The Pacers on paper don’t look great. But we Pacers fans know better. Somehow this team has become cohesive, effective, and incredibly likeable, despite low attendance numbers. Some of it may be coaching, but this week we’re going to take a look at how they stack up individually, to see if we can make sense of this team’s success this season, which so far has been beyond our wildest expectations, but still lacking in some key areas. I”ll rank them in PER order (PER in parentheses).
Roy Hibbert (19.8)
Key Stats: 13.5 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 51% FG
Breakdown: Big Roy has certainly boosted his stock during a contract year by improving his numbers across the board for a fourth straight season. Hibbert earned his first All-Star appearance, and will likely garner All-NBA consideration at some point in his near future. With a big payday looming, the Pacers and Roy hope to consummate a deal this off-season to keep the fan favorite in town for the long haul, and both parties couldn’t be happier to do just that. If there ever was a feel-good story for this Pacers team this season, Roy’s humble emergence into stardom is it.
Danny Granger (17.9)
Key Stats: 18.3 ppg, 1.3 spg, 38.9% FG, 36% 3PT
Breakdown: While Danny Granger is still the unquestioned leader of this team, his career-low FG% (and yearly downward trend so far in his career) is unsettling. Granger has evolved (or de-evolved, as it were) into a jump shooter, rather than a penetrator, which will keep him from ever becoming a dominant offensive force. Luckily he’s stepped his defense up this year, averaging more steals per game than he has in any of the past three seasons. His intensity and late-game heroics seem to have ampped up a tad too.
David West (17.2)
Key Stats: 12.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 47% FG
Breakdown: David West’s impact has come more off the court than on, as he’s added a steady lockerroom presence and veteran voice to this very young, inexperienced Pacers club. But Indiana needs him to do more with his time on the court. He looked shaky, condition-wise early on, but stepped up his scoring and field goal percentage over the second quarter of the season. West will hopefully continue to improve the more comfortable he gets with his knee rehab, but so far he doesn’t look like the pick-and-pop dynamo he was in New Orleans.
Paul George (15.8)
Key Stats: 12.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.6 spg, 1.7 3PTMpg
Breakdown: George can literally do everything. He’s a freakish athlete with a nice stroke from long range. He has quick hands and great timing, allowing him to stuff a stat sheet with blocks and steals. He even has shown flashes of brilliant vision at times this year, including a 9-assist game to end the month of February. While he’s not perfect, yet, he’s done everything expected of him and more, and most importantly, has given Pacers fans some hope for the future. If he can duplicate his across-the-board improvement in year three, he’ll most likely be an All-Star.
Darren Collison (15.3)
Key Stats: 11.5 ppg, 5.2 apg, 83% FT
Breakdown: Collison has his share of haters, and they’re largely concerned with his defense and lack of gaudy assist numbers (like those he put up as a temporary starter his rookie year in New Orleans). He’s limited size-wise, and doesn’t seem to execute the high pick and roll/pop very well, and that’s put him on the trade block to many armchair GMs (myself included). That said, Collison takes care of the ball, and has blazing footspeed, making him a threat to start a transition scoring opportunity at any given moment. He’s just not the elite point guard most hoped he’d be when Larry Bird acquired him two summers ago.
Tyler Hansbrough (14.9)
Key Stats: 9.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 39.3% FG
Breakdown: It’s hard to believe Hansbrough is just one year removed from averaging 14/6 on 50% shooting as a starter last year. His minutes are similar but his shot has gone almost permanently cold. He’s active in spurts, but overall has been a massive disappointment coming off the bench this year.
George Hill (14.2)
Key Stats: 8.9 ppg, 1.1 spg, 79.1 % FT
Breakdown: We’ll give Hill a pass for now. Just as he was getting used to his teammates and his role in the rotation, he severely hurt his ankle. But he doesn’t yet look like the type of player the Pacers need him to be, and that’s to provide scoring and excellent defense off the bench.
A. J. Price (12.5)
Key Stats: 4.5 ppg, 35.3% FG
Breakdown: Price has struggled with shot selection his entire career, but has had stretches of improved ball control at times this season to the point that the Lakers are tentatively pursuing him in a trade, according to rumors. Price has been an unlikely fan favorite at times, and a “pleasant surprise” to some, but the fact remains that he is still entirely too inconsistent.
Jef Foster (11.2)
Key Stats: 2.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 13 mpg
Breakdown: Foster has appeared in 11 games this year, playing single-digit minutes in two of those. Routinely one of the Pacers’ toughest and most disruptive players off the bench, Foster’s back may have finally effectively ended his career for good, as he’s recently undergone yet another back procedure.
Lou Amundson (10.9)
Key Stats: 3.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 37% FG, 0.2:0.8 assits:turnover rate, 10.5 mpg
Breakdown: Amundson is some missed bunny layups and some better ball control away from a team-high PER. He squeezes a surprising amount of per minute production into his stat line, but the poor shooting and assist:turnover numbers are crippling, and that’s probably part of the reason he can’t see more time on the floor. That’s about to change if the Pacers can’t add another big body in a trade. Amundson has played 12 or more minutes in each of his last four games, and is averaging 7.3 rpg in that span.
Dahntay Jones (10.2)
Key Stats: 5.4 ppg, 43.8% 3PT
Breakdown: Another inexplicable fan favorite, Jones endears himself to onlookers and teammates with his attitude, hustle and passion for the game. Unfortunately that usually fails to translate into on-court production. His yearly basement-level PER numbers have hit a new low with the current 10.2 at which he now sits. No matter; as the Pacers have yet to add a combo/wing scorer for bench depth, Jones will likely remain a rotation player for the forseeable future.
Lance Stephenson (7.6)
Key Stats: 2.4 ppg, 1.2 apg, 1.0 TOpg, 37.8% FG
Breakdown: Stephenson’s minutes have waxed and waned, and I suspect his DNP-CDs lately have something to do with the Pacers showcasing A.J. Price right now. Stephenson is wildly inconsistent; his game is sprinkled with equal parts jaw-dropping displays of athleticism and one-on-one dominance and bone-headed mistakes with ill-advised shots. We’re still waiting for this risk to pay some dividends.
Jeff Pendergraph (N/A)
Key Stats: 1.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 35.3% FG
Breakdown: I’ve actually never seen a player who actually registered stats but never registered a PER. I’m not sure the rules on this, but I’m sure it’s rare. Anyway, Pendergraph’s drastically blown layup percentage has to be in thE upper 80s. It’s hard to believe this man has a guaranteed two year contract. It’s as if the Pacers’ front office felt uncomfortable no longer having Solomon Jones and his inexplicable contract on the books.
Grade: F (but management is probably more deserving of this grade than Pendergraph himself)
A trend we’ve seen with this analysis has definitely been the Pacers’ poor shooting and general lack of playmaking. Hopefully, in 2 months or so this list will be at least a little different. Judging by last night’s spanking at the hands of the over-confident, annoying Chicago Bulls, the Pacers need some personnel adjustments, and there are some players who need to be doing their homework to improve these grades. In the meantime we’re proud of this team, and what it’s accomplished, but there’s a lot of work to do.
Lucas Klipsch will be celebrating a birthday on Thursday. Send him money. Or follow him on Twitter @LukeNukem317