Tag Archives: Malcolm Brogdon

The Many Problems of the Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers are 9-16. The 7th-worst record in the NBA. They are on their third head coach in three seasons and out of excuses.

“We can’t be an organization or a team that accepts mediocrity,” Myles Turner said after the latest embarrassing loss for the Pacers who fell to the Miami Heat without both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. “That’s what we’ve been playing like. We got to up the ante, somehow someway … we have to find a way to fucking win.”

So what’s the problem with these Pacers?

The roster that Kevin Pritchard, Pacers president of basketball operations, put together three off-seasons ago has struggled to finish games. They have a positive point-differential this season while sitting four games outside of the last play-in spot in the Eastern Conference. The only teams behind them in the East are the rebuilding Magic and Pistons who on average get beat by nearly 10 points each game.

Me watching the Pacers this season

Somehow a team built with the hope of being greater than the sum of its parts has been less. Injuries can’t be used as an excuse for this group anymore. It’s a pipe dream for this entire roster to be healthy at the same time after the last three years. And they’ve treaded water much better than this through injuries before.

Is it the overly discussed and debated Turbonis duo? Domantas Sabonis and Turner have somehow played better together this year than ever before with a 8.8 net rating while playing over 400 minutes with each other. Pacers lineups with only one of the centers have both been outscored by opponents to this point. There are bigger issues here than the imperfect fit for the team’s two most important players.

But the fact that two centers are the most important players on the Pacers is an issue in itself. Centers may be the least valuable position in the league if you aren’t at the level of Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic. Many teams prefer to spend their cap space elsewhere and find cheaper options at the position. Trading one may help solve some of the other Pacers issues but there just aren’t many teams in the league that are desperately looking for a center and willing to part with much to get one.

That the Pacers have used two of their last three first-round selections on centers in Goga Bitadze and Isaiah Jackson–with no consistent rotation minutes available for either of them–only exacerbates this problem. The Pacers have used a lot of cap space and a lot of draft capital on centers.

You have to think that if there was another team willing to give up something decent, the Pacers would have made a deal by now. But Sabonis is their best player and a 2-time All-Star and Turner has been the entirety of the Pacers defense since their defensive guru Dan Burke left so it’s understandable why the team hasn’t been in a rush to just hand one away without getting value in return. 

If you look at the Pacers roster, there are plenty of good players. But if you really think about the positions that they best fit at, there’s a problem there as well. I would say that the Pacers currently start two centers and three shooting guards. In a league where switchable positionless wings are highly valuable, the Pacers have none that are above replacement level.

Malcolm Brogdon has flourished offensively as a point guard with the Pacers in terms of his counting stats but his best role on a winning team is probably in more of an off-the-ball role where he doesn’t need to defend at the point-of-attack on defense. His slow release also prevents him from being able to consistently take advantage of defenders that go under on all of his screens. He’s far too casual with his passes at times in late-game situations to be relied on as a lead ball handler.

Caris LeVert and Chris Duarte both also fit better as secondary or tertiary playmakers and can’t really run an offense. LeVert’s defense is not great and he’s been frustratingly bad at times offensively since returning from his back injury. Passing can seem like a last resort to him and he never seems to find a teammate when they would be in rhythm. Duarte may be the Pacers’ best on-ball perimeter defender among usual starters but he’s completely lost as a team defender. He’s the Pacers first good pick since Turner but he’s almost the same age as Turner already and it’s unclear how close he already is to his ceiling. When Justin Holiday starts, he’s a serviceable small forward but he’s also so slender that bigger wings eat him alive.

Sabonis is the team’s best player but smarter people than me have noticed his role has been de-emphasized in the offense compared to previous years. It also feels like when good teams key on taking him away by packing the paint, daring him and his teammates to make outside shots, they can’t make them pay.

Turner has been better with both rebounding and outside shooting than ever before in his career but he can’t create his own looks and he disappears on nights when the ball doesn’t move well. His poor hands and questionable feel rob him of having a more consistent impact on the offensive end as much as his role.

