Right up until the trade deadline the Indiana Pacers were considered by many to be the best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. They were flying high on amazing team defense and Paul George was finally emerging as the two way star many thought he could be. It looked like the Pacers were finally emerging out from under the Reggie Miller era and making their own identity.
The Pacers signed Andrew Bynum and in order to strengthen their bench the Pacers traded popular longtime Pacer Danny Granger to Philadelphia for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen. It was all systems go and then something happened to change all that.
If you spend any time on social media the “experts” will tell you the deal that brought Evans to Indianapolis was the straw that broke the camels back. In fact some are calling Evans a “curse” which is simply lazy and have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with why Indiana has hit this rough patch in the road. Okay maybe a little but not as much as the lazy ass “experts” want you to believe.
This team was already starting to slide before Granger was traded my friends but all is certainly not lost.
Back in November I penned this piece where I felt the strength of the Pacers was their tenacious defense. They were leading the league then and they are currently second in points allowed so the defense is still there and still going strong. The team in general and Paul George in particular have seen their shooting percentages go down and it all began on March 14, 2014 when backup point guard C.J. Watson went down with a hamstring injury.
Yep. I’m going to argue today that it was a combination of things that led to this mess but none bigger than losing C.J. Watson. Indiana was 48-17 with Watson playing every day and a meager 5-8 since his injury. Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner were forced to be the primary ball handlers on the second unit and that second unit has suffered since then. When Watson and Lance Stephenson were on the floor together they had 221 assists between them and the prime beneficiaries of these assists was none other than Paul George.
Let’s look at Paul George before the Watson injury and after. George was shooting 45.4% from the field and 36% from downtown. During the time of Watson’s absence he’s shooting 36.7% from the floor and 32% from beyond the arc. Watson and George have played 48 minutes together this season and George is 73% from the floor and 39% from three so when we look at George’s slump we really see that part of this has more to do with Watson not being there than anything else. (Stats)
Lance Stephenson shoots 61% from the floor and 44% from three with Watson on the floor. Without him he shoots 53% from the floor and 33.6% from three. Stephenson and George are Indiana’s offensive threats and both are currently in decline and it all began March 14, 2014.
Watson is supposed to return to action this coming Wednesday when the Pacers travel to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks. While that match up won’t test my thesis much the Friday night game against Miami should be a good test to see if my theory is correct. The best test will be if the Indiana Pacers reach the Eastern Conference Finals. If they do keep your eye on Watson and let me know how far off my thesis is here.
On today’s Phil Naessens Show it seemed as though nothing went right at Bankers Life Fieldhouse but we did talk Indiana Pacers for about nine minutes after the game with reporter Tom Lewis, Kevin Lipe joined me to discuss the Memphis Grizzlies and Amar A. joined me to look at the upcoming NBA Draft Class and their Fantasy Basketball value. Please have a listen and tell us what you think!