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

2018 is upon us and the Indiana Pacers have things to improve on as they await the return of Victor Oladipo and attempt to get back to their previous winning ways. We have resolutions for all the Indiana Pacers for the rest of this season.

If you missed part one:

Domantas Sabonis: Shoot 3-pointers instead of mid-range jumpers

While Sabonis doesn’t shoot jump shots very often (EDIT: which is good for him, I’m not saying he should take more jump shots), his mid-range percentage for shots from 15-feet up to the 3-point line is just 34.5% on 55 attempts. Meanwhile, he’s shooting only slightly worse from distance, 33.3% on 15 attempts from 3-point range. Sabonis shot 32% over his entire rookie season from range, so he can shoot a similar percentage with more volume.

With how Sabonis is shooting his jumper, there’s no reason that this pick and pop shouldn’t be stretched out to the 3-point line.

If you stretch each of those out to 100 attempts, Sabonis would score a measly 69 points on mid-range attempts (a not-so-nice 0.69 points per possession) and 99 points on 3-point attempts (a very respectable 0.99 points per possession). The difference is vast.

McMillan isn’t the most modern, analytic minded offensive coach and isn’t likely to encourage his backup big man to shoot more threes, but the Pacers would be better off if Sabonis turned nearly all of his mid-range attempts into longer bombs.

Victor Oladipo: Get healthy, stay healthy

There’s only so much a player can do to control his health, so this one isn’t really in Oladipo’s hands, but the Pacers desperately need their star player on the court. Caitlin Cooper of Indy Cornrows did a terrific dive into all the problems with the little things the Pacers have had in this 4-game losing streak with three of the games coming with no Oladipo.

The Pacers miss their pace-setting, big-shot taking shooting guard. In the game against the Mavericks, the Pacers looked lost as for where to go in the clutch and spent 20 seconds just passing the ball around in a key possession down three with less than 30 seconds left as if they were all waiting for someone to find Victor, so he could take the big shot. The Pacers are 0-4 in games without Oladipo this season. No Victor. No victories.

Another reason that it’d be great to have Oladipo back sooner rather than later is to make sure he gets his first All-Star selection. He’s well on his way to making it, but the fewer missed games the better in order to make his case.

Thaddeus Young: Don’t drift too far away from shooters in off-ball defense

Thad Young does a lot of good things on the defensive end. He’s been among the league leaders in pass deflections all season and makes a lot of effort plays on that end of the floor. However, one thing Young is not good at is off-ball defense, especially when he’s guarding a capable 3-point shooter. The Pacers have been torched recently by Tobias Harris (a ton of open transition 3-point attempts) and the Bulls combination of Lauri Markkanen and Nikola Mirotic (many of their shot attempts were just open 3-pointers where the defender drifted too far in help defense and couldn’t recover to prevent the shot).

Here’s one case of Young drifting too far from Harris, who had already made six shots from distance to this point in the game. Even as Reggie Jackson dribbles closer to Harris, Young doesn’t decrease his distance to the shooter and ends up just far enough away from Harris to hit yet another.

Mirotic and Markkanen combined to score 60 points against the Pacers porous perimeter defense. Here Thad drifts closer and closer towards the ball with little purpose, leaving Markkanen open from deep.

Mirotic took 16 attempts from 3-point range against the Pacers. Here’s one he got with Young drifting too far away.

To be fair to Thad, giving up penetration is a big reason why the Pacers 3-point defense is so bad. Defending the 3-point line is a team problem, but a few attempts per game could be prevented with more sound off-ball defense.

Cory Joseph: Get off a long-distance heave before a quarter or half expires.

This is an epidemic around the NBA and has been for a long time. Players knowingly allow the end of the quarter clock to go off before the shoot a long-range heave to prevent it affecting their field-goal percentage. The Pacers worst offender in this category is Cory Joseph.