Clearly, there are some chemistry issues. Caris LeVert and Sabonis got into a bit of a heated argument towards the end of the Heat loss after a defensive miscommunication.

LeVert downplayed it as two super competitive guys that are frustrated with losing and they “hugged it out” right after that, but we know the locker room wasn’t great last season and it doesn’t seem like that has improved.

T.J. Warren is missed. Truly. Madly. Deeply. But hoping he comes back, is immediately the guy from the bubble and magically fixes all the team’s issues by himself is an illogical plot that would only make the cut in the final season of Game of Thrones.

Rick Carlisle certainly isn’t blameless in all of this. He has the same roster as the last two coaches but with the worst results. Say what you want about Nate Bjorkgren but it wasn’t this bad especially this early. Under Nate McMillan, you never questioned the team’s effort.

The Pacers have been unlucky this season and unofficially lead the league in Last 2-minute Report Ws. Duarte’s had two potential game-winning free throws taken away with no calls that were deemed fouls after the fact in recent games. The Pacers lead the league by a long shot in close losses. Eight times this season they have lost by four points or less. No other team has more than four such losses. You don’t outscore your opponents over 25 games and only win 9 of them without some bad luck. But as Caitlin Cooper explains here, it’s not all luck either.

It also probably doesn’t happen if you have a true star to rely on to avoid needing some of those last-minute foul calls to go their way. The Pacers haven’t been seven games below .500 since the 2014-15 season when Paul George broke his leg.

And that brings us to the core issue for this team: they don’t have a star that can put the team on their back and get a basket whenever one is necessary. Not one of their best players is a consistent scoring threat that can be counted on each and every night in the clutch. A basketball team without a star is a football team without a quarterback. It’s a television show without its show-runner. It’s the fourth season of Community. The Pacers delayed the inevitable for a long time but George leaving the franchise has finally caught up to the team.

This is the season that many expected to happen when George was sent to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo and Sabonis. Let’s be honest, Pritchard and the Pacers got incredibly lucky with this trade. Everyone made fun of that trade for a reason. Both of these players’ values were at all-time lows at the time, Oladipo had been solid but unspectacular for four seasons in the league and Sabonis had been dreadful in an ill-advised role as a stretch big in his rookie season shooting under 40% overall. There was very little reason to think that the Pacers would get four All-Star level seasons out of these two players at the time of the trade.

But they did and Victor Oladipo was a top-15 NBA player in that first season in Indiana and it looked like the Pacers by some miracle would be better off without George in the long run. I even made those 4+11>13 shirts at the time. But then Oladipo got hurt and also wanted to leave and here they are: 9-16 with the 7th-worst record in the league. A franchise searching for answers with a fanbase that’s losing interest at a rapid speed.

The Pacers are dead last in the league in attendance. It’s not like you can blame the fans. This is Indiana. We grow basketball here so why would anyone pay for this version of it?

If there was ever a time to blow it up, trade everyone you can for prospects and picks, it would be now. No one is coming to the games anyway. Attendance can’t get any worse. Herb Simon could save some money potentially depending on what money comes back in any deals. The only player that can’t be traded this season is Brogdon because of his extension.

The Pacers likely aren’t as bad as their record seems. But even if they manage to turn it around, what’s the ceiling here with the hole they’ve put themselves in? Losing in the play-in tournament again? Is that really something anyone is going to be excited to see?

As Myles Turner said, they can’t be an organization or a team that accepts mediocrity. They have to get rid of that “tough out” mentality. If that’s all you’re striving for, what’s the fucking point? It doesn’t have to be championship or bust. Everyone has great memories watching Pacers teams of yesteryear but I don’t think Reggie Miller’s goal was ever to almost win in the playoffs. He didn’t come into the locker room after losing game seven in the conference finals to the Bulls shouting, “Mission accomplished! We really made Michael Jordan work for that one, gentlemen!”

Frankly, they’ve been worse than mediocre so far this season and they’ve been stuck in mediocrity since the conference finals battles against the Heat. So what are they going to do about it?

India Pacers showed us what is possible — both good and bad

It’s only preseason, but the Indiana Pacers showed us a little of what was possible for them this season. While most of it was good, there are a few reasons to worry as well.

