Category Archives: Analysis

After some self-evaluation, Myles Turner is silencing his critics

The narrative surrounding Myles Turner’s third season has largely been one of disappointment: Turner’s offensive game hasn’t progressed since last season. He has no post moves. He settles for fadeaway jump shots too often. He can’t rebound. He’s not strong enough yet.

Since the All-Star break though, especially in the last four games for the Indiana Pacers, Turner’s making that dubious narrative disappear quickly. What changed? Some self-evaluation and a change in his mentality.

“I’ve had some self evaluation,” Myles Turner told Tyler Smith of Indy Sports Legends . “After the All-Star break I made it a goal to be more physical on the glass. I’ve got to make myself more versatile. I can’t just settle for jump shots. I’ve always had a post-game, but it’s the mental aspect of it.”

The results of this self-evaluation have been tremendous. Here’s a look at Turner’s statistics broken down before and after the All-Star break.

  • In 42 games prior to the break: 13.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, shooting splits of 48.8/35.6/76.4  
  • In 10 games after the break: 15.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, shooting splits of 57/48.3/76.7

“My team needs me,” Turner told the Indy Star. “That’s what it is. The All-Star break was good for me, to kind of take a look at myself, where we are in the standings. I know I need to step up my play.”

Those 10 games even include a few duds due to foul trouble or a lack of involvement in the offense shown by an actual drop in his usage rate since the All-Star break from over 21.2% before to just 19.2% after. After a pair of games in a 3-game stretch where he took three or fewer shot attempts, Turner made some adjustments.

“For us to be the team that we want to be,” Turner said after the Jazz game where he scored 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting. “I have to shoot more than five times in a game. I pick and chose my spots very well tonight.”

One of the frustrating things about his development to this point in his career is that he goes through maddening stretches without opportunities in the offense and never seems to get the ball enough when he’s hot, so it’s good to see Turner start to look at this proactively and make adjustments on his own.

He’s mentioned picking his spots correctly after a few of the last four games and with these numbers you can’t argue with that. He’s looked more and more like the player that many expected to see in his third season over the last four while averaging 21.3 points and 8 rebounds while shooting a sizzling 61.8% from the field and 52.9% from deep.

“I think so, man,” Turner told Jeremiah Johnson after the win against the Sixers when asked if this was the most confident he’s ever been. “I’m picking and choosing my spots very well. My teammates are doing a great job of creating open spaces for me and I’m taking full advantage of it.”

The biggest changes that we’ve seen since the break have been in the paint via consistent success in the post and more assertive rebounding on the offensive and defensive glass.

That improvement down low won’t get a better display than his game-winning post bucket against the Celtics with the game on the line.

Al Jefferson has talked this season how he wants Myles to take it as disrespect when a team switches on the pick and roll. Earlier in the season, it seemed like Turner just dreaded anytime that was the opponent strategy because it took away his bread and butter pick and pop shot.

“Last year, he wouldn’t have even thought about a post; he would have gone with a turnaround jumper or fadeaway,” Jefferson recently told Mark Montieth of “You’ve got a 6-4, 6-5, 6-6 guard or wing on you and you’re taking those type of shots, that’s when it becomes a problem for me. He understands that. He’s getting his feet in the paint and getting good shots.”

When Oladipo came back in early January after a brief stretch where he missed four games, Turner’s first response to how he helps him succeed on offense was that teams are more reluctant to switch. He just wasn’t comfortable consistently going after those smaller players on the block. He showed flashes in the post, but too often he’d settle for the fading attempt away from contact.

“Just like on the playground when you were growing up, when you’ve got a small on you, your first thought is to go into the paint,” Jefferson told Montieth. “Myles wasn’t comfortable to do that. I think he got tired of that. I was in his ear telling him, ‘Man, you should be upset. You should be mad when teams feel they can switch and put guards on you and you’re taking fadeaways in the post. You’re making it harder than it really is. You’ve got to do something about it.'”

Now, it seems like he’s taking Jefferson’s teachings to heart and treating those switching defenders to some physical play and the biggest thing according to Jefferson is that he’s being more patient when he gets the ball down there.

“That’s something that wouldn’t have happened a year ago,” said Turner after his game-winning post shot against the Celtics. “I would have rushed right there. I took my time. I read the defense and made a strong move.”

His teammates know how important it is that he keeps developing that post game as well.

