But while the Pacers’ start has been almost perfect, the same cannot be said for the team itself. We’ve seen enough to at least come up with some workable theories that could help things along, such as …
>> START USING SCOLA, WEST TOGETHER
There’s no question Frank Vogel appreciates what he has in Luis Scola. At various points this season, he’s referred to him as “one of the best power forwards in the NBA,” as well as “one of the best players in the history of international basketball.”
That being said, he needs to play more than 18 minutes per game. The best way to do that is to pair him with David West with the second unit. While the unit might suffer from the absence of a shot-blocker, it would pose multiple problems for opposing defenses.
Scola isn’t complaining, mind you, and there’s little reason to believe he will. But lack of complaint doesn’t necessarily mean absence of unhappiness or dissatisfaction, either of which can lead to compromised production. Scola averaged 29.5 minutes in his first six NBA seasons, ever fewer than 24.7 his rookie season in Houston. He’s 33, fully capable of shouldering a much heavier load.
The only downside to this part-time pairing would be fewer minutes for Ian Mahinmi. While a capable defender, Mahinmi is a huge offensive liability. And if you’re the opposing coach, who would you rather see on the floor: Mahinmi, or either Scola or West?
Time to find out of a three-man frontcourt rotation of West, Scola and Roy Hibbert can be made to work.
>> FIND TIME FOR COPELAND
Exactly how, or why, Chris Copeland has become an instant fan favorite at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is a mystery that can only be explained in Area 55 or the G2 Zone, which is to say it shall remain unexplained here.
But the fact is, the guy brings a tangible presence and a definable weapon to the floor, and the same cannot be said for Solomon Hill or Orlando Johnson. Those two have essentially been serving as place-holders in the rotation for Danny Granger but as his absence lingers, it’s starting to look like a Plan B must be developed.
Copeland may well struggle defensively against small forwards, and he may not yet be fully versed in the schemes. But the Pacers knew he wasn’t a defender when they signed him and the best way to get comfortable in the system is to actually be in the system.
If either Hill or Johnson was playing great, there’d be less reason to consider this. But neither changes defenses, or potentially games, the way Copeland can.
>> STABILIZE THE 3-POINT LINE
It only seems like it’s moving – closer to the hoop for opponents, farther out for the Pacers.
Vogel has been stressing 3-point defense in practice, for good reason. The Pacers led the league last year, holding opponents to 32.7 percent. They entered the week at 38.8 percent, 27th in the league, after yielding 50 percent to their previous four opponents.
The lineup hasn’t changed and neither has the scheme, but the execution has slipped. Perhaps the Pacers are a little too interested in their own 3-point shots. After a hot start, they’ve cooled off considerably, with Paul George and Lance Stephenson both coming back to earth.
>> ROOT FOR GRANGER, BUT DON’T COUNT ON HIM
Truth be told, it’s beyond time to stop counting on Granger’s comeback, let alone for Vogel to continue to say things like the Pacers need him to accomplish their goals this season.
The fact of the matter is, they don’t need him. If the playoffs last year didn’t demonstrate that, the 9-1 start should’ve driven home the point.
This is not to denigrate Granger, but rather to put the team in the right frame of mind regarding his Generalissimo Francisco Franco comeback. He’s been out more than a month since injuring his “left calf” in the preseason, and a couple of attempts at returning to practice have both been truncated.
It should be noted the Pacers were 0-5 in the preseason with Granger. After his injury, they won their last three exhibitions prior to the 9-1 start.
If he’s able to come back, good for him. I think it’s safe to say we’re all rooting for that to happen. But that doesn’t mean it should be counted upon.