The Indiana Pacers were one of the NBA’s biggest surprises last season, exploding past preseason win projections and giving LeBron James and the Cavaliers all they could handle in the playoffs. The key was the emergence of Victor Oladipo as a legitimate All-NBA player.
Indiana was able to make some useful moves in the offseason — adding Doug McDermott, Kyle O’Quinn and Tyreke Evans — but the new personnel only raises their ceiling so far. With Oladpio making such a huge outlier leap, it’s reasonable to assume that he could struggle to repeat last season’s dominance, even without tumbling all the way back to the player he was in Orlando and Oklahoma City. The team still has Myles Turner but he no longer appears to be on a one-way track to super-stardom.
All that is to say, the Pacers to breaking through the top of the East this season will require both contributions from their new players and finding new ways to be more than the sum of their parts.
The Pacers offense was built around dribble penetration last season, even though Collison and Oladipo’s drives often ended with pull-up jumpers from the free throw line. One way the Pacers can get more out of their pieces this season is with better spacing, particularly from Myles Turner.
In the clip below, Turner and Darren Collison run a high screen-and-roll, well above the 3-point line. There is more than enough room for Turner to come clean off the screen and spot-up begind the arc, but instead he drifts inside towards the free throw line.
That drift brings Turner closer to the defense and he ends up with a contested mid-range jumper instead of what could have been a wide open 3. You can see from the frame below how much extra space Turner could have had (and the fact that he has two other teammates who are open behind the arc).
Here’s another example, with Turner setting a screen near the 3-point line but softly rolling inside the arc to spot-up afterwards.
Even when he doesn’t appear to be intentionally rolling slowly to the top of the key, Turner had a tendency to lose his place when spotting up, sometimes landing with his feet on or just inside the line.
Turner finished the season sixth in the NBA in catch-and-shoot 2-pointers last season. He made a strong 46.5 percent of them but he would have gotten a lot more bang for his buck by turning many of those into 3s. All else being equal, 100 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers for Turner, at last season’s percentages, would have netted him an extra 19 points or so, compared to catch-and-shoot 2s.
And that’s just the boost in his own scoring efficiency. More time behind the 3-point line for Turner means more driving lanes for Collison and Oladipo to score inside or collapse the defense. Turner’s shooting is a legitimate weapon for the Pacers from the center position, and his gravity can bend the defense. Making sure he’s in the right spot will help the Pacers get the most out of that gravity this season.