New Year’s Resolutions for the Indiana Pacers: Part One

The Indiana Pacers have lost three straight games as Victor Oladipo has missed the last two and head into the New Year on a bit of a down note on what has otherwise been a terrific start to the season. Everybody has something to improve on, however, so in the spirit of New Year’s, here’s part one of resolutions for each of the Pacers for the remainder of the season.

Part two coming soon. (Now available)

Myles Turner: Use the fadeaway in the post sparingly when faced with a mismatch

Myles is the league-leading shot blocker and perhaps as a victim of high expectations hasn’t had the start to the season than many were hoping for. That being said, he’s averaging 14.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks with a usage rate that is lower than his rookie season. He’s still just not a featured part of the offense on most nights but he’s putting up solid numbers with efficiency.

One area that he can definitely look to improve on is taking advantage of mismatches in the post. Too often, Turner tends to fade away when matched with a smaller player instead of taking advantage of his height. Here’s an example from the Mavs game with Harrison Barnes guarding him.

Turner has shown improvement in this area and has gone straight up more often of late as was the case with a couple of chances with Gary Harris on him in the post against the Denver Nuggets switching scheme, but he still has a tendency to fade more often than not.

This play is exactly how you want to see Turner take advantage of the mismatch. He doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be in the post all the time (or even most of the time) with that smooth jump shot, but the more he improves with someone smaller on him, the less likely teams will even consider switching on the pick and roll.

Turner’s also gone away from his no-dribble turnaround shot in the post, which has always been very effective since his rookie year. Even just going straight up is preferable to the fade as most of the smaller players won’t have any shot at blocking the high-release attempt and it has a higher chance of getting a foul call as well.

When I asked Turner about a one-leg, Dirk fadeaway that he used in the first game against the Bulls, he said, “I don’t want to always settle for that, but it’s a move that I know is tough to guard.”  So Turner knows that fading shouldn’t be something he does every time. Hopefully it starts to become like junk food at the top of the old food pyramid and is used sparingly.

The Dirk fadeaway in discussion was against Robin Lopez and not a smaller player.

Bojan Bogdanovic: Let yourself be fouled in late-game situations.

Please. Bogdanovic is shooting 84% from the free-throw line this season, but didn’t seem to want to be fouled in the closing seconds against Boston with that inexplicable high pass that was stolen by Terry Rozier. He almost dribbled into a turnover earlier this season in a similar scenario, but was given a foul call. If the Croatian Mercenary is going to play in the game’s final moments, he has to be willing to take those fouls.

Lance Stephenson: Keep the ball moving.

This has always been one of the things that I’ve disliked about Stephenson’s game even during his first tenure with Indiana. When the ball gets swung in his direction, he almost always ball fakes to no effect and gives the defense a chance to reset before making a decision. More often than not, the right play is just an immediate pass to the next man on the perimeter. Here’s an example of Stephenson doing this here, though Oladipo is still able to hit the 3-pointer as the Thunder don’t recover with the extra time Lance allowed them with the unnecessary fake.

Stephenson’s done far more good for the Pacers than bad this year, especially while being a big part of sparking some huge comebacks at home and getting the crowd amped up on a nightly basis, but a few quick swings per game would go a long way for the offense that sometimes doesn’t move the ball as much as it should.

Bonus resolution for Born Ready: Find his shooting stroke on the road. Before the game against the Chicago Bulls where Stephenson made two of his five 3-point attempts, he was shooting only 17% from deep. At Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, he’s shooting 38%.

Darren Collison: Don’t settle for mid-range attempts when the opponent switches on the pick and roll

Collison had a terrific offensive game against the Bulls, scoring 30 points on just 16 shot attempts. One area where the point guard could get more movement into the offense is any time the opposing team is switching in the pick and roll. Collison with a big man on him is reluctant to try a pass into the post over the taller player and instead most of the time ends up taking a contested mid-range attempt.

This happens so often that many times Turner doesn’t even look to post up when Collison is the ball handler in a switched pick and roll, because he knows what he’s likely to do more times than not.

The Pacers have also started having Turner post on the opposite side so Collison can swing it to the next guy on the perimeter and allow that man to make the post-entry pass that DC doesn’t make very often with the taller man defending him. You can see Turner going to post up on the opposite end on the previous video. The problem is that this allows the opposing team to switch the point guard off of Turner and get at least a slightly bigger player on him, which you can also see happen on the play above as well, and it takes more time to accomplish.

Collison is shooting well from the mid-range in certain areas, but oddly the area that he takes the most attempts in the mid-range is where he shoots by far the worst percentage. From the right elbow to the 3-point line, Collison is shooting a dismal 25.7% on 35 attempts.  In all other spots from 15-feet to the 3-point line, Collison is shooting a very good 53.6% on 56 attempts. If DC is going to take those type of shots, he has to start shooting more often in the areas that he’s been far more successful in. It’s very rare to see him take the opposing big to the rim as well, which could open up shots for others if he forces the defense to help as well.

TJ Leaf: Stay confident, grow in team defensive concepts.

Nate McMillan recently said that there aren’t really any expectations for TJ Leaf in his first season they just want him to get some experience on the court.

“We know that he can score the ball,” McMillan said about Leaf after practice. “We want to see him defend and continue to work on, certainly scoring, but really his first year is about just playing. There’s no pressure, no expectations, other than getting out there to play.”

The problem lately has been that Leaf hasn’t seen much or any playing time. Alex Poythress has gotten the most recent chance at the backup four minutes and when Glenn Robinson III comes back, it may likely be Bojan Bogdanovic playing some extra minutes as the backup power forward.

Leaf was a very confident rookie to start the season and will need to remain so even while he’s likely to sit the bench. Learning more about how to be a better defender will be the biggest thing he can do to help himself earn more minutes when his opportunities do come. Maybe sit next to Pacers defensive assistant coach Dan Burke on the bench every night.

McMillan praised his attitude recently when he went down to the G-League and played well.

“We do respect that,” McMillan said of Leaf’s mindset of wanting to do whatever is best for him. “Some guys feel they’re above (the G-League). His thing was, ‘It was good to play and get some minutes.’ … That’s what these guys love to do, is play basketball. That’s the purpose of sending him down there.”

Al Jefferson: Get a makeover.

Fortunately for the Pacers this season, Al Jefferson hasn’t been needed to play a whole lot. Hopefully that stays true in 2018. Turner and Oladipo both said that he was the one player on the team that most needed a makeover on the team. Big Al needs some new style.

Joe Young: Stay committed to the role of pesky, full-court defender

Young has embraced being the annoying, pesky defender that guards the opposing point guard the entire length of the court and it’s resulted in the occasional forced turnover. His minutes are likely to remain sporadic barring any injury and this is the easiest way for him to make an impact as he’s not going to be looked at as a primary scoring option when he plays.

Young has added a few points in the last two games (6 and 7 points respectively), but for him to continue playing in the league, he’ll have to up his defensive game. He’s got the right attitude and you know a guy that sleeps on the practice court is going to work hard.

Damien Wilkins: Don’t get your LaVar Ball on.

Old Man Wilkins just found out that he was having his third son as he was surprised by a gender reveal during the Pacers/Mavericks game.

Please, no. We don’t want or need another LaVar Ball. We didn’t need the first one.

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