“When Myles can score down there and is effective down there, and then you have to guard him at the 3 too?” said Oladipo told Pat Boylan after the game against the Celtics. “He’s so young too, it’s crazy. I love playing with him.”

His tracking data on post-up plays has steadily improved to the point of him currently ranking in the 73rd percentile with 0.98 points per possession. His increased use of the pump fake, a sign that he’s being patient, has led to more drawn fouls, something he was already doing well in the post. He has a free-throw rate of 18.3% which is nearly twice as high as Domantas Sabonis and Jefferson’s foul rate when they’re in the post.

As he asserts himself in the paint, he’s seemed to gain even more confidence in his jump shot as he’s taken at least four 3-point attempts in each of the last four games while making over half of his attempts.

And the rebounding? Just watch this sequence and say he hasn’t improved in this area. He’s made putback dunks, grabbed key boards in traffic, and blocked out defenders with greater consistency.

The key for Turner will be doing this consistently. He’s had a few good games this season only to seem to take a step back after foul trouble. But the Pacers are winning games with Turner playing this well even while Oladipo has struggled in some of the same games. If the Pacers can get them both going at the same time in the playoffs, the Pacers might be able to make some noise.



Glenn Robinson III showing flashes of improvement since his return

It was a long wait to get on the court this season for Glenn Robinson III. The Indiana Pacers were patient with him as he rehabbed from his ankle injury in training camp and he’s quickly become a key contributor off the bench.

While Head Coach Nate McMillan expected to only play him 5-10 minutes in his first game back, Robinson played 18 minutes in his debut, showing he was ready to make plays as the backup small forward.

Continue reading Glenn Robinson III showing flashes of improvement since his return

Don’t overlook the passing prowess of Sabonis and Turner

The Indiana Pacers have a pair of exciting young center prospects in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Both players are seen as core pieces of the team’s future and how well they can play together will become more and more important in the next few seasons.

Right now, they spend most of their time on the court with the other on the bench and play the center position and make positive impacts in different ways. Sabonis is the physical, rebounding, screen-setting sparkplug, while Turner is the sweet-shooting, shot-blocking specimen you’d design in a lab for the modern era.

One thing they both have in common is the ability to make plays via the pass, but even here you see them do things differently.

Sabonis is the more natural of the two big men when it comes to passing and is great at seeing where the open man is, while Turner, not often praised for his passing, grew leaps and bounds last season in knowing where the defense is likely to help and who that will leave open.

Their assist numbers won’t wow anyone as they aren’t racking up assists like the Denver’s Nikola Jokic or DeMarcus Cousins before his injury, but both players are a big part of the unselfish nature of this team.

Sabonis, who averages 3.1 assists per 36 minutes, makes one-handed bounce passes on the move to Victor Oladipo on a backdoor cut on the regular in this Pacers pet play (looked at in detail here).

The Pacers run this play with Turner, who averages 1.8 assists per 36 minutes, but not nearly as often. Here’s Turner executing the play to Oladipo.

Many of their assists come from hand-offs where instead of cutting backdoor Oladipo, Cory Joseph, Lance Stephenson and others go around the big man for the ball and take one or two dribbles before taking a jumper. Both players being able to make that backdoor pass allows this play to be more successful as teams are forced to respect the possibility of the cut.

Some of Turner’s best passing highlights come on plays where it doesn’t seem like he should know the guy is open before he makes the pass. Evidence of him simply knowing where the help is most likely to come from on this pick and roll and that the man in the corner behind him will be open. He immediately turns to make the pass on the catch, likely spotting the help defender as he initially turned toward the basket.

Sabonis, on the other hand, is more likely to catch and assess the defense, see where the help is coming from before making the right pass. Same play as the one above is run here but you can see him looking for the first option, seeing that it’s covered and then finding the open man on the opposite corner in Bojan Bogdanovic.

It makes sense why Thaddeus Young called him a quarterback for the offense early this season when he’s progressing through reads like this.

Both young players need work in their post-up games as they’ve had similar mediocre success up to this point in the year with Turner earning trips to the foul line at a tremendous rate but shying away from contact with a mismatch too often  and Sabonis hitting his field goal attempts at an above average clip but turning the ball over more than once every five post-ups.

While Sabonis does struggle with turning the ball over especially when he holds on to the ball too long and allows the double team to trap him, he’s able to make the quick pass when he sees the double coming.

