Breaking Down the Indiana Pacers Bench
Last year the Pacers had an inefficient bench that struggled offensively. The Pacer made a risky trade to acquire Philadelphia 76er Evan Turner around the middle of the year, and sent career long Pacer Danny Granger away. This didn’t turn out well for Indiana, Evan Turner constantly struggled sharing the basketball, was a turnover machine and never found his place in the offense. Overall the Pacers bench was second to worst last year and averaged a lowly 24.1 points per game, putting a heavy load on the starters.
Larry Bird being very dissatisfied and disappointed in The Pacers game 6 loss to the Miami Heat in the eastern conference finals; he got to work In the offseason on a mission to improve the Indiana Pacer bench. He first looked to the shooting guard position, last season that position for the Pacers was often vacant because of player struggles. After Lance Stephenson shockingly left for the New Orleans Hornets, The Pacers looked to the free agents list and signed 6’5” guard Rodney Stuckey form the Detroit Pistons. Prior to this he signed Cavalier sharp shooter C.J. Miles and later on Croatian Power Forward Damjan Rudez. In the article ill be breaking down what the bench might look like and whos going to receive the most playing time off the bench.
Nothing has changed at this position; the Pacers will have all the point guards from last season returning. C.J. Watson will be in his usual backup role, running the offense. Watson brings a lot to the table for the Pacers second unit, that including a deadly 3 ball; which he shot 36% last season. He also brings good defense and speed on the attack that is above average for backup point guards. Last year he averaged 6.6 points per game; that will change this year, he’ll be getting more playing time and will have a larger offensive role with the second unit.
3rd string point guard Donald Sloan will also be returning this year as well. He didn’t play a lot last season and was usually played in injury situations but he did play well with his time. He might be playing more at shooting guard this year, and does have some heighth at 6’3”. If he does play, hes got good ball handling skills and has a similar build to that of Rodney Stuckey.
This position is the big question off the bench for this year. Possible fill-ins would be Solomon Hill, Donald Sloan or possibly one of the shooting guards the Pacers have on the training camp squad; C.J. Fair or Adonis Thomas.
Donald Sloan will probably share minutes at this position off the bench, along with Solomon Hill; unless he is named the starter. If he is named starter than it could be C.J. Miles, but he’s a likely starter. Solomon Hill has improved a lot over the offseason; changing his jump shot form; working on his ball handling and overall defensive focus. He is the Pacers most bright potential from recent draft classes, and will look to show that this season
Chris Copeland will be getting majority of the minutes at this position, after being benched most of last season; things will change. Frank Vogel stated “I look for Chris Copeland to get a lot more minutes, at the wing spot”. This offseason Copeland participated in a NBA Rookie Transition program, because he never felt like he made the transition. Now he’s got a new body, and a new opportunity to play more. He brings an interesting set of skills to the Pacers roster; with a great 3 point shot and unique post game, he’ll be a lot to handle for your average NBA backup small forward. From 3 point range he shot 47%, which is the same as Kyle Korver shot; obvious Korver took more shots than Copeland, but regardless it’s still impressive. The one concern is that he won’t be fast enough to guard small forwards; this year he might face some new challenges but will adjust. Look for Copeland to possibly emerge as the Pacers best bench player, and maybe lead them in scoring.
Solomon Hill should also get minutes at this position as well, considering it’s his natural position.
Argentinian power forward Luis Scola will return to his previously held role with the Indiana Pacers this season. Last summer he was brought over in a trade from the Phoenix Suns for Miles Plumlee and a 1st round pick. Scola lead the bench in scoring with 7.6 points per game, and stretched the floor with his mid-range jumper. The thing that stands out is his post game, it’s unique in that it involves fancy footwork and up and under scoops. You never know what you’re going to see from Scola. His ability to pass the ball is vital to second unit success, in spreading the floor and finding open shooters. Scola is not the most athletic of players, but makes up for that with his strength and high basketball IQ.
This offseason the Pacers looked overseas to find a shooting power forward; they found exactly that in Damjan Rudez. At 6’10” and an athletic build he can bring some versatility to the power forward position. He will likely be used in pick and roll or pick and pop shooting situations. He could be useful to spread the floor and open things up for Roy Hibbert.
Lavoy Allen is the other young forward/center, he came over with Evan Turner in the Danny Granger trade. He’s proved to be the best thing to come from that transaction. He didn’t play a lot of minutes last season, but when he did he performed well. He potentially could see some minutes at backup center if Ian Mahinmi’s return is delayed.
The most important thing about the Pacers defense is at the center position. After Roy Hibbert comes out of the game, then comes in Ian Mahinmi. Who is also very good at protecting the rim, and at 6’11” brings a defense presence not a lot of teams have off the bench. He’s not the most polished offensive player and his jump shot isn’t the prettiest but can provide points. His jumper is actually quite effective on the pick and pop; and is often overlooked. This year his role will be the same as last and has made some offseason improvements on his post moves.
Undrafted free agent signee Shayne Whittington has proved this preseason that he had potential and talents to bring to the Pacers roster. In his first game he went 5-5 with 11 points, in limited minutes. He reminds one of Mile Plumlee a little and also has a long range game. He’s the Pacers youngest player and could present the Pacers with a potential future talent.
Possible Training Camp Signs:
C.J. Fair and Adonis Thomas are the 2 players that have the best chance to make the roster. Fair was a senior standout at Syracuse last season and has through-the-roof athletic ability. He has a nose for the basket but also struggles with the 3 point jumper.
Adonis Thomas could provide a big body at shooting guard off the bench and would likely be beneficial to the offensive end and brings some defense. He has a good looking jump shot, and has played in the NBA D-League for a while. What the Pacers need is a backup shooting guard. Look for one of these 2 talented young athletes to be signed before the season starts.
Overall the Pacers have an improved bench, they have more shooters and more depth. The offensive load wont be so heavy this season for the starting 5, the 3point shot will help change that. The 3 point shot will be prevalent and key to a successful bench this season.
– Stone Miller (Stone_116)