It’s easy to write off anything good about a pair of preseason games, especially when two teams are playing far, far from home, but with a new roster for the Indiana Pacers, we’re at least getting a glimpse of what’s possible.

T.J. Warren won’t shoot 5 of 6 from deep every night — he shot 1 for 4 after getting us drunk on expectations in his first preseason game. We also saw him lost on defense several times, but that’s not why the Pacers brought him in, as they knew that was a liability of his.

Warren is a microcosm of the Pacers’ situation at the moment. There are great possibilities in what he and many of the new (and old) members of the team add, but we’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t look at the negatives as well.

The Sabonis-Turner pairing is still fraught with danger

No matter where you put one of them, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis are both effectively centers. We saw them both try to play the position as such more than once in the two games.

Some of those mistakes will fix themselves over time as they adjust to not always being the ‘real’ center on the court but expect to see that happen from time to time until further notice.

Turner is better at recovering when he gets caught out of place, but that might just mean teams will look to make sure they can force Sabonis to be the one having to show and recover back to the basket.

It’s my biggest fear for the Pacers this season — that in the long-run, the duo can’t work together — but they did show some adaptations, too.  Continue reading India Pacers showed us what is possible — both good and bad

Pacers Press Conference Translator: Breaking down what to believe and what’s P.R. speak

The Indiana Pacers have had plenty of press conferences lately, but should we believe everything that’s been said?

Today, we’re not here to call anyone liars, but it’s easy to forget there are always public relations elements to running a basketball organization like the Indiana Pacers.

Sometimes, you’ve got to massage the message when you’re talking about things. Sometimes it may sound overly optimistic, but that doesn’t make it a lie. Just perhaps means a difference of opinion — a glass-half-full vs half-empty sort of situation.

We’ll call out lies if we see them, but in general basketball teams don’t need to lie as much as they need to handle the egos of situations to make sure someone isn’t pissed off for no reason — unless you’re in the Larry Bird school of public relations.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of Kevin Pritchard and the Pacers’ more recent statements and decided just how truthful they are, and how much is simply public relations speak.

One of the franchise’s best days?

Was acquiring Malcolm Brogdon one of the best days in the franchise’s history? Continue reading Pacers Press Conference Translator: Breaking down what to believe and what’s P.R. speak

Pacers Summer League: This is getting hard to watch

Another forgettable Summer League game for the Indiana Pacers as their struggles continued with a loss to the Atlanta Hawks by a final score of 87-67. Alize Johnson led the way with his second consecutive double double with 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Pacers held out most of their NBA players with minor injuries.

This was painful to watch for much of the game. Indiana made just 4 of 29 of their 3-point shots and turned it over 15 times. The Hawks were also holding out many of their better players including DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish.

Most of the enjoyable content came from the broadcast team of Jared Greenburg and Vince Carter (other than not being able to pronounce Alize correctly), who chatted with Malcolm Brogdon for much of the third quarter and were a pleasant distraction from the mediocre product on the court. Usually the Summer League broadcasts are painful but those two managed to have fun despite having a dreadful game to call. Continue reading Pacers Summer League: This is getting hard to watch

How Nikola Mirotic indirectly caused the Indiana Pacers free agency moves

The Indiana Pacers made some significant moves on the first night of free agency and one player that won’t even play in the NBA next season may have indirectly made it all happen: Nikola Mirotic.

The day before free agency started Mirotic, who was reportedly in the market for a deal ranging around $45 million, decided to leave for Euroleague club Barcelona in his home country. And so began the Basketball Butterfly Effect where a Spanish forward flapped his wings across the ocean and a tornado of transactions rushed through the league.

But Mirotic was never even rumored to be on the Pacers radar in free agency, so how did his decision leave the NBA affect the team? It starts with the team that was interested in him. Continue reading How Nikola Mirotic indirectly caused the Indiana Pacers free agency moves

Malcolm Brogdon makes perfect sense for the Pacers

The Indiana Pacers addressed one of their flaws from last season by bringing in Malcolm Brogdon as their new starting point guard.