Turner’s passing really shines in the post at times when opponents attempt to double him, which makes his development on that part of his game even more important. If he forces more teams to send an extra defender at him, he can pick apart defenses. He’s great at sending passes across court to the opposite corner to hit the open man.

In this next one, Turner spots both the double team coming from Young’s defender at the rim and Oladipo’s man coming down to cover Thad at the rim. He zips right pass both for an open 3-pointer for the Pacers All-Star.

You can see the natural instincts that Sabonis inherited from his father, one of the best passing bigs in history in Aryvdas Sabonis, come into play often on broken plays.

Any situation where the defense is scrambling like on an offensive rebound or an overly aggressive help defender, he’s able to find the open man at the right time.

He’s able to push the tempo off of rebounds and immediately start the fastbreak by taking a couple of dribbles before making an outlet pass, effectively creating situations where the defense is scrambling on his own.

Both players average about the same number of turnovers as assists, but most of their turnovers are offensive fouls, moving screens or lost balls. Only 23 of Sabonis’s 111 turnovers on the season have been from a bad pass and only 15 of Turner’s 64 turnovers on the season have been bad passes.

As mentioned previously, Sabonis sometimes allows the double team to get too close before attempting a pass and that has caused some of his turnovers. Part of this being his tendency to need to see the open man rather than anticipate it coming at times. He also seems to prefer making straight-line passes and is reluctant to put any touch on his passes in many situations.

Turner’s passing turnovers come from him thinking that a defender wouldn’t be in position but instead they’ve stayed at home or making a tough bounce pass too late to squeeze it into a tight window.

You’re still more likely to see the good than the bad from this still improving players. Here’s some terrific ball movement with Turner as the fulcrum of the offense in the paint.

And perhaps a sneak peak of the future for the Pacers here with Domas making some nice passes to Myles with the first pass showing some hesitation on making the touch pass for the easy layup and the second utilizing the spacing that Turner’s shooting creates.

The Pacers great chemistry is partly due to the unselfishness on the court of all their players, but it’s especially important for the team’s best players to be willing to make the extra pass. That’s almost always the case for the Pacers pair of young big men and they’re just getting started in their careers.

How Victor Oladipo sets the pace for the Pacers

Nothing speaks louder for Victor Oladipo’s impact on the Indiana Pacers than his team’s record with and without him.

With him, the Indiana Pacers are 33-19.

Without him, they are 0-6. Simply put: no Victor, no victories.

One of the biggest differences that he makes when he’s playing is how much faster Pacers play. While the impact is only little over a couple of possessions per game when he’s on the floor, that’s the difference between ranking 16th in pace overall when he’s on the court and 26th when he’s off the court.

Continue reading How Victor Oladipo sets the pace for the Pacers

Myles Turner showing off all the goods since his return

Myles Turner has come back from his elbow injury looking determined to erase the first half of a season full of setbacks that hasn’t lived up to the high expectations many had for him during the summer.

The Indiana Pacers center is showing off all the goods that make him so intriguing over these past three games while also making strides in the areas that he’s still improving on.

After dealing with foul trouble throughout in his playing time off the bench against the Magic, Turner has averaged 17.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. His scoring even more impressive when he has only taken 31 shots total (10.3 shots per game) in the three contests and he’s doing his damage in a variety of ways.

Continue reading Myles Turner showing off all the goods since his return

With Kemba Walker available, should the Pacers make a deal?

Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker has been made available in trades according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Hornets would be looking to unload one of their bad contracts (they have a lot of them) in any potential deal that included Walker, who is averaging 21.7 points and 5.8 assists, according to Wojnarowski.

Any time an All-Star caliber player (Walker was selected as an All Star last season), every team, including the Indiana Pacers, has to consider whether or not they should pursue that player. Kevin Pritchard and company will have to do their due diligence and weigh the pros and the cons of any possible Walker deal.

Continue reading With Kemba Walker available, should the Pacers make a deal?

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.

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

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.

The Indiana Pacers no-point lineup key to comeback victory

With 3:51 remaining in the game, the Indiana Pacers were down by eight points as Nate McMillan called timeout and went to a lineup that had played only a single minute together all season: Victor Oladipo, Lance Stephenson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner.

“Nate called a timeout,” said Oladipo, who was named  Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the second time this season, “and all I said was, ‘There’s a lot of time left. We just gotta take it one possession at a time,’ and we did a great job.”

Almost no previous time together. No point guard. No problem. Oladipo took care of the offense to the tune of 47 points and the defense took care of the rest down the stretch.

