players have to push the envelope on occasion in order to make greatness happen.
But how many is too many?
For reference, here’s a list of all the NBA players this year who are turning the ball 2.5 times or more per 36 minutes. (Note: This list only includes players who qualify for the minutes per game leader board.)
LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and James Harden are all in the top 10. These guys are All-Star caliber players, so it’s clear that having a high turnover rate doesn’t mean you aren’t a huge benefit to your team, but Indiana probably shouldn’t have three players in the top 56.
The eye test says that Paul George has become a much more steady ball handler this season and cleaned up some of the head-scratching turnovers we saw last year. But his turnover rate has only dropped from 2.8 per 36 minutes last season to 2.7 this year. And it’s been clear that he still makes some careless, unforced giveaways this season. I’m not sure he will lower that rate any further, but it would be nice to see more of his turnovers come from him being overaggressive or trying to make perfect passes than him simply throwing the ball into the stands. I don’t have any stats on that, but I’ve seen more throwaways than is ideal already this season.
The same probably goes for Lance on being unable to drop his rate much. He plays wild at times, but that’s also what makes him so dynamic. He teeters that edge of out of control, and without that energy he probably wouldn’t be so tough to defend nor make as many spectacular plays that give his teammates wide-open shots — often in the restricted area.
On the other hand, when we see guys like Luis Scola and Ian Mahinmi ranking so highly on the Pacers turnover list, that’s probably not for the best. We know why Mahinmi is there: stone hands. But as good as Scola has been this year, he really needs to cut down on the giveaways. One thing other than per-minute averages worth looking at is who has had the worst turnover games? Someone coughing it up 2 or 3 times consistently game in and game out probably isn’t going to kill a team. But one 5 or 6 turnover game can potentially lead to double-digit points for the opponent. Here is a list of all the Pacers who have had 4 or more turnovers in a game this season so far for Indiana.
The fist thing I noticed here was that only two of these high-turnover games came in a loss. And I’m pretty sure Paul George’s 4 giveaways weren’t the biggest reason Indiana loss to Detroit (spoiler: offensive boards) while I’m certain David West’s 4 weren’t the issue in the loss to Oklahoma City (spoiler: the whole team played like trash).
We do see that both George and Stephenson have had two games of 6 turnovers or more, however. And that’s probably not cool.
How high are these totals though?
Again, for reference, let’s look at the NBA at large.
According to Basketball-Reference, there have 127 instances in which a player has turned the ball over 6 or more times in a game this season. Stephen Curry, with 11 giveaways against the Clippers on Halloween, is the only guy to have a double-digit turnover game this season and he easily leads the NBA in the number of games with 6 or more. Another interesting factoid: Unbelievably, Kobe has done it three times in the six games he has played.
Here is the leader board.
As noted, both George and Stephenson have two 6-plus turnover games. To me, however, the individual turnover numbers of individual Pacer players — reserves Scola and Mahinmi notwithstanding — aren’t alarming. None of the starters are giving up the rock at egregious levels.
Thus, it seems that the team’s turnover woes are more a product of offensive execution and teamwide carelessness. Since the starters have now played together for so long, it seems like something that is unlikely to change.
To clean it up, they’ll have to execute better, make crisper passes, improve their timing and just generally stop making so many mistakes. You would think this would improve over the course of a season, but I’m not holding my breath. At this point, it’s probably just a part of the team’s makeup.