The Indiana Pacers have gotten off to a good start to the season. They currently have an 8-6 record and that puts them at the third spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
So far, the Pacers appear to be in a tier below the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are going through an adjustment period but both are likely in that top tier as well.
In order to get to that top tier within their conference, there are a few deficiencies that the Pacers are going to have to resolve. There is no better time to work on some fixable aspects of the game than on a four-day break like they just had.
Indiana should be grateful that their 1-3 stretch over their last four games came at a time when they can benefit from a longer break than usual. Their weaknesses were amplified during their recent losses and those are learning opportunities.
Here are some areas that the Pacers should look to improve heading into the next stretch of their schedule:
Optimize Their Scoring Tendencies Within the Half-Court
The increasing trend of NBA teams optimizing their shooting tendencies by embracing the perimeter jump shot and finishing near the basket has continued.
Rather than adapting to the continued growth in perimeter shooting volume, Indiana has chosen to remain reliant on their mid-range scoring attack.
The Pacers are shooting on average just 9.0-of-24.6 (36.6 percent) from beyond the arc. They rank 29th in makes per game, 28th in attempts per game, and 8th in percentage. When adjusted for pace, they are attempting 29 percent (27th) of their field goal attempts from the perimeter.
The top teams in the Eastern Conference are absolutely letting it fly from deep this season and Indiana must try to catch up. For reference, the Bucks (2nd), Celtics (3rd), Raptors (7th), and 76ers (10th) all rank in the top 10 in 3-point attempts per game.
The simplest method of creating more 3-point attempts for the Pacers starts with players like Myles Turner letting it fly when they are open. There are too many times when Myles, in particular, does not shoot it when he could.
While some might be reluctant to embrace the idea of their center shooting more 3-pointers, take a look at what Brook Lopez is doing in Milwaukee. He has really embraced the perimeter jump shot and it has greatly benefited himself and the Bucks.
Turner has not developed into being the shooter that Lopez has become. In fact, he is shooting only 12.5 percent from the perimeter on the season. However, it’s difficult to establish a rhythm if shots are not consistently going up.
Another option for the Pacers to create more perimeter jump shots is to simply dish the ball out to open teammates, this is especially the case for their bench unit. However, it’s also important that off-ball players remain active and positioning themselves better to create passing windows too.
The scouting report is out on Indiana that they are a team that thoroughly enjoys pulling up from mid-range. Teams are often dropping their big defender in the pick-and-roll to give them those shots. They can’t keep falling into this cycle.
The Pacers are attempting 30.5 percent of their jump shots within the half-court from mid-range and that is the second highest frequency in the NBA. They are going to need to modify their approach to lower that figure.
Getting to the rim has also been an issue for the Pacers in addition to their lack of perimeter shooting volume. Clearing more space in the starting unit by eventually acquiring a stretch-four could help significantly but that’s a whole other topic of discussion.
Indiana has attempted a finish at the basket (excluding post-ups) within the half-court during 33.9 percent of their shot attempts, which is tied for 16th in the NBA. Also, they are averaging only 35.9 drives (26th) and only 17.6 points (27th) from those sequences.
Improving the optimization of their half-court offense will make it easier for the Pacers to be competitive against the top teams in the NBA.
Next Up: Upgrade the Defensive Personnel in Their Starting Lineup