Continue reading The Indiana Pacers no-point lineup key to comeback victory

Hot-Takebuster Part Two: Myles Turner’s Rebounding & Defense

Myles Turner has scored at least 15 points in each of his last four games while averaging just 11.8 shots per game. He continues to be efficient in his at times limited opportunities on offense. But with high expectations coming into this season, grumbling about Turner has reached an all-time high.

This is the second part of a column taking on the hot takes of Myles Turner. If you missed the first part, you can read about his offensive game here.

“Myles Turner is not a true big man” is quickly becoming this team’s “George Hill is not a true point guard.” Both claims pointless, perplexing and frustrating to see about players that add tremendous value to their team while playing their position in perhaps a non-traditional way.  Continue reading Hot-Takebuster Part Two: Myles Turner’s Rebounding & Defense

Hot-Takebuster Part One: Myles Turner’s Offense

Myles Turner hasn’t gotten off to the tremendous start to the season that many expected in his third year. Whether that’s due to his concussion in the opener or a smaller offensive role than expected, this has caused many to air their grievances about the Pacers young big man. Even in a game against the Boston Celtics where he led the Indiana Pacers in scoring while taking only nine shot attempts, the noise for much of the game was all about what Turner can’t do or won’t do.

“Myles Turner is not a true big man” is quickly becoming this team’s “George Hill is not a true point guard.” Both claims pointless, perplexing and frustrating to see about players that add tremendous value to their team while playing their position in perhaps a non-traditional way.  Continue reading Hot-Takebuster Part One: Myles Turner’s Offense

Stray Pacervations: Odds and Ends of the Indiana Pacers winning streak

Stray Pacervations is intended to shed light on the odds and ends, the small things and possible trends that happen during Indiana Pacers games. Some good. Some bad. Some neither.

The Pacers have won four games in a row, four road games in a row, five out of six overall, and just won all three games in a 4-night stretch. It’s been fun. Let’s dive right in.  Continue reading Stray Pacervations: Odds and Ends of the Indiana Pacers winning streak

Why everybody loves playing with Domantas Sabonis

Game after game, it seems like there are more and more reasons to gush over the performance of Domantas Sabonis.

He’s been called the quarterback of the offense by Thaddeus Young. Nate McMillan said early in the year that they like to run the offense through him while he’s out there. He’s played two games while battling an illness only to produce a couple of his best performances of the season in those contests.  Continue reading Why everybody loves playing with Domantas Sabonis

Lance Stephenson makes ’em dance their way to a comeback victory

INDIANAPOLIS — After being down by 22 points with less than six minutes left in the third quarter, the Indiana Pacers outscored the Detroit Pistons 51-22 the remainder of the game to win in impressive fashion by a final of 107-100 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Pacers were kick-started by none other than the infectious energy of Lance Stephenson in the fourth quarter as he scored all 13 of his points and grabbed six rebounds in the final 12 minutes.  Continue reading Lance Stephenson makes ’em dance their way to a comeback victory

The Indiana Pacers pick-and-roll coverage on James Harden was doomed from the start

The Indiana Pacers got off to a slow start last night against the Houston Rockets and never recovered. After a first quarter where they were outscored 35-18, the Pacers ended up being beat by a final score of 118-95.

The Pacers biggest problem was dealing with the Houston Rockets best player in James Harden.  Continue reading The Indiana Pacers pick-and-roll coverage on James Harden was doomed from the start

For Myles Turner to grow, more opportunities are necessary

Should Myles Turner be considered in the NBA’s group of future frontcourt stars along with Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid?

If the Indiana Pacers want to find out, they’re going to need to give Myles Turner the ball. With a lot more consistency and frequency.  Continue reading For Myles Turner to grow, more opportunities are necessary

Stray Pacervations: The Good, The Bad and the In-Between

Stray Pacervations is intended to shed light on small things and possible trends that happen during Indiana Pacers games. Some good. Some bad. Some in between.

1. Domas Sabonis rebounding and pushing the pace. There are so many things to love about Sabonis’s game already, but this might be my current favorite. When Sabonis grabs a defensive rebound and no defender is near, instead of pausing and finding the outlet pass, Sabonis will immediately turn into a dribble while looking for an open man. It’s a small thing but it helps the Pacers gain a little bit of extra time for their budding transition offense.  Continue reading Stray Pacervations: The Good, The Bad and the In-Between

Final Roster Cuts: Who will the Pacers keep around?

After finishing the preseason 3-1 after a victory over Maccabi Haifa, the Pacers have a week of practices before having to decide on their final roster for opening night of the 2017-2018 season.

Most of the 15 NBA-contract spots are already locked down. The following players will be on the team, barring something unexpected happening:  Continue reading Final Roster Cuts: Who will the Pacers keep around?

Leaf leads comeback with 18 points in the fourth quarter

Pacers first-round draft pick TJ Leaf scored 18 points in the fourth quarter as the Pacers overcame a 10-point deficit with six minutes remaining to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-102. The Pacers are now 2-0 in the preseason.

“This is my second NBA game,” Leaf said after the victory. “It definitely gives me some confidence knowing if I play my role I can be successful.”

Leaf did most of his damage from beyond the arc as the rookie hit four 3-pointers in the quarter. During Summer League, Leaf had not yet adjusted to the longer above-the-break NBA 3-pointer and missed every non-corner three he took, but he seems used to the distance now. Three of his long balls were near the top of the key.

“It was good to see him knock down some shots and stay aggressive,” said Nate McMillan, “We drew up a play for him and he came off and nailed that three, so that was a big shot. A very confident kid, and that’s how we want him to play, don’t worry about mistakes, stay aggressive and play the game, and I thought he did that.”

When Leaf hits his 3-point shot, he can then use his drive game as defenders have to close out hard on his shot attempts. Leaf took advantage on a couple of drives in the fourth as he earned a trip to the foul line on the first and scored on a layup on the second.

While he did his damage against Cavaliers bench guys like Derrick Williams and Channing Frye, it’s encouraging to see the rookie take advantage of these kinds of matchups. This is where Leaf can make his mark early in his career on the offensive end. He’ll struggle on defense as he’s slow on the perimeter and needs to add strength inside. This was a good sign for Leaf to show he can contribute early, as increased struggles may have led the Pacers to go back to Al Jefferson as the backup center and move Domantas Sabonis to backup power forward.

Sabonis was another bright spot in game two of the season as he scored 17 points in only 18 minutes, making six of his eight shot attempts and adding seven rebounds. Sabonis shot under 40% in his rookie season, primarily because he was limited to the perimeter. With the Pacers, his post game should be utilized much more, which should lead to a higher field goal percentage for Sabonis.

Other notes from game two:
Glenn Robinson III’s injury is a missed opportunity. Bojan Bogdanovic has struggled with his shot in his first two games as a Pacer. Bogdanovic has only one made 3-point shot in nine attempts and it was banked in. If GR3 was healthy and playing well, he might be making some noise to move into the starting lineup. Instead, he’s only able to watch and rehab as he awaits his ankle to heal up. Hopefully, he can return at full strength and still have a breakout season that he seemed poised for before the injury.

Damien Wilkins is going to make the team. McMillan played the 37-year-old for 24 minutes, more than just about anyone in the second preseason game. Alex Poythress played only four minutes, while Ben Moore and Jarrod Uthoff have still yet to see the floor. You have to question McMillan’s decision making here as there’s little to be gained by playing Wilkins that much instead of the young guys that could gain tremendous experience playing at an NBA pace. It would be beneficial to the Pacers to see what they have in Moore, Uthoff, and Poythress in these next two games in an actual game setting.

Myles Turner continues to look awesome. Early in the game the Pacers were struggling to keep up with the LeBron James-less Cavs, but Turner was a bright spot. This may be a common occurrence when the Pacers play contenders this season. In one short two-minute stretch, Turner scored a basket on a fadeaway in the post, made a great recovery on defense to block a Kevin Love layup attempt, made a perfect pass for an assist to wide open Oladipo for a layup, and then hit another jump shot on the Pacers next offensive possession. He finished with 12 points in 21 minutes.

The Pacers are intent on shooting more 3-pointers. The Pacers had one of the highest percentages from distance last season but were at the bottom of the league in attempts. The Pacers are averaging 30 3-point attempts in the first two preseason games so far this year and while the results haven’t been great, it’s good to see the Pacers embracing the long range game. Percentages should improve as Bojan finds his jumper again and Turner’s shot starts falling, but players like Lance Stephenson and Victor Oladipo will likely shoot plenty of threes, but remain inconsistent on results. This would still be better than Stephenson and Oladipo settling for midrange jumpers instead.