Videos of these events are hard to come by since they didn’t officially happen in the game, but any time Joseph gets the ball somewhere near the half-court line with precious few seconds remaining he hasn’t gotten a shot off before the buzzer yet this year. In one case, Joseph actually got in reasonable shooting distance and made the shot, but still waited a half second too long before getting it off.

Joseph is a free agent this upcoming summer, so his 3-point percentages probably matter more to him this season than in the past, but any time a player just takes that chance at a free three points without regard to their shooting percentages, it’s glorious. Not to mention that over the course of an 82-game season, shooting a few of these over the course of a year isn’t going to affect a player’s shooting percentage much at all.

Joseph could take a page out of Lance Stephenson’s book and always look to get off the shot in time.

Lance has already taken four shots from around the opposing team’s free-throw or 3-point line this season and while none of them have gone in, no one could accuse Stephenson of worrying about his percentage. He always seems to be more excited about the possibility of making the crowd go insane rather than a minor drop in his shooting statistics.

I just want to see Cory Joseph get off one of these type of attempts before the end of the season.

Alex Poythress: Stay committed to the hustle, find places to contribute offensively

Alex Poythress was recently signed to an NBA contract for the remainder of the season, giving some clarity on the Pacers plan with him while he was still on a 2-way contract. When given the chance to play rotation minutes, the results have actually been pretty good. You couldn’t tell by his individual statistics, but Poythress actually leads team in net rating currently (13.1), a big difference in the man he’s been taking the place of in the rotation, TJ Leaf, who had team-worst net rating of -11.5.

Poythress has been sound defensively and active in getting loose balls. He knows his role isn’t to score, but it’d be good to see him be aggressive when he has a chance. He made a nice play with a quick, driving dunk in garbage time recently that he hasn’t attempted while playing in minutes that have consequence.

He’s only taken 12 shot attempts all season and most have come in garbage time. His shots while in the rotation are typically shots like these, but that’s part of why his minutes have been more successful than Leaf’s, who can’t provide much at this point in his career if he isn’t given chances to score.

Glenn Robinson III:  Earn the starting small forward spot by the end of the season

In the off-season, Robinson was seen as a candidate for a breakout season by many. While Bojan Bogdanovic has been very good at times this season, the Pacers could use more defense in the starting lineup that Bogdanovic, despite his best efforts, can provide. If Robinson can keep that ankle healthy and play well enough to eventually become the starter, the Pacers will likely be much better off.

Robinson’s always been a hard worker and has added more to his game in each off-season.

For Robinson to do that, he’ll have to be much more aggressive, last season he tended to be very passive, letting other more experienced players take the lead. His usage rate was only 12.8%. Robinson shot the ball very well in his limited chances (39% from deep and 47% overall) and has the potential to be at minimum a very useful 3-and-D type player.

Ike Anigbogu: Embrace the G-League

Anigbogu came into the league as its youngest player and with one very good NBA skill: protecting the rim with elite shot-blocking timing. Here it is in action against the Timberwolves.

Anigbogu is about as raw as a player can be and needs a lot of seasoning before he’ll be ready to contribute at an NBA level. Spending as much time with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants as possible would be ideal for his development as he’ll only be seeing the bench with the Pacers. The more playing time that he can get down there, the better.

Bonus Resolutions for Nate McMillan:

  1. Stop overplaying rotation players in blowout games.
  2. Embrace modern basketball. The Pacers rank near the top of the league in 3-point percentage, but nowhere near the top in attempts. The same happened last season. All that means is that the Pacers don’t take enough threes.
  3. Don’t let the team slow down in pace. Regardless of reason, they should be running. Last year’s team started fast and ended up at a slower pace than the last year of Frank Vogel. The slow down has been noticeable lately as well. Not something that can continue if the Pacers want to find more success.
  4. Find more ways for Myles Turner to be consistently involved in the offense. Embrace the unicorn-ness of Turner, don’t just put him in the box of players that have come before him.
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