The Indiana Pacers finally got a running-mate worthy of sharing the backcourt with Victor Oladipo in the form of Malcolm Brogdon. The 26-year-old former member of the Milwaukee Bucks isn’t a short-term solution or specialist serving as a band-aid — he is the future of the position for Indiana.

Last season we saw how the Pacers couldn’t score when it mattered, especially in the playoffs. but that won’t be an issue with Brogdon. He isn’t an efficient but safe player like Darren Collison was. He isn’t a defensive maven that might go a month shooting 28.4% like Cory Joseph did.

Numbers-wise, Brogdon averaged 15.6 points per game on a 50.5/42.6/92.8 shooting line while handing out 3.2 assists and grabbing 4.5 rebounds. Of the players that recently served in the role he will with the Pacers, no one scored more, was more accurate, or rebounded better than Brogdon. Continue reading Malcolm Brogdon makes perfect sense for the Pacers

Indiana Pacers cash in on their flexibility with Brogdon, Lamb

The Indiana Pacers will look very different than its last iteration when the new season starts after making some major moves on the first night of free agency. Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb are arriving and Bojan Bogdanovic and Thad Young are departing.

When Kevin Pritchard took over for Larry Bird as President of Basketball Operations, he immediately set out to have a lot of flexibility in the deals that he signed and the roster he constructed after completing the trade for Victor Oladipo. Darren Collison and Bogdanovic both got two-year deals with partial guarantees for the second season to give the Pacers plenty of options. Cory Joseph was acquired with just two years on his deal.

Even while signing short-term contracts, a fantastic culture was created behind their 3T mantra of toughness, togetherness and trust as well as the sheer positivity of Victor Oladipo permeating through the entire franchise. The chemistry of the group was the best they’ve had in recent memory.

They could have tried to cash in on the flexibility to an extent last off-season by letting Darren Collison, Bogdanovic go with their small partial guarantees but Pritchard remained patient waiting for the right opportunity and kept the overachieving team together one more season while still keeping the books relatively clean for the next off-season with short deals (Tyreke Evans and Kyle O’Quinn for one year, no new deal for Young who opted into his player option).

All of it led to this summer with Indiana having more cap space than they’ve likely ever had that could be used to sign free agents or make trades with teams looking for cap space. For Pritchard, this period could end up defining his tenure with the Paces as much as the Oladipo/Paul George swap for better or for worse. The big questions were what would he be able to do with the large amount of available money for a team that hasn’t had much success in attracting free agents over the course of its existence and whether that flexibility that he worked hard to maintain lead to anything at all.

It’s hard to imagine a better scenario coming to fruition than what transpired last night (at least one that’s realistic) in what was a whirlwind in the first 45 minutes of free agency.

Continue reading Indiana Pacers cash in on their flexibility with Brogdon, Lamb

Pacers Free Agency: Russell, Brogdon, Rozier

The Indiana Pacers need a point guard. There are many available on the free agent market. Some of the more intriguing options are restricted free agents, which historically hasn’t been an area where the Pacers have pursued players. Would that change with players like D’Angelo Russell and Malcolm Brogdon?

Restricted free agency is difficult for teams to dive into. Once you agree to an offer sheet with a player, your cap space is held hostage for 48 hours while the player’s original team decides whether or not to match the offer. If they do decide to match, many backup options will have likely signed elsewhere. The Pacers would likely prefer going after these players if they were renounced by their original teams and became unrestricted free agents which could happen with a couple of them.

D’Angelo Russell

Russell is one of the fanbase’s favorite targets. Coming off of an All-Star season and at just 23 years old, it’s easy to see why. If Kyrie Irving joins the Nets, Brooklyn may be inclined to withdraw Russell’s qualifying offer and make him an unrestricted free agent. This would make a lot more teams interested in his services without the hassle of RFA.

Russell, the former 2nd overall pick, averaged career highs across the board with 21.1 points and 7 assists per game while upping his shooting percentage to 43.4% and his 3-point percentage to 36.9%. Continue reading Pacers Free Agency: Russell, Brogdon